On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns’ take on the Tennessee Titans. To help preview a few topics from Tennessee’s perspective, we reached out to Terry Lambert from Music City Miracles and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Titans first lost left tackle Taylor Lewan for the season, and then they lost his backup, Ty Sambrailo. Incredibly, after being drafted in 2013, David Quessenberry made his first career start last week. I know it’s tough to tell after just one game, but how did he do? We’re obviously curious because he’ll be thrown to the fire in his second game against a returning Myles Garrett.”
Terry: “First of all, it’s such an awesome story for Quessenberry. The guy beat cancer to get his NFL career back, and now six years later is finally getting his shot. It’s been amazing what this offensive line has done, not missing a beat after Lewan went down. They’re losing some athleticism on the outside, but Sambrailo and now Quessenberry have really held things together. It’s probably important to note that the Titans got a lead last week against the Colts and really fed Derrick Henry, so we really haven’t seen him perform against a guy like Garrett in obvious passing downs. Of course, the Titans are hoping it doesn’t come to that and they can just ride Henry to the win, but it’s definitely a bit of an unknown entering this game.”
Chris: “Tell us about some of the defensive struggles Tennessee has had this season.”
Terry: “It’s been a struggle in the secondary for much of the year, but things have turned around since Jon Robinson shuffled things up after the Bengals loss. Johnathan Joseph was a starter thanks to several injuries, but he just wasn’t cutting it. Robinson moved on from him and traded for Desmond King, who has manned the slot position since. Breon Borders has actually found a home and has been playing well in place of Adoree’ Jackson. Rookie corner Kristian Fulton also remains sidelined.
Jadeveon Clowney has been out for a few weeks now, while standout linebacker Jayon Brown has been lost for the year. So it’s been a challenge from the get go for this defensive unit, constantly rotating guys in and out of the lineup due to injuries and COVID issues. Tennessee’s biggest issue right now is a lack of pass rush. Outside of Harold Landry, they just don’t have that guy that can go win a one on one matchup on the outside. That plus a shaky secondary has created some tough days for this team.”
Chris: “The Titans drafted Isaiah Wilson with their first round pick, but he hasn’t seemed to play in 2020 — what’s been going on with him?”
Terry: “Building off of that Quessenberry point above, it’s pretty telling that they’d turn to Sambrailo and Quessenberry isn’t it? Wilson was drafted to eventually take the right tackle job from Dennis Kelly, but it hasn’t happened. He landed on the COVID list twice during camp after being caught out at a college party, then followed that up with a DUI charge. Not great! So the simple answer is, he hasn’t had enough time to practice and get his feet under him to this point. He was always going to be a bit of a project, but he’s definitely made things tougher than they’ve had to be. The Titans are probably just hoping they can play him in 2021 at this point.”
Chris: “Who is the top player who Baker Mayfield should be looking out for on the Titans’ defense?”
Terry: “Without a doubt now, the Titans’ best defender is defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. He’s the highest graded second year defender in the NFL, per PFF, currently experiencing a breakout season for Tennessee. He’s a wrecking ball, particularly in short-yardage situations. Simmons has taken the torch from Jurrell Casey, who was dealt to the Broncos during the offseason. He’ll also add a little pass rush, which the Titans need with Clowney out.
For Baker in particular, safety Kevin Byard is one to watch for. Byard was able to pick off Mayfield last season, the first of five on the year. He’s yet to register an interception this season, but don’t doubt his nose for the football.”
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: “With Jayon Brown out, the Titans have turned to Will Compton and David Long at middle linebacker. Long, a second year player, made a significant impact against the Colts last week, playing nearly half the snaps. He’ll have a tougher test this week, tasked with trying to stop Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. His performance in the teeth of this defense will be a vital part of this one.
Offensively, the Titans aren’t exactly hard to figure out. It’s Derrick Henry, then Ryan Tannehill throwing to A.J. Brown, Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. If you wanted to take it one step further, I’d probably mention tight end Anthony Firkser. He’s the second tight end option in the passing attack, but he’s provided Tannehill with a nice target and moved the chains in a few key spots this season.”
Thanks again to Terry for taking the time to answer my questions.