As Titans Lose Another, Hard to Find Anything They're Improving At

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Even many bad teams have slivers they can look to, areas they’re improving in, markers of progress, statistical categories they know will be reliable in.

Sift through the Titans’ 34-14 loss to the Jaguars at EverBank Stadium -- their third in a row, their fifth in six games, their seventh in 10 games this season and their 14th in their last 17 dating back to last year -- and it’s difficult to find those threads or glimmers.

Nov 19, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis (8) fumbles the ball pressured by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Dawuane Smoot (91) in the first quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Will Levis tries to collect his fumble of a high snap/ © Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

“When you lose, it's hard to identify those types of things,” Mike Vrabel said, then pointing to some plays that hit on offense and in the red zone as well as defensively before third-down penalties. 

“In this situation, we’re not necessarily trying to feel good about ourselves, you know what I mean?” Elijah Molden said. “I think we tackled well. We didn’t have a whole lot of missed tackles. We had good red-zone defense initially in the first half. So we can look at those things but at the same time, we don’t want to fool ourselves and pat ourselves on the back. We want to be critical of ourselves. 

“And I know you guys have all these questions and stuff. If someone gets knocked out in a fight and they get back up and you ask them kind of what’s going on, they’re not going to have an answer. We haven’t seen a whole lot. We haven’t watched the film yet.”

BryMakPerhaps the two best qualities this team had coming into the first of two games against the AFC South-leading Jaguars were its scoring defense (10th in the NFL) and its red-zone defense (second, allowing touchdowns just 34.4 percent of the time).

The Titans allowed Jacksonville 34 points, the most since the Jags beat them 36-22 on Dec. 11, 2022. And Tennessee let the Jaguars into the end zone three times in five chances (60 percent) in the red zone. 

So even their reliable areas didn’t travel to North Florida. 

Yes, the pass protection against a team that doesn’t rush great may have been better. Will Levis only took two sacks (one that moved them out of field-goal range) and three more hits, so his life was not in danger though he was still under a lot of pressure. 

And he was able to find some big plays. A 49-yarder to Chris Moore came well after the home team had the game in hand. The 43-yard touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins came after a direct snap to Derrick Henry, a handoff to Tyjae Spears and a flip back to Levis for the throw. Points for creatively getting a guy open. 

How much credit do we award those two when the next longest passes were 11 and 10?

Meanwhile, there were no signs of progress or regression in other departments. 

Pass coverage really had a hard time tracking Calvin Ridley who caught seven of nine passes for 103 yards and two TDs and Trevor Lawrence ran into the end zone from 9 and 5 yards out. The pass rush had one whole sack -- when Terrell Edmunds ran Lawrence out of bounds -- and an additional hit from Harold Landry.

Aaron Brewer’s snaps have been too high too often and Will Levis failed to gather one – a fumble that turned into a touchdown. Eric Garror was stripped on a punt return and also wound up with the Jaguars in the end zone.

Kyle Philips was coming off two solid games where he seemed to be developing a rapport with Levis, so certainly the Titans would come into the game intending to build on that since their receiving options are so inconsistent, right? They targeted him once, for a 10-yard catch. 

Vrabel and Tim Kelly rewarded Jeffery Simmons with an offensive snap, a pass route and a 2-yard touchdown, which was a nice reward for one of the team’s best players. 

“Jeff just does his job, comes to work every day, tries to do his job, tries to help lead this football team,” Vrabel said.”

It’s a nice gesture and I get it. But I also wonder, wouldn’t it serve the offense, which has been horrific in the red zone, better to do something to get a player on offense going?

Things are a mess, but the Titans are 3-0 at Nissan Stadium this year where they’ve actually averaged 27.3 points a game. They’ve not played there since Oct. 29 and five of their remaining seven games are in Nashville, starting with the 1-9 Panthers.

I’m on record multiple saying the issue with this team are roster first, and that the Titans' best path forward in 2024 is with Vrabel at the helm. When you’ve got a coach who has won, giving him a chance to win again with a replenished roster is the best path.

But this team’s scoring woes and absolute lack of progress -- as a whole, by units and by individuals – is confounding and make his future a reasonable question. I asked him if he thought his job was in jeopardy or will be.

Simmons and Derrick Henry clearly feel stuck on repeat, helpless in postgame interviews. 

“I’m tired of saying, we’re tired of saying, I’m tired of hearing it, we’ve got to figure it out,” Simmons said. “We didn’t do enough, when are we going to do enough to win?” 

“It’s not good enough,” Henry said. “We’re not playing good enough as a team, we’re definitely not playing good enough on offense. All of us individually are not good enough to win, I think it showed these last two weeks. It just ain’t good enough. You play like that, that’s the result you’re going to get.”

Henry said he’s going to continue to work to figure it out. Molden said the solution is more time and energy.

The Titans continue to say the right things.

If they can't do the right things against the Panthers in Nashville, yes, that'll be rock bottom.

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