Titans-Broncos Preview: Can Jonnu Smith Start Off Hot On MNF?

  • Denver Broncos
  • Derrick Henry
  • Drew Kelly
  • Jonnu Smith
  • Jurrell Casey
  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Von Miller
By TreJeanWatkins September 14, 2020 0 Comment

The Tennessee Titans open up their season in Denver against the Broncos on MNF. What should you expect? What are our predictions?

I feel like its been ages since we last saw a football game. How excited are you about the return of football and what are you the most excited about with the return? Any traditions of yours you’re expecting to jump right back into?

Joe: I traditionally travel to 3-4 Titans road games a season. Due to COVID-19, this year may bit a bit different. It has also been a tradition to tailgate with my dad prior to going to every home game. Fan attendance seems to be a fluid situation to follow so far. I hope to return to Nissan Stadium to see the Tennessee Titans as well as going on road trips soon.
TreJean: That takes a lot of dedication, round of applause for you my friend. Sitting in front of a TV watching football all day is a tradition in itself, and I’m so glad it’s back. No responsibilities, just hours upon hours watching the greatest sport known to man.

Switching gears to the Titans, let’s start with the offense. How do you see the offense shaping out on Monday night? Especially with the calls for more explosiveness from Arthur Smith?

Joe: When watching tape, many will be surprised to see how explosive this offense has been under Smith. You are going to see a lot of Derrick Henry and a lot of play action shots on Monday.
TreJean: Two good points indeed. It’s likely that we see this offense find a good bit of success on Monday night — Von Miller‘s absence from the lineup is a big loss for the Denver Broncos, and a big win of Tennessee’s still difficult battle in pass protection. If this offensive line can hold up throughout the game, the passing game shouldn’t find much in the way of failure. Denver’s cornerback situation is a little suspect, even with the addition of A.J. Bouye, so A.J. Brown and the rest of that wide receiver group should should be fighting a winning battle all game long.
The run game might start out a little slow, considering what Denver did last season with their alignments on the defensive side of the ball, and how successful they were in shutting down Derrick Henry. Todd Davis isn’t in Denver though, and he was a focal point in stopping that potent Titans rushing attack last season, so the run game might find more success than we think.

How important do you think getting off to a fast start is on offense for the Titans?

Joe: A fast start is always crucial to a successful season. This is a Titans team that will be looking to string together 10+ wins this year, so it will be important to get in rhythm early and carry momentum throughout the entire season as they did through the second half of 2019.
TreJean: I explained it in the offensive keys to the game — getting off to a fast start is almost a must when you’re playing on the road. You don’t want to face the possibility of starting out sluggish, and falling behind early on. You’d then be forced to play catch-up, and we’re all pretty sure no one wants to go through that exhausting process.
However, with the many variables that have plagued all 32 teams across the NFL, starting off slow against a younger team like the Broncos might not be so much of a bad thing. Maybe you can hang around in the game long enough to catch some breaks and make momentum shift your way. Or you can start out fast and put a lot of pressure on Denver early.
Either or.

How much success do you think the Titans can achieve running play action? Since the Broncos will have a lot of hats committed to stopping the run?

Joe: Derrick Henry, the reining NFL Rushing Leader, is going to command a lot of attention from every team on the Titans schedule this year with no exception to the Denver Broncos. As long as Henry is even a fraction of the player he was in 2019, you are going to see a very high success rate in play action for the Titans in 2020.
TreJean:Play action has, and will always remain a big part of this Titans offense until it isn’t anymore. Ryan Tannehill did most of his damage running play action last season, and has a chance to do even more having a full year under his belt.
The Broncos will be chugging into Monday night with some questions at linebacker and corner, so there’s some matchups to be won right from the jump.
AJ Brown and Corey Davis are excellent route runners vs. soft coverage. Their big frames and route running prowess can put stress on any defensive back, and leave them trailing in the open field. Jonnu Smith is another guy whose play can be elevated with the use of play action, so it’s wise to not forget about him as well.

Let’s talk about this Broncos defense, who has a familiar face in Jurrell Casey. Do you expect Casey’s previous knowledge of the Titans’s offense to come in handy for the Broncos’s defense?

Joe: Jurrell Casey is a special type of player. Casey is the type of player that not only has an extremely high understanding of his position, but has an elite football IQ all over the field. Will Casey be able to provide some insight on the Titans offense? Yes. Will Casey read the Titans offense like a book? No. Players change teams every year in the NFL and Casey is no different than the others. The Titans coaching staff will game plan accordingly, provide different looks, and will be business as usual.
TreJean: I think Jurrell Casey’s previous knowledge of the Titans’s offense won’t matter all that much in the long haul. Sure, there’s some previous bits of information like characteristics in formations, and other details that might be useful in terms of game planning.
But with what the Titans like to do on offense, those sorts of details won’t matter as much as you might think.
With the Titans, you know what they’re going to do. Run inside zone with Derrick Henry until they’re forced to diverge from the plan, and abuse teams with play action. All that’s left to do for the defense is to stay gap disciplined, and finish your tackles. No sort of crazy checks and formation details from memory isn’t going to help if you can’t win in the trenches and stay locked to a wide receiver’s hip.

How much do you think Jonnu Smith can take advantage of the Broncos’s suspect linebacker situation?

Joe: Jonnu Smith is my biggest question mark for the Titans offense coming into the 2020 season. Delanie Walker had been considered to be the starting tight end prior to his injuries the past two seasons. With Walker gone, Jonnu has finally gotten an entire off-season as the Titans starter and will assume the position from day one. The Broncos are thin at the linebacker position due to mounting injuries. If the Titans are active through the air, Jonnu should get more than his fair share of targets.
TreJean: Todd Davis’s departure, and how huge it is, was already addressed. Take the loss of an experienced linebacker, and combine that with a replacement that hasn’t proven his self, and you just might get a big game out of Jonnu Smith.
There’s still the safeties left to match up with, but if they get too preoccupied with run defense, then you could see Jonnu Smith run wild against this Broncos linebacking core on Monday night.

Which matchups are you particularly concerned about for the Titans on either side of the ball?

Joe: I am not particularly concerned, but one is the Broncos’s rush defense vs. Derrick Henry. The Broncos have to be able to contain Henry to stay competitive in this game and they know it. Stopping the run is no stranger to this defensive unit either. The Broncos finished tenth in stopping the run in 2019.
TreJean:One matchup I’d be concerned about is the Titans’s right side of their offensive line, vs. the Broncos’s pass rush. The problems on the right side of that line are well documented, with Nate Davis‘s struggles being the most recent in the chronicles of lackluster performances by Titans offensive lineman. Dennis Kelly isn’t immune to the criticism either, since his own technique has ways of being taken advantage of.
If they can hold it down throughout the game, the Titans should come out of Monday night’s game with a win, and a clean Ryan Tannehill jersey.

How about any match-ups you feel good about?

Joe: I feel good about the Titans secondary vs the Broncos air attack. The Broncos look like they will be without their starting receiver Courtland Sutton which leaves a lot of pressure on the shoulders of rookie Jerry Jeudy. On top of being thin at the receiver position, Drew Lock only has seven starts under his belt and is already under his second offensive system.

TreJean: This Titans pass rush has a good shot at getting off to a hot start. Garrett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson aren’t the best of options to handle talented pass rushers, which should have Harold and Jadeveon Clowney salivating.
Not to mention Vic Beasley(if he plays) and Kamalei Correa should find some snaps here and there as well, only adding to the potential trouble facing these Broncos offensive tackles.

Who are your X-Factors for the Titans on each side of the ball?

Joe: The offensive flow and game plan is going to run through Derrick Henry. If Henry flourishes, you will see the rest of the offense flourish.
For the defense, I am going to put a lot of pressure on the new guy Jadeveon Clowney. This first game will be crucial for Clowney as it is going to dictate what teams expect from the Titans D moving forward. For the Titans D to get going early this season, Clowney needs to come out and set the tone.
TreJean: For the offensive side of the ball, I’m going Jonnu Smith. AJ Brown and Corey Davis will command enough attention on their own, which might open some some big play-making opportunities. Smith should eat against a shaky Broncos linebacker group.
For defense, I’ll roll with Kristian Fulton. The rookie is expected to get the nod at nickle back, and he won’t have it easy to start out. If Fulton can stay on top of his game, this secondary will in good shape.

Your prediction?

For our predictions, click HERE.

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