This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns try to get their first win of the season as they take on the Tennessee Titans. To help preview the Week 6 contest, I reached out to Jimmy Morris from Music City Miracles and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “Marcus Mariota is only in his second year in the NFL. Even though it's still early, given the fact that he was the No. 2 overall pick, would you say he's exceeded, met, or not reached the initial expectations among fans? At this point in time, what remains the weakest part of his game?”
Jimmy: “The fans seem to be pretty split on Mariota. He played well last week, but had struggled the first month of the season. Some people blame the play calling. They haven't put him in very many good spots. Some people think that he isn't good enough. My take is that he didn't play well early in the season when he had chances, but the coaching staff didn't do him any favors. There is no doubt that he has the tools to be a very successful quarterback in this league. The only question is whether or not he can do it in the Mike Mularkey system. He was impressive last week. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come.
The weakest part of his game has been ball security. He has made some really bad decisions throwing the ball this year. He has also had issues with fumbles early in his career. For the style of game that the Titans want to play to be successful, they cannot afford very many turnovers. That's the biggest thing Mariota needs to work on right now.”
Chris: “The Titans drafted OT Jack Conklin with the 8th overall pick of the draft, and Tennessee's run-game rankings have shot through the roof compared to the past couple of years. How would you assess Conklin's performance so far, and why has the team's ground game improved so much?”
Jimmy: “Conklin has been really good. He was obviously the guy Titans GM Jon Robinson wanted in this draft, he gave up quite a bit to get him, and the decision has paid off so far. There was never any doubt about Conklin's skills as a run blocker, he's a mauler, but some people questioned his pass blocking ability. He hasn't had any issues there so far.
The run game is better for a couple of reasons - 1. The offensive line upgrades. LT Taylor Lewan has been healthy and playing really well. They signed Ben Jones to play center and he has been good. The guards have been solid and I talked about Conklin above. It looks like the have finally fixed the offensive line. 2. They have really talented running backs. DeMarco Murray has been absolute stud. A lot of people thought the Titans made a bad trade to get him. He has proved them wrong so far. They also have Derrick Henry who has been solid with the chances he has gotten. There running backs last year were terrible. ”
Chris: “From an outsider's perspective, the Titans seem to have one of the most nameless wide receiver groups in all of football. Statistically, there's not much there either. Can you tell us a little bit about the team's top contributors? Is Andre Johnson used in just a niche role?”
Jimmy: “Tajae Sharpe is a rookie 5th round pick. He has been impressive since the day he walked in the door. He isn't going to take the top off of the defense, but he runs good routes and has good hands. Rishard Matthews has been a solid contributor. He is a good 2nd or 3rd receiver. The problem is they don't have that guy that can make plays down the field that defenses have to respect.
Andre Johnson is a niche guy. He is still really good in the red zone because of his size and ability to catch the ball. He isn't anywhere close to the receiver he was with the Texans, but he has a valuable role on this team.
The Titans will draft a receiver in the first round of the 2017 draft. ”
Chris: “Tennessee defense seems pretty stout -- we all know how good Jurrell Casey is, and Brian Orakpo is off to a great start in the pass rushing department. Who else would you consider an above average type of player on defense?”
Jimmy: “The other outside linebacker, Derrick Morgan, is a really good player who can apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. He isn't a star, but the combination of Morgan and Orakpo is pretty good. CB Jason McCourty is still a really solid corner. Again, not a stud, but a guy that can hold his own on the outside. Their inside linebackers, Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson, are also pretty solid.”
Chris: “What would you label as the biggest weakness on Tennessee's defense?”
Jimmy: “The rest of the secondary isn't very good. Teams have picked on Perrish Cox pretty much every single week. The pass rush has improved over the last couple of weeks, so the issues in the secondary have been somewhat masked, but if a team can give their quarterback time, there are plays to be had down the field.”
Thanks again to Jimmy for taking the time to answer my questions.