On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns’ 2019 regular season begins when they battle the Tennessee Titans. To help preview a few topics from the Titans’ perspective, we reached out to Terry Lambert from Music City Miracles and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Titans will be without starting LT Taylor Lewan, as he serves a 4-game suspension. The NFL fan in us wishes we could’ve seen another battle between Lewan and DE Myles Garrett, but the Browns fans in us is salivating at the prospect of taking advantage of the circumstance. Tell us about the Titans’ replacement at left tackle and how much confidence you have in him.”
Terry: “The Titans are going to insert Dennis Kelly into the lineup in Lewan’s spot. Kelly has been a borderline starter for this team over the last two seasons, filling in for both Lewan and Conklin in spurts. Kelly started at right tackle to end the year last season after Conklin went down, performing at a pretty high level during Derrick Henry’s big December. Kelly is about as solid of a third tackle option as you’ll find in the league, but the Titans will miss him in a big way in pass protection this week. He just isn’t near the athlete that Lewan is and will have plenty of problems against Vernon/Garrett.”
Chris: “What would you label as the Titans’ biggest liability on defense and why?”
Terry: “It’s the pass rush, without question. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are both gone, leaving a ton of snaps on the table. Harold Landry flashed last year, but has been dealing with an injury this preseason. Cam Wake will help immediately in the rotation, along with Sharif Finch and Kamalei Correa. That group doesn’t exactly put a lot of fear into anyone right now, does it? Look for Rashaan Evans to come out wide and give the Titans some speed off the edge. Also expect plenty of blitzes coming up the middle from Dean Pees.”
Chris: “With Matt LaFleur taking the head coaching gig in Green Bay this offseason, the Titans promoted tight ends coach Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator. I know it’s early to tell, but does it seem like there have been any changes in how the offense will operate under Smith?”
Terry: “We certainly didn’t see it in the preseason, but that’s obviously by design. Reports out of camp say Mariota will have more control at the line of scrimmage to change the play, which is something LaFleur wasn’t a fan of. Will Derrick Henry be the focal point of the offense like he was last December? We think so, but we haven’t seen it yet. Henry didn’t play in the preseason due to a calf injury, so we’ll see Smith get his first plays with Henry in the lineup on Sunday afternoon. ”
Chris: “I know Marcus Mariota has battled some injuries, but it seemed so weird to me when the Titans acquired Ryan Tannehill. Is the fanbase firmly behind Mariota as the starting quarterback?”
Terry: “The fanbase is split on Mariota overall, but I think the majority believe he gives the Titans the best chance to win. Tannehill was not brought in to compete or push Mariota. It was a simple upgrade at the backup spot, which Tennessee badly needed after the likes of Gabbert and Cassel. We know what Mariota is at this point, at least health-wise. He’s a guy that has yet to put together a full 16 game season, so Jon Robinson had to upgrade the backup spot.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player on offense and one player on defense who Browns fans might not be familiar with, but who could make a nice contribution for this week’s game.”
Terry: “Offense: NFL Draft fans will know the name, but I’ll go with rookie WR A.J. Brown. We didn’t get to see a lot of him in the preseason, but he’s going to be at least a top three receiver in this offense. We’ll see how quickly he can acclimate himself to the offense, but he should eventually be a huge upgrade for Marcus Mariota.
Defense: It’s got to be linebacker Jayon Brown. Tennessee essentially has three starters at inside linebacker, but Brown will handle most of the passing situations. His speed allows him to do a lot of things in the middle of the field. From coverage to pursuit, Brown can do it all. Dean Pees loves taking him, Evans and Woodyard and coming up with blitz packages up the middle.”
Thanks again to Terry for taking the time to answer my questions.