This week, the Titans take on the Detroit Lions at home at LP Field on Sunday at noon. The Lions are coming off a 27-19 defeat at San Francisco on Sunday night football following a 27-23 home win against the Rams.
To get a better idea of the opponent the Titans face, I watched the Lions-Rams game and then re-watched the 49ers game. After the jump, what I've seen of the Lions this year.
- I go back and forth a little on how good Matt Stafford is. This is his fourth year, and he's still developing as a passer. He has a big arm, but the offense is less vertical than you'd think.
- Part of the reason the Lions aren't a vertical passing offense is they've had to compensate for a terrible running game. That's partly bad blocking and partly mediocre running backs. Kevin Smith can carry the ball but isn't real special. They gave Joique Bell a few carries last week and I didn't see much out of him either. Mikel Leshoure is supposed to play this week in his first game after being selected in the second round last year. He wasn't a bad back coming out of Illinois, but he's a bit of an unknown quantity because I haven't see him.
- You know all about Calvin Johnson. Megatron. Wears #81. Stafford's favorite target. Posted incredible efficiency numbers on a huge volume of targets. Can go up for the ball. Can break tackles. Can beat you deep. Double him in the red zone and hope-he's been triple-covered in the red zone before. I've seen him beat the double coverage.
- Last week's passing offense seemed to feature a lot of fairly short throws over the middle of the field, trying to beat man coverage and maybe pick off a few players. It's possible they could do the same this week and try to take advantage of the Titans' linebackers and slot corner.
- Tight end Brandon Pettigrew could have a big game-that's obvious given what the Titans have done against tight ends the last couple weeks, and he's probably the second-best target behind CJ81. He'll have inconsistent games catching the football, including a couple drops against the Rams in Week 1. It's easy for me to see him getting big yards going up the seams. They have a couple other tight ends, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller; Scheffler in particular will beat you if you don't give him attention, but Pettigrew is the threat.
- The non-Megatron wide receivers don't scare me. Nate Burleson knows what he's doing and can put up numbers that way. Titus Young worries me most on wide receiver screens. Rookie Ryan Broyles was active last week but didn't play. Like Young and Burleson, he's more of a slot-type than a physical guy.
- Left tackle Jeff Backus is not great in pass protection-better than Mike Harris of the Chargers, not as good (physically in particular) as Nate Solder (not that Solder's an All-Pro).
- The defensive line gets most of the ink on the other side of the ball and for good reason. They're deep and really talented. Think like the 2000 Titans, that deep.
- Defensive tackle: Ndamukong Suh is strong and unblockable at times, but you can run misdirection and get him out of position. Corey Williams (questionable) is the other starter at defensive tackle. Behind them are Nick Fairley, who's not as good as I expected him to be at this point, and Sammie Lee Hill, who's better than you think.
- Defensive end: Kyle Vanden Bosch. You know him. Better, Michael Roos knows him. I'm not too worried. Cliff Avril is the opposite guy, and he can beat single coverage. Stewart can do okay against him, but if he has lapses, Avril will get pressure. Willie Young is the top backup, and he's an explosive guy who can get around the edge. Lawrence Jackson is the fourth defensive end; he's still a bust of a first-round pick (by Seattle), but isn't completely worthless.
- The linebackers, DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, and Justin Durant are all good scheme fits and good players who flow to the ball. I still think you can beat Tulloch in coverage, and the same is true of the other guys. They do a good job of filling when the defensive line charges upfield, though if the DL is aggressive enough you can still beat them; the 49ers showed a way to do this, but the Titans aren't the same kind of running team as the 49ers.
- The secondary is not that good when fully healthy and right now it's injury-riddled. The safeties just aren't good enough. John Wendling played almost every snap at safety against the 49ers, and as a safety, he's a very good special teams player. I don't like Erik Coleman much better, and he'll be playing if strong safety Louis Delmas cannot. Delmas is questionable with a knee injury; when healthy, he's a good box player and hitter but isn't a natural deep safety.
- Ha ha, Lions cornerbacks. Eric Wright was their best player last year, and he's now in Tampa. Chris Houston, who got roasted at times last year and held up okay at others, missed last week's game and is probable this week. They'll probably also get back rookie third-round pick Dwight Bentley, who missed last week's game with a concussion; I don't have a good read on him. Veteran Drayton Florence got a lot of snaps last week, just because they needed somebody, but he's out this week. Ex-Colt Jacob Lacey played the most snaps last week and he's questionable with a toe injury. If he plays or not, this is a group you can potentially make plays against. Then again, we're dealing with the Titans receivers here-Kenny Britt and Nate Washington are the only guys who when healthy are actually better than the Lions corners.
I am not saying anything new, but for me it all comes down to the Titans' running game. It can't all be on Locker's arm. I don't care if its CJ, Ringer or Harper. Somebody has to figure out how to make this one-cut rushing attack work. The O-line isn't great (and may not even be good), but the running back has to make one quick decision and run through whatever hole or crevice he can find. There can't be any hesitation or dancing around in the backfield. There is no time. This is the only way the offence wil be able to stay on the field long enough to score points and give the defence some rest. If the Titans can't gain close to 100 yards on the ground and, instead, have to rely on Locker throwing the ball 40 times, the game is lost.
@Scott P Thanks for the comment, Scott.
Chris Johnson gives you an element of explosiveness neither Ringer nor Harper has. The other two guys don't really make extra yards, either, so it makes sense to give the ball to CJ. They've tried running both zone and more non-zone plays (I haven't charted it, but they've run more Power-O and that type of thing than I remember them running in the past), but it hasn't helped. My preferred solution would be for them to not even bother to try running at all (I'd be fine if they didn't call a single designed RB run in the first half), but that's not what they want to be.