NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Los Angeles Chargers visit Nashville for the Titans home opener Sunday in what is a critical early game for both teams.
One of these teams will start the year 0-2 after they both opened with close losses Week 1. The Chargers fell to Miami 36-34 despite rushing for over 200 yards, while the Titans fell 16-15 in New Orleans after Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions.
The Chargers will be without start running back Austin Eckeler because of an ankle injury. but their outburst week one certainly has Titans head coach Mike Vrabel’s attention.
“They got off to a great start last week, the Chargers did,” said Vrabel, “So, our ability to force them into longer-yardage situations will be critical. Five third-and-ones. Had three third-and-twos. That’s impressive.”
The Titans ranked number one defensively against the run last year and got off to a strong start in New Orleans last week limiting the Saints to 69 yards rushing.
Derek Carr threw for 305 yards though last week and that has to be the big concern defensively, especially with cornerback Kristian Fulton out once again with a hamstring injury.
The Chargers boast multiple weapons on the pass game with quarterback Justin Herbert and receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer.
Justin Herbert 2022 stats:
- 4,739 Passing Yards
- 25 Touchdowns
- 10 Interceptions
Defensive Coordinator Shane Bowen pointed to eliminating “x,” or explosive plays, as the Titans biggest need for improvement. He said they gave up five of them in New Orleans and a few before the pass rush could even have a chance to affect the quarterback. That means the corners have to be stickier in coverage.
Offensively, the Titans need to do something they could not a week ago – score a touchdown. They settled for 5 field goals in New Orleans.
A new offensive line improved as the game went along, but faces an early challenge this week with first round pick Peter Skoronski officially out of the game because of an illness.
Star receiver DeAndre Hopkins missed practice all week because of an ankle injury, but multiple reports say he will play Sunday for the Titans.
Hopkins was targeted a whopping 13 times in New Orleans, but the 2022 first-round pick was only thrown to three times, and tight end Chig Okonkwo twice in the process. Both of those young players have to be a bigger part of the attack against a Charger defense that surrendered 466 passing yards to the Dolphins last week. The Dolphins also have Tyreek Hill, the Titans do not.
For years, the Titans offense has started with running back Derrick Henry. After being on the field for less than half of the Titans offensive snaps, most expect to see a heavier dose of “the king” Sunday.
Henry vs. Saints Week 1:
- 15 Rushes
- 63 Yards
- 2 Receptions
- 56 Yards
The big question is Tannehill, who baffled and frustrated fans with three interceptions in week one, and also missed two wide open throws for what looked like touchdowns.
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“We have to be better. Ryan (Tannehill) has to be better.“ Vrabel said, “We have to hit guys that are open. We can’t force the ball into double coverage. So, we have to give him cleaner pockets like we gave him in the second half earlier. There was some of that. When the play goes bad, we can point to a lot of different things, but we have to be better. We can’t turn the football over.”
Dating back to last season, the Titans have lost eight games in a row, a ninth straight loss will put them in an early hole in the AFC South.