New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Tennessee Titans

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Tennessee lost several key offensive contributors from its recent postseason runs, including current New York Jets WR Corey Davis.

The Opponent: Tennessee Titans
The Date: Week 4, October 3, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)
The Series: Tennessee leads 25-19-1 (last meeting: 2018, 26-22 TEN)

Corey Davis earned 984 yards on 65 receptions for the Tennessee Titans last season. A bout with COVID-19 held the fifth pick of the 2017 draft just short of his first career four-digit yardage season. Davis played a major role in each of Tennessee’s last three playoff trips, two of which have seen them win at least one game.

Somehow, Davis got lost in the Nashville fold, leading Titans management to label him expendable.

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight…only three teams have partaken in more playoff games since 2017…has been driven by the breakouts of several explosive skill players, including Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Ryan Tannehill, Jonnu Smith, and, of course, Davis. That group…minus Davis and the New England-bound Smith…is now joined by Julio Jones, who is looking to regain his All-Pro reputation after his last season in Atlanta was decimated by injury.

Tennessee will make only its second visit to MetLife Stadium for a Jets game. They last stopped by in December 2015, a 30-8 Jets victory.

The Skinny on the Titans

Following their heartbreaking visit to the AFC title game after the 2019 season, the Titans broke the 10-win ceiling for the first time since 2008, likewise ending their division title drought. Alas, they had nothing to show for it in the postseason, as a first-round exit at the hand of Baltimore awaited.

The Titans’ current landscape and depth could perhaps best be described as top-heavy. Tannehill is backed up by Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley. Henry’s top spell option is Darrynton Evans, a third-round pick who was limited to 54 yards in an injury-plagued rookie year. They’ll once again be must-see television…as long as they stay healthy.

So what’s been the big problem in Tennessee? The Titans have learned the hard way that defense still wins championships. After losing their chance at the Super Bowl by surrendering a two-possession lead in just over five minutes against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee ranked at or near the bottom in most major defensive categories. The team did muster 15 interceptions…third-best in the AFC…but one of the leaders, Malcolm Butler, has moved on to Arizona.

Despite their lack of depth, the Titans are likely the unanimous favorite in the reeling AFC South, at least until the Indianapolis Colts find a proven quarterback. Houston has far too much to prove, while it’s going to take a lot more than the arrival of Trevor Lawrence for the Jacksonville Jaguars to become relevant again.

New York Giants, Daniel Jones
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in Tennessee?

In bidding farewell to their offensive depth, the Titans sought to bolster the weak defense. Before Jones arrived late, their marquee addition was former Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree. The ex-Steeler is coming off an ACL tear but was nonetheless bestowed an $82.5 million contract to help solve their issues. Dupree was removed from the physically unable to perform list last week and has begun practicing.

“Anytime you get paid to pass rush, you go ahead and get sacks and make big plays in the run game, be an all-around player,” Dupree said of his role in his new home in a June episode of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “You don’t just come in just to be a one-trick pony and just do pass rush. You’ve got to be able to be a tone-setter on the edge, as well, swarming to the ball, stopping the run, evolving your teammates, getting everybody hyped up.”

In addition to Dupree, the Titans also welcomed Denico Autry to bolster the pass rush after three successful years with the Colts. Tennessee also opted to use their top draft pick on defensive help, welcoming Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, who should fill the void Butler left behind.

Though well accomplished…Tannehill has become a reliable starter, Henry is a downright historic, game-changing rusher, Brown and Jones should be a deadly aerial pair…the Titans’ offense has something to prove. Coordinator Arthur Smith earned a head coaching job in Atlanta for his work over the past two seasons, leaving tight ends coach Todd Downing to take over. Downing previously won Pro Football Focus’ Quarterbacks Coach of the Year Award for his work with Derek Carr in Oakland.

New York Giants, Caleb Farley
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

How to Beat Them

-Jump the Defense

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight is reminiscent of their turn-of-the-century heyday. Back then, they had Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Derrick Mason. Nowadays, it’s Tannehill, Henry, and Brown/Jones pairing.

But there’s a difference: the former group’s offensive fireworks were accentuated by the equally effective defensive work of Jevon Kearse and Samari Rolle.

The Jets’ mission is thus relatively simple in the theory that they must force the Titans’ defense to win the game. By the time Tennessee comes to visit, the Jets will have had three games to build offensive chemistry. That’s obviously not the most experience together, but it can be enough to take advantage of a Tennessee defense that was already dealing with issues. They can’t let the Titans’ offensive arsenal decide the game.

-Take a Passing Interest

What Tannehill has been able to do in Nashville is inspiring and deserves to be recognized. After a seemingly endless streak of proverbial make-or-break seasons in Miami, Tannehill has forged a long-term NFL path as the Titans’ franchise quarterback.

Yet, he can’t fully bear the load of an offensive box score. Since he entered the league in 2012, Tannehill teams are 4-18 when he throws at least 40 passes. The Titans have taken note…only three of those instances have come in Tennessee.

Forcing Tannehill to win the game obviously then leads to containing Henry, the defending Offensive Player of the Year and 2,000-yard rusher. The Jets’ run defense should enjoy a boost from the return of Kyle Phillips, one of the team’s top run defenders during his 2019 debut before injuries ate up his sophomore season. Former Robert Saleh pupil Ronald Blair should likewise help keep the run game grounded, as he was one of San Francisco’s top rush defenders off the edge.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants seem destined to upgrade EDGE position in free agency

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The NFL’s legal tampering period officially began today. The New York Giants have been quiet so far, staying patient as they still look to free up cap space. The Giants are making a push to lower Leonard Williams’s cap hit by the start of the new league year on Wednesday through a long-term extension.

For now, the Giants are staying patient on free agents. They re-signed Austin Johnson, met with Kenny Golladay, and showed interest in a few free agents, but have not made any new additions to the roster yet. It seems like the Giants were close to signing an edge rusher, though. The Giants have been rumored to be heavily interested in adding pass-rushing help off the edge this offseason. After swinging for the fences and striking out on edge rusher Leonard Floyd, it seems like the Giants are destined to upgrade the edge position during the 2021 free agency period.

Who is available?

This morning, Jordan Raanan of ESPN tweeted out a list of free agents that the Giants were expected to be interested in. There were four main edge rusher targets that he reported New York was interested in. Two of those targets are now off the board. Matt Judon was one of them, he landed with the New England Patriots today. Leonard Floyd was the other, a player that the Giants reportedly made “a push” to sign before he ultimately landed back in Los Angeles with the Rams.

The final two edge rushers on Jordan Raanan’s list are Haason Reddick and Bud Dupree. Reddick is an interesting name to keep an eye on. The Giants faced the Cardinals this past season and were met with trouble when Haason Reddick racked up five sacks in Arizona’s victory. New York is fully aware of Reddick’s abilities and could be interested in making him their first splash signing of the 2021 offseason. Haason is coming off of a career-high 12.5 sack season and could be a perfect target for the Giants on a one-year “prove-it” deal.

Bud Dupree is another intriguing name linked to the New York Giants. Dupree is coming off of a season-ending ACL injury, making him a risky potential signing. However, Dupree is an impressive, versatile pass-rusher that has racked up 19.5 sacks in his past 27 career games. The Giants could look to sign Bud to a short-term contract and see if he can bounce back from a devastating injury.

The 2021 free agency class is loaded with talented edge rushers. If the Giants are intent on adding help on the edge, they will be able to find good value in this year’s class. However, the players near the top of the market will not come cheap. Leonard Floyd’s deal averages at around $16 million while Matt Judon’s deal landed at around $14 million. These high price tags could be the reason New York has yet to make any signings. If the New York Giants are serious about adding talent in this year’s free agency period, they are going to need to free up some cap space as soon as possible.

Should the New York Giants pursue Bud Dupree in free agency?

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants are gearing up for an eventful offseason. Co-owner John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman made the same promise at their postseason press conferences. They promised to upgrade the offense and add some playmakers. This will be the top priority for the Giants entering free agency and the draft.

While New York certainly needs to upgrade its offense, they should not neglect the defense altogether. There are weaknesses on the Giants’ otherwise strong defensive unit. One particular area of weakness is the Giants’ edge rusher position. New York put together a solid pass rush in 2020, but much of the pressure was generated through the interior. The Giants struggled to get consistent pressure off the edge.

In Week One, the Giants got a front-hand view of what a menacing edge presence can do to an offense. The Giants faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week One. Their defense consisted of numerous Pro Bowl talents, including two phenomenal edge rushers. TJ Watt was one of the best defenders in the NFL in 2020, but on the opposite side of him was Bud Dupree, another solid edge rusher.

While Bud Dupree might not be a Pro Bowl talent, he is a solid edge rusher that can make plays in a variety of ways. The Giants’ defense emphasizes versatility, making Bud Dupree a solid scheme fit that the Giants should consider pursuing in the 2021 free agency period.

Bud Dupree in free agency

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a very tricky salary cap situation. It seems unlikely that they will be able to afford to sign Bud Dupree to a contract extension. Dupree is set to hit the open market this offseason and all signs indicate he will be signing elsewhere.

The New York Giants could be a solid fit for Bud Dupree. New York has a clear need at edge rusher. Granted, the Giants are also in a tricky cap situation, but they are expected to make a number of signings to free cap space for free agency.

The Giants have to key players to re-sign. Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are both free agents this offseason. If New York extends both of them, they will not have much space left to sign any other free agents. But if one of them walks in free agency, the Giants could redistribute that money to a new signee.

Dalvin Tomlinson is projected to get a contract worth around $10-12 million per year. Bud Dupree’s projected contract per Pro Football Focus is one year, $10 million. If the Giants do lose Dalvin Tomlinson, they could supplement the loss by signing Bud Dupree to a one-year prove-it deal on the edge.

Bud Dupree stats and highlights

Bud Dupree is a versatile edge rusher that could thrive in the New York Giants’ blitz-heavy defense. Dupree was a late bloomer. His career-high sack total in his first four seasons was only 6 sacks. But in his fifth season, Dupree finally had his breakout. Bud totaled 11.5 sacks in 2019 and followed it up with another solid 8.5 sack season in 2020.

Dupree did not finish the 2020 season, though, suffering a season-ending injury after starting 11 games. His 8.5 sacks in only 11 games prove that he has blossomed into an impressive pass-rusher, but the injury raises red flags. Could this injury derail Dupree’s development and cause him to regress to the less-productive pass-rusher he was from 2015 to 2018? Or will he be able to recover completely and return to his 2019 to 2020 form?

Bud Dupree is a very risky free agent prospect. Coming off of a torn ACL in 2020, buyers will beware Bud Dupree in 2021. There is a clear and obvious upside to signing Bud Dupree. Signing Dupree to a one-year prove-it deal could pay great dividends. However, his solid baseline pass-rushing prowess will make him an expensive flier option. This is a risk the New York Giants are not likely to take with so many other holes on their roster.

New York Giants: Feeding Saquon The Key To Success In Week One

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants are about to face off against arguably the best defense in the NFL on Monday night. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense led the league in forced turnovers last season. The Steelers’ defensive unit features three 2019 First-Team All-Pros and other Pro Bowlers littered throughout.

The Steelers have the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL in TJ Watt and Bud Dupree. The two combined for a total of 26 sacks in 2019 and 12 forced fumbles. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick also totaled 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles playing alongside Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Throwing against this secondary and pass-rush will be a true test for Daniel Jones entering his second NFL season.

For this reason, the Giants need to rely on their best player more than usual in Week One. Saquon Barkley, arguably the most talented running back in the NFL, is the key to success for the Giants on Monday night.

Feed Saquon

Saquon Barkley had an up and down season in 2019. He spent much of the season either on the sideline, nursing an injury, or on the field playing through that injury. When healthy, Barkley was his dominant self, but the Giants’ offense still struggled to use him in an efficient manner.

Entering 2020, Saquon has a brand new offensive line and coaching staff to help him find success. In Week One, Saquon Barkley needs to be fed the ball abundantly in order for the Giants to win. This is not a defense that teams want to air the ball out on. They have playmakers in the secondary and relentless pass-rushers in the front seven. Daniel Jones should not shoulder the load for New York this week.

If there is a weakness on the Steelers’ defense, it is their run defense. While their run defense is not an actual weakness, it is their weakest link, and Saquon Barkley is the Giants’ strongest link. Pounding the rock with Saquon Barkley will tire down the Steelers’ defense and allow the Giants to control the game pacing and game clock.

While the Steelers’ defense allowed the third-fewest passing yards in the NFL last season, their run defense ranked 14th in the NFL, which is still above average, but not dominant like their pass defense. If the Giants want to take down this suffocating Steelers’ defense, they need to control the clock by pounding the rock with Saquon Barkley.