With pitiful performance, Titans raise major doubts

mdi construction barHOUSTON – The Titans can give us some context starting in about 10 minutes when Mike Mularkey talks to the press and locker room doors open for reporters.MDI 2

But they can’t say anything that steers us away from the obvious: Sunday at NRG Stadium was a complete disaster, with failures on every imaginable level.

The 57-14 beat down by Houston leaves the Titans at 2-2 a quarter into the season, same as the Texans who have the same record and a leg up thanks to the head-to-head result.

Tennessee beat Jacksonville and Seattle; Houston beat Cincinnati and Tennessee and lost to Jacksonville.

It’s a bit circular.

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Marcus Mariota out with a hamstring injury

mdi construction barHOUSTON – A miserable game took a bad turn when the Titans suffered yet another hamstring injury, this one to Marcus Mariota.

With 6:51 on the clock in the third period and the Titans down 23 points, Matt Cassel entered the game at quarterback, replacing Mariota who was announced as questionable to return.

It was the first possession the Titans had in the second half. Mariota went to the locker room during the Texans long drive to open the third quarter.MDI 2

He and the passing game were horrible while he was in.

He connected on just six of 10 passes with two interceptions to safety Andre Hall. The completions got the Titans 96 yards and Mariota earned a 52.5 passer rating, Again, he looked off mechanically, throwing sailing passes after failing to step into them.

He ran four times for 39 yards including a 34-yard sprint up the middle and a 2-yard dive to the pylon for the team’s two touchdowns.

The Titans have been hurt by hamstring injuries this season. Johnathan Cyprien and Corey Davis remained out Sunday with hamstring issues. DeMarco Murray also missed a good share of the preseason because of one.

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Mailbag: Do the Titans have a playoff-caliber defense?

Happy Saturday. First if you missed the Friday Periscope/ Facebook Live you are forgiven and may catch up here.

On to some mail:

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – I texted this week with two personnel men from other teams asking if they rate the Titans as better than the Texans at this point and to what degree.Together

“It's going to come down to can TEN OL win vs HST DL/ which QB plays the best,” wrote the first. “Can HST OL give their QB time may be the biggest question of them all. I lean TEN.”

Said the second: “Titans playing more consistently on defense & have offensive identity established. Obviously when u know who ur qb is, you progress more quickly. Ten ol significantly better.”

They are saying just what you’d expect going into this game.

The question is will they be saying the same after it.

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The Titans best player through three games is...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Last year he wasn’t in the nickel package.

Now he shouldn’t be leaving the field.WoodyardDiveSEA

In my estimation, inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard is the best player on the Titans defense through three games, perhaps the best player on the team.

He’s been flying around, getting involved in everything.

He’s got 38 tackles, 11 ahead of the next best guy, Avery Williamson. Four of Woodyard’s tackles were for a loss, one for a sack.

Jurrell Casey was understandably unwilling to say Woodyard is the best player on the Titans’ defense right now.

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How first-half failure helped set up big play for the Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Watching the Titans' offense go three-and-out four times in a row Sunday against the Seahawks, it was hard to find many positives.

But for the second consecutive game, bad offense in the first half included chances to test how the opposition responded to certain sets and helped set something up for later.FullSizeRender 40

“We’ve got things that we’ll do on the first drive to set up something that we might now do until the third quarter,” offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said. “Sometimes you might get to it a little quicker.

“But are certain things, certain formations, certain packages of personnel that we might put in. We may have a play where we say, ‘This is going to be a (deep) shot.’ Well we might want to do it out of three tight ends. We might put that formation in in the first 10 or 12 plays. Put it out there, let's see how they play it, ok, that’s it, they are doing what we thought they would do.”

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Jack Conklin carries momentum into matchup with J.J. Watt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At key moments in Sunday’s Titans at Texans game, Tennessee won’t be able to scheme up and protect Marcus Mariota with extra people.ConklinSEA

Houston will bring people forward, putting five men on the line and forcing the Titans to block J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus one-on-one.

And that’s where we may learn the true story of the Titans at this stage: Strength-on-strength against the two-time defending AFC South champs.

“All five guys are across from our five linemen,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “You see it much more when you’ve got the personnel. Oakland, that’s Oakland’s scheme first, second and third down. They’re going to put five guys up there and you’ve got to block them.

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