Here are the five keys for the Titans on Sunday against the winless Cleveland Browns.
1. Be safe, but don’t be sorry. The Titans have three key players who are questionable for Sunday in running back DeMarco Murray (hamstring), tight end Delanie Walker (calf) and linebacker Derrick Morgan (abdomen). Normally, against a struggling team like the Browns – and with a bye coming up – the smart move would seem to be to rest all three and let them get healthy. But, the Titans can’t take the Browns for granted, and if key players can make it through without risking further injury, give them the green light.
2. Unleash the rush. That may be a little tougher if Morgan is out, as he leads the team with three sacks. But the Titans have to pressure Deshone Kizer and force him out of his comfort zone. The rookie has struggled plenty, even to the point of getting benched last week in favor of Kevin Hogan. So the Titans defense needs to confuse him and make sure he doesn’t get comfortable with his reads or in the pocket.
3. All hands on Deck-er. Eric Decker had his best game as a Titan Monday night against the Colts with seven catches for 88 yards. Especially if Walker is banged up, Decker probably becomes Marcus Mariota’s best security blanket option to move the chains. Even if Walker is good to go, keeping Decker incorporated in the passing game can only be beneficial for the Titans.
4. Don’t take it for granted. It would be easy to look past the Browns and onto the bye week, but the Titans over the years have had a bad habit of playing down to the level of competition at times. If they need a reminder of what can happen, they can put on the Dolphins tape of a couple of weeks ago. Or they could look back at least year’s film against the Browns, when they barely escaped at home against the team that went 1-15.
5. Let Marcus be Marcus. Marcus Mariota made it through a full week of practice and is not listed on the injury report with his hamstring. Last week, he did not run at all, but stayed in the pocket and dissected the Colts defense. If he add a couple of runs here and there – provided he is healthy enough to do so – then the Titans offense should be even more dangerous now the Mariota has shown his prowess from the pocket.