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: The Underrated Benefit of Drafting a Cornerback

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain

As the 2021 NFL Draft swiftly approaches, the New York Giants are doing their best to make sure they get the No. 11 overall pick correct. Following a 2020 season that saw the team make strides towards competitiveness for the first time in years, it’s vital Big Blue makes the correct choice. Most mock drafts have suggested the team take an offensive-playmaker, a pass rusher, or an offensive lineman. While all of those options would greatly benefit the Giants, there’s one position that would kill two birds with one stone – cornerback.

The Underrated Benefit of Drafting a Cornerback at No. 11 Overall

The Role a Strong Secondary Plays in the Pass Rushing Game

On paper, a cornerback’s main duty is to defend against the opponent’s passing game. Whether that be via soft-zone, press-man, or any other scheme that Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham draws up, that is their job. A strong secondary-unit does more than just wreak havoc on opposing receivers and quarterbacks though. It allows the pass rush to get after the QB and forces the opponent to adjust their style of play. The Giants would reap the major benefits of this style of play by taking a defensive-back in round one this spring.

Following the 2019 season, the Giants knew they needed to improve their secondary. They allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game in the NFL and consistently failed to get off the field in crunch-time. To fix this issue they went out and signed James Bradberry. Bradberry outperformed all expectations in his first year with Big Blue in 2020, earning the first pro-bowl nod of his career. But it wasn’t only Bradberry who enjoyed a successful season – the entire Giants secondary improved significantly. The team allowed 26.2 less yards per game through the air and finished as the 17th-ranked unit in the league. Along with the improved pass defense came an uptick in pressure on the QB.

The Giants finished 2020 tied for the 11th-most sacks in the NFL with 40, 11 spots higher than their ranking in 2019. Despite not signing a dominant pass rusher in free agency last offseason, their pass rush improved. How? Strong play from the secondary. It’s not a coincidence both sections of the defense improved either. Almost all of the best passing defenses rushed the passer effectively in 2020.

The Correlation Between a Strong Passing Defense/Sacks

Of the six-best defenses against the pass in 2020, three of them finished in the top-six for sacks. On the other end of the rankings the correlation is relevant as well. Of the 10-worst pass defenses, five of them were in the bottom-10 for total sacks. A strong secondary allows the defensive line to produce something called a “coverage sack.” That is when a team forces the QB to hold onto the ball for an extended period of time, allowing the pass rushers to blow the play up.

The biggest example of a player benefitting from strong secondary play, and converting on “coverage sacks” is the Giants own Leonard Williams. In eight games with the team in 2019 Williams posted a measly 0.5 sacks. He did, however, register 11 hits on the QB. It was clear in 2019 that Williams needed only one more second to turn those hits into sacks. And when he received that extra second this past season, he made it count.

In 16 games with Big Blue in 2020 Williams was simply dominant. His 11.5 sacks led the team and were the 7th-most in the NFL. Nothing much about the former No. 6 overall pick changed heading into 2020. He was the same player but this time around had a group of high-football-IQ players behind him. He pounced on his secondary’s success and showed everyone why he was taken so high back in 2015.

Who Would be in Play at No. 11

If the Giants were to go the CB route in round one, which I strongly endorse, there are two players on the table: Patrick Surtain from Alabama and Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech. Both are projected to be lockdown corners at the next level, and with good reason. Each played against top-tier competition while in college, possess nearly identical long, rangy frames, as well as a wealth of skill to play in almost any type of defense. They’re each projected to go in the top-15 of the draft this April.

Let’s say the Giants like Surtain a bit more because of coach Judge’s connection to Alabama, and take him at No. 11. He would immediately slide into CB2 opposite Bradberry. It’s fair to say the Giants would have one of, if not the best CB duo in the NFL with that pairing. It would be extremely difficult for an opposing to QB to find an open receiver each play, thus giving the d-line time to do their job.

There’s no need to draft an edge rusher at No. 11 overall or overpay for one in free agency this offseason. Continue to build up the secondary and the sack production will increase as a result. When there’s a chance to fill two positions of need with one player, you must take it.

New York Giants could target 2 cornerbacks with 11th overall pick

New York Giants, Patrick Surtain

While most are mocking offensive playmakers to the New York Giants with the 11th overall pick, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them going defensive in the first round. In 2020, the Giants surprised everybody with a stellar defense, led by coordinator Patrick Graham. He installed a 3-4 scheme that relied on versatility and discipline. His players performed well above expectations, finishing as a top-10 unit in points per game allowed and represented one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Their main weakness was the secondary, or rather one spot in the defensive backfield.

The second cornerback position was a liability all season long, as the Giants started off with Corey Ballentine at CB2 and quickly moved on to Isaac Yiadom and Ryan Lewis. Yiadom ended up playing a majority of the snaps as the season progressed, but he remained a liability, and the Giants must do something to upgrade the position in 2021.

The team does have Sam Beal returning, and Julian Love did show a spark in the final two games of the season, but the Giants have an opportunity to grab a premium asset at the beginning of the 2021 NFL draft. They just have to figure out if it is more beneficial to add an offensive weapon or the final piece to the secondary, which would give them a premium defense capable of competing against some of the best teams in the league.

There are two top-tier CBs with fantastic potential that are worthy of being selected at 11, let’s take a look.

Two CBs, the New York Giants, can target at 11:

1.) Patrick Surtain

One fantastic option for the Giants if they elect to go to CB is Patrick Surtain out of Alabama. Playing in a pro-style defense has prepared Surtain for the NFL, and that 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds, he has great size and reach for a corner.

As a former 5 star recruit, he has elite athleticism and upside, and it runs in his DNA. He’s not the most aggressive player, utilizing finesse and a conservative approach is to his game.

Patrick’s primary weakness revolves around his deep speed when quarterbacks are throwing go-routes. If you he solve those issues and stack receivers properly, he can alleviate any concerns, but as of now, it is something that teams will have to work around at the next level. Having a solid deep safety would be helpful, and the Giants have Xavier McKinney preparing to take a larger role in 2021, and having experience with Surtain at Alabama, they could be a dynamic duo.

The Giants play a ton of zone defense, but that was primarily due to their weakness at CB2 in 2020. Patrick Graham played predominantly cover-1 while acting as the DC for the Miami Dolphins in 2019, which focuses on man coverage. Acquiring Surtain would allow him to go back to his roots, and with dangerous man-cover corners like Bradberry and Surtain in the secondary, it would allow the Giants to utilize more blitzers on passing downs.

2.) Caleb Farley

Another target is Caleb Farley out of Virginia tech. At 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds, Farley is a speedster corner that has unbelievable tracking speed. For defenses that are worried about getting beat over the top, Farley is the perfect fit, but he hasn’t had much diversity in his game. Farley has barely played in the slot and aligns on the left side for a majority of his snaps. In addition, injuries have taken their toll in the past, which represents a potential liability in the NFL.

Farley projects as an elite man-coverage corner with exciting tangible traits, but his actual film isn’t full of examples of why those traits will translate. Surtain is a more developed and fundamental option, but Farley has a higher ceiling.

Why Caleb Farley could be attractive to the New York Giants at eleven overall

New York Giants, Caleb Farley

The New York Giants are in need of help on offense. Many fans and analysts project that the Giants will take a wide receiver with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to solve their offensive problems. But there are certain scenarios where the Giants could go defense at eleven overall.

If the Giants do go defense at eleven overall, there are a few prospects that could entice them. But one intriguing player could be a surprising, but exciting selection with the eleventh pick. Caleb Farley, an uber-athletic cornerback out of Virginia Tech, is an electric prospect that has risen up draft boards in recent weeks.

Caleb Farley is an elite athlete and impressive prospect

Caleb Farley is such a unique cornerback prospect. He stands tall at six feet two inches and has a well-built frame of 197 pounds. Farley started his football career as a quarterback in high school and began his collegiate career at wide receiver before transitioning to the defensive side of the ball in 2018.

That position switch paid great dividends for Caleb and his career. Farley broke onto the scene as a cornerback with elite physical traits in 2019. Not only is he tall and strong, but Farley is also extremely athletic. He once said in an interview that he ran a 4.25s forty-yard-dash in high school, but no one believed him so he told everyone he ran a 4.35s forty.

Regardless of what he ran in high school, Caleb Farley is still blazing fast. He is projected to run a forty-yard-dash time around 4.35s. Caleb was also “reportedly clocked at over 24 miles per hour on GPS trackers during the Notre Dame game last season,” per Pro Football Focus.

Caleb Farley put his elite athleticism into effect with advanced technique as a cornerback in college. He has clean footwork and the ability to mirror wide receivers’ routes. Farley was also very productive, recording six interceptions over the last two seasons. Combining his technique with his incredible makeup speed makes it increasingly difficult for wide receivers to beat him over top.

The Giants run a very versatile defense. Patrick Graham calls a lot of disguised zone coverage blitzes but also relies on sticky press-man coverage in key situations. Caleb Farley would fit right into this defense with his experience playing plenty of zone coverage with West Virginia and his elite man-coverage traits that were always on full display in college.

Caleb Farley is a flawed cornerback with a high ceiling

Caleb Farley is by no means a perfect prospect. In fact, there are some glaring weaknesses that could scare teams away from drafting him in the top ten-to-fifteen. Caleb suffered a non-contact ACL tear in 2017 and also missed the final two games of the 2019 season due to back spasms, showing somewhat of an injury history.

Additionally, Farley is being projected as a press-man coverage cornerback in the NFL because of his traits. However, according to Pro Football Focus, Caleb Farley had only 58 press-man coverage snaps in his collegiate career. He is inexperienced in playing the defensive role that he is expected to flourish in at the next level.

Regardless of his injury history and inexperience, Farley is still one of the most intriguing defensive prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. Caleb is a superb athlete that has all of the traits to be an elite cornerback in the NFL. He projects nicely as a press-man cornerback but will need to refine his skills to achieve success in the pros.

If the New York Giants draft Caleb Farley, he will benefit from playing alongside James Bradberry within Patrick Graham’s complex defensive scheme. Farley would be covering secondary receivers on this roster. Patrick Graham would also be able to put Farley in a position to succeed with disguised coverages that allowed young cornerbacks like Darnay Holmes and Isaac Yiadom to make plays in 2020. Fans might hope to see the Giants draft a wide receiver at eleven overall, but the selection of Caleb Farley would be one to excite fans long-term and fill a major need on defense with an elite athletic prospect.

Why the New York Giants might draft defense at eleven overall

Micah Parsons, new york giants

The New York Giants are entering another crucial roster-building offseason. The biggest point of emphasis for the GIants’ front office this offseason is to revamp the offense. New York’s offense was pitiful in 2020 and they need to fix that to find success in 2021.

This has led many fans and analysts to speculate that the Giants will spend their first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on an offensive weapon. The Giants hold the eleventh overall pick in this year’s draft. This puts the team in perfect position to draft a top-tier wide receiver or tight end. But there are reasons to believe that the Giants could go defense with their number eleven pick in April.

Contingent on free agency

The Giants have a plethora of weaknesses on their roster. Ideally, fans would like to see the Giants add another talented cornerback to the mix and improve the pass-rush. Additionally, the Giants need to find their new offensive weapon. The Giants had interest in trading for Kenny Golladay back in October, so it is likely that they will pursue a wide receiver in free agency.

If the Giants do land one of those big-name free agent wide receivers, they could look to fill another one of those needs in the draft. The top of this year’s draft class features some prominent defensive prospects.

Deep wide receiver class

The Giants might not need to spend their first-round pick to get an offensive weapon. The 2021 NFL Draft class is loaded with wide receiver talent. There are prospects that will be available in the second and third rounds that have the potential to be quality starters in the NFL.

New York needs a new primary wide receiver for Daniel Jones to rely on in the passing game. If the Giants are unable to acquire one in free agency, it is likely that they will draft one in the first round, but it is not necessarily a guarantee. There are some very talented defensive prospects that the Giants could consider at eleven, before drafting a talented receiving option in the second round.

Micah Parsons, Caleb Farley, Gregory Rousseau, and other defenders might be enticing options for the Giants in the first round. Parsons is a rare linebacker prospect that could revolutionize the Giants’ defense. Farley is an intriguing cornerback option that could fill a huge hole in New York’s secondary. And Rousseau is a talented pass-rusher that could fill another need for the Giants on defense.

Taking one of these players in the first round would open up the possibility for the Giants to take a second-round wide receiver prospect. The electric Rondale Moore could be available in round two, as well as the human-joystick Kadarius Toney. This is a year where a team could realistically find a number one receiver in the second round. This could allow the New York Giants to draft a defensive prospect in round one.

Should the New York Giants entertain the idea of drafting CB Caleb Farley at 11?

New York Giants, Caleb Farley

The New York Giants are in a good spot with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, even if some preferred they dropped lower. There’s a good chance a top-five player falls to 11, with most boards ranking players like Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons or Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith at the top. However, based on team needs and other factors, you never know which player could fall right into the lap of a team like the Giants, who sit one spot out of the top 10 and will likely take the best player available.

Taking the best player on the board is never a bad strategy, especially since at 11, you can guarantee to receive a top talent that simply falls past the top 10 teams. However, the Giants have a few significant needs that require bolstering, and while I doubt they try to fill a hole at 11, there are a few intriguing players who fit the bill.

This past season, the Giants struggled significantly with their second cornerback spot, opposite James Bradberry. While Bradberry was one of the highest-rated corners in the NFL in 2020, the Giants went through a revolving door at CB2. Players like Corey Ballentine, Isaac Yiadom, Ryan Lewis, and Julian Love all earned starting reps at the position.

The New York Giants could take an interesting route at 11:

There is a chance general manager Dave Gettleman, and head coach Joe Judge want to fill the vacant CB spot with a premium draft pick, which could steer them in the direction of Alabama star CB Patrick Surtain II, or Virginia Tech standout Caleb Farley.

For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on Farley and what he offers an NFL team. Having opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Farley’s most recent tape is from 2019.

There is a lot to like when it comes to Farley and his athleticism as a former quarterback in high school. I like to have players who have different perspectives, and as a former QB, he understands routes and timing, having made the transition to CB. He’s incredibly fast and can make up ground well on go-routes, which is extremely important in the modern-day NFL, as teams push verticals regularly. However, he is a skeptic tackler, missing 21 and 80 career attempts with VT.

Caleb has the perfect frame for an elite man-coverage corner, which is exactly what defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is looking for at CB2. He utilized cover 1, a man-coverage scheme focused on stopping the run 50% of the time while calling plays for the Miami Dolphins in 2019. This past year, he utilized zone coverage primarily, mainly due to a lack of confidence at the CB2 position, free safety, and LB2.

Having a quality man-coverage corner opposite Bradberry would give the Giants the secondary they need to bring more pressure on the quarterback and feel confident they can hold it down in the secondary. Factor in their trio of quality safeties — Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and Xavier McKinney, and they would immediately have one of the most intimidating defenses in the NFL.

While man-coverage seems to be his biggest problem, it can also be seen as his biggest con. He has only taken 58 snaps in his career as press/man coverage corner, so his sample size in the category is limited.

In addition, Farley rarely takes his talents into the slot and pretty much aligns at the same spot every play. With Bradberry opposite him, that shouldn’t be a significant problem, but you’d like to have a bit more diversity in his game.

Lastly, as a 6-foot-2 and 207-pound corner, he can handle bigger receivers and hold up again speedsters. I predict he might have an inconsistent first season but will develop nicely with good coaching. The Giants offer him a great place to land, so if they want a high upside corner, Farley is a solid option. It is also important to note that he has dealt with injuries in the past, and it should be a worry for teams.

New York Giants take strange defensive route in 2021 Draft Network Mock Draft

New York Giants, Caleb Farley

The New York Giants endured many struggles during the 2020 season, but one of their most glaring needs remains CB2. After starting the year with Corey Ballentine penciled in alongside James Bradberry, the Giants quickly embarked on a rotational journey at the position.

By season’s end, the Giants had made their way through Ballantine, Ryan Lewis, Isaac Yiadom, and Julian Love. While Love displayed some optimism in the final two games, allowing 51 yards and four receptions against Dallas in week 17, it is unknown if the Giants feel confident he can be their starter moving forward.

Due to COVID-19, the salary cap is expected to drop to a minimum of $175 million. With that being the case, teams are going to have to shed players to stay under the cap, meaning valuable veterans could be on the market for cheaper deals. That should give the Giants an opportunity to pick up an established veteran who can hold down the position for one year. There is another route they can take toward shoring up the CB2 spot.

The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak mocked an interesting player to the New York Giants:

Projecting for the Giants is tricky. You can’t rely on the David Gettleman hog-molly bit, as their defensive trenches are set—though a surprise pick on the offensive line is certainly within the cards. A splash at wide receiver would also make sense, though two of the top three players are gone; an improvement at EDGE rusher is still necessary, though the board isn’t great for EDGEs early in the first round.

We have seen Gettleman make big investments in the secondary recently. They traded up to spend a first-round pick on DeAndre Baker in the 2019 draft, a top-40 pick on Xavier McKinney, and spent big money on James Bradberry in free agency. Their efforts have been rewarded. With the additions of Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and Julian Love, the Giants have a strong secondary group. It’s just another outside CB away from being elite.

Caleb Farley replaces Isaac Yiadom at that spot. He won’t have to follow WR1s early, which is to his advantage, and he brings great man and zone flexibility—important for Patrick Graham’s defense in New York.

If the Giants did elect to take Farley from Virginia Tech with the 11th overall pick, it would undoubtedly be a surprise. Farley is a fantastic man-coverage cornerback, but he has a troubling injury history, tearing his ACL in 2017 and suffering through back spasms in 2019. If those injuries are behind him, he represents arguably the best CB in the draft. He is an extremely athletic player who has played quarterback and receiver in the past, giving him a unique perspective.

Adding him to the secondary would give the Giants one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. However, the offense desperately needs support, and going defensive might give them a top unit in the NFL, but once again, their offense will likely struggle to get things going, even with the Saquon Barkley expected to make a full return.