|FreePlays.com Home » Preview: Tennessee at Jacksonville, September 17th, 2017|
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars went through a quarterback competition, broke in a rookie running back and reconfigured their offensive line during a turbulent preseason.
But after a dominant victory in Week 1, concern about the offense has largely been replaced with optimism their defense could be ready to make a serious impact.
Looking to earn a second division win in as many weeks, the Jaguars have no problem leaning on that group when they host the Tennessee Titans and their talented offense Sunday at EverBank Field.
"Guys came in and went right back to work," Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith said. "We're truly ready to get out there and keep pushing each other and see how far we can take this thing."
The Jaguars had a hectic week due to the impact of Hurricane Irma, which swept through much of Florida on Sunday and into Monday. The team remained in Houston until Tuesday and worked out at an area YMCA to stay sharp while waiting to get back to their normal routine.
Maybe the only part of the weekend that went according to plan was the three hours they spent beating up on Houston during a convincing 29-7 victory last week. More specifically, how veteran defensive end Calais Campbell led a ferocious unit.
Campbell, who signed a four-year, $60 million deal in free agency, had four of a franchise-record 10 sacks against the Texans and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
As part of the overwhelming effort, the Jaguars forced four turnovers, including a fumble that was returned by defensive end Dante Fowler for a 53-yard touchdown -- a stunning performance considering only Chicago had fewer takeaways last season.
"They played extremely well," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said after watching film of the Jaguars' defense. "(They were) relentless and very well-coordinated. Not a lot of guys out of place. It was very impressive."
Now the question: Can the Jaguars' defense keep it up?
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the best young passers in the league, but he had an underwhelming opener during a 26-16 loss to Oakland and will be looking to bounce back. Mariota finished without a passing touchdown despite an offseason overhaul that included signing veteran receiver Eric Decker and selecting Corey Davis fifth overall to help ignite a struggling passing attack that includes receiver Rishard Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker.
Mariota accounted for Tennessee's lone touchdown on a 10-yard scramble during the first quarter. From there, the Titans mustered just three field goals in the final three quarters.
"We didn't do a good job (scoring touchdowns in the red zone) in Week 1," Walker said. "In Week 2, that's one thing we have to make sure we do a lot better. We have to put points on board, and I don't mean field goals. I mean touchdowns."
Although their defense looks to be excellent, the Jaguars still have question marks on offense.
Quarterback Blake Bortles, who briefly lost his starting job to Chad Henne during the preseason, will be without his favorite receiver for the remainder of the season. Allen Robinson suffered a torn ACL on the Jaguars' first possession of the season and has been placed on injured reserve.
Robinson had a disappointing season a year ago, but the fourth-year receiver caught 14 touchdowns and had 1,400 receiving yards in 2015 and was expected to get back to that level of play.
"Allen is a special player -- everybody knows that," Bortles said. "The preseason, the camp he's had, what kind of talent he is. He's an unbelievable playmaker and a really good teammate. (A) great guy to have around, so it's going to hurt."
Without Robinson, rookie running back Leonard Fournette could be asked to shoulder an even heavier load. The fourth overall pick looked the part against the Texans, running for 100 yards on 26 carries and scoring his first touchdown on a powerful fourth-down run in the second quarter.
The Titans will also be trying to get their ground game going to take pressure off of Mariota. Against the Raiders, starter DeMarco Murray was held to 44 yards on 12 carries and Derrick Henry gained 25 yards on six carries.
Their task could be even more difficult against the Jaguars, who enter Week 2 first in the league in total defense.