Browns offer intriquing storyline

Friday, September 6, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 36
By Terry McCormick

The Tennessee Titans are in the spotlight nationally for week 1 with CBS sending top crew Jim Nantz and Tony Romo for the broadcast. But it doesn’t have much to do with Nashville’s hometown team.

It has more to do with the suddenly very interesting Cleveland Browns. These aren’t the Browns of Spergeon Wynn or even Johnny Manziel. They might actually be an honest-to-goodness contender if they can figure out how to mesh all the newfound talent and egos together.

Meanwhile, the Titans are along for the ride in what should be an entertaining opener to see if they can put a dent in all the Cleveland hype.

First down

Test out Derrick Henry. Henry missed all of the preseason with a calf injury suffered the first day in training camp. But he promises to be ready to roll. The Titans need him to be ready, because they are basically building the offense around a power running game, and Henry is the only back on the roster capable of such a style. If Henry is effective, it will take some of the pressure off Marcus Mariota.

Second down

Let Marcus be Marcus. Speaking of Mariota, he enters the final year of his rookie deal still needing to show that he can be a franchise-type quarterback. The Titans need to get Mariota into a good rhythm early, and that means letting him run – some with run-pass option designs and some on scrambles. Sure, he has been injury prone, but the only way to maximize Mariota is to turn him loose and let his legs be part of how he attacks a defense.

Third down

Dial up the pressure. Baker Mayfield had a fantastic rookie year, and now he has Odell Beckham to go along with Jarvis Landry as his receivers. The Titans secondary is a strength, and defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have a few tricks up his sleeve to throw at the second-year QB to try and throw him off his game.

Fourth down

Take care of business. As mentioned above, there will be considerable hype around the Browns. The Titans, on the other hand, are one of the least-hyped teams in the NFL. Maybe it’s their lack of star power. Maybe it’s a boring offense that grinds things out rather than makes a lot of flashy plays. Whatever the reason, the Titans need to use their methodical business-like approach to take control of Sunday’s game.

Matchups to watch

Myles Garrett vs. Dennis Kelly. With Taylor Lewan suspended the first four games, the offensive line will be watched heavily to see how it holds up. Kelly goes in at left tackle and has a tall order on the first day trying to keep Garrett in check. The Titans may need to chip with a back or tight end at times to help him out, but it’s imperative that Kelly hold his own in this battle.

Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan vs. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. A big battle looms here as the Titans secondary, which figures to play a lot of nickel, is matched up against the former star LSU receivers who are now teammates on the Browns. The big key to contain the big plays, and keep everything in front as much as possible.