The Tennessee Titans appear set to play their second straight critical AFC South game without quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Titans visit the 2-0 Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported late Saturday night that the Titans were expected to start Blaine Gabbert at quarterback while Mariota continues to deal with numbness and tingling in his throwing hand stemming from a nerve injury in his right elbow.
The Titans did get Pro Bowl tackle Taylor Lewan back from concussion protocol Friday and head coach Mike Vrabel said he will start.
Right tackle Jack Conklin is also expected to see his first time of the season after tearing his ACL against the Patriots in the playoffs.
The Jags are certainly the Titans toughest of the season after whipping New England last week. Jacksonville ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive yards this season.
The Titans will be challenged to overcome Mariota’s absence in the red zone where the Jags defense ranks second in the league behind the Titans.
Look for Tennessee to try to pound the football on the ground and turn it into a field position struggle. Derrick Henry has struggled this year with only 82 yards on 26 carries but has played some of his best football against Jacksonville going 3-1 against his hometown team. Henry joked Thursday he needed a “thousand” tickets for friends and family.
Defensively the Titans will have to deal with Leonard Fournette who practiced all week after missing last week with a hamstring injury.
They also have to find a way to get to Blake Bortles which is not as easy as it has been in the past. The Jags lead the league in pass protection with the addition of All Pro guard Andrew Norwell. Bortles is only being sacked 1.3% of the time he drops back to pass this season.
The Titans defense is coming off of a 5 sack performance against Houston but will be without outside linebacker Kamalei Correa who has a back injury.