Tennessee Titans defense gives New York Jets offense a golden opportunity to explode
It does not excuse the level of epic awfulness that they have achieved, but the New York Jets have faced a very difficult schedule of opposing defenses through three games. The Panthers, Patriots, and Broncos rank first, eighth, and fifth, respectively, in defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).
Defensive DVOA accounts for strength of schedule, so those teams do not get an extra boost for playing the Jets’ weak offense. Those three defenses have just been legitimately great thus far.
Based on DVOA, the Jets have faced the most difficult schedule of opposing defenses in the NFL through three weeks.
The Jets’ Week 4 opponents, the Tennessee Titans, are the first subpar defense that they will face this season. Here are a few of Tennessee’s defensive ranks:
- Defensive DVOA: 28th
- Pass defense DVOA: 22nd
- Rush defense DVOA: 29th
- Points allowed per drive: 27th
- Yards allowed per pass play: 25th
- Yards allowed per run play: 20th
- Takeaways: 29th
There are a handful of gaping holes in the Titans’ defense that the Jets can exploit.
Tennessee Titans’ cornerback unit
Tennessee has had issues at the cornerback position. The Titans’ cornerbacks have allowed four touchdown passes, tied for the third-most among all 32 cornerback units. They have also committed five penalties, tied for seventh-most.
One of the primary problems for Tennessee’s corners has been an inability to prevent production after the catch. Tennessee’s cornerback unit has yielded an average of 5.7 yards after the catch per reception, which ranks eighth-worst.
New York’s wide receivers have struggled to create after the catch this season, combining for only two missed tackles forced (both courtesy of Corey Davis). This matchup provides them with a good opportunity to get going in that facet of the game.
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Tennessee Titans’ edge-setting
Stopping the run has been a problem for the Titans. They rank 29th in rush defense DVOA.
Many of Tennessee’s run-stopping issues can be blamed on their edge defenders. The Titans’ edge defenders have combined for a Pro Football Focus run-defense grade of 47.1, which ranks 32nd out of the league’s 32 edge units.
Starters Harold Landry and Denico Autry will cause the Jets trouble in the passing game, as they have combined for 34 pressures this season (2nd-most among EDGE duos), but they have been an abysmal pairing in the run game. Landry and Autry rank 52nd and 57th, respectively, out of 58 qualified edge rushers in PFF’s run-defense grade.
Left tackle George Fant and right tackle Morgan Moses need to take advantage of the mismatch and consistently create a bevy of running room to the outside.
Tennessee Titans’ coverage at linebacker
The Titans’ linebackers have been weak in coverage. Tennessee’s linebacker unit has combined for a PFF coverage grade of 47.3 this season, which ranks 29th out of 32 linebacker units.
Rashaan Evans has started all three games at linebacker while David Long replaced starter Jayon Brown early in Week 2 and held the role into Week 3 with Brown sidelined.
It is in zone coverage where the unit has been particularly poor. Evans has been the primary culprit, as his awful zone coverage grade of 29.3 at PFF ranks fifth-worst in the NFL among qualified linebackers.
The vast majority of the aerial damage allowed by Tennessee’s linebackers has been yielded in zone coverage to the wide receiver position. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur must expose this weakness by cooking up play-action concepts that are designed to put pressure on Tennessee’s linebackers to drop back and locate receivers crossing over the middle.
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