The last time the Bengals and Titans met it was a matchup between Marvin Lewis and Mike Mularkey at head coach. These teams have gone through plenty of changes since then, so it seemed like a great chance to reach out to Jimmy Morris of Music City Miracle and get his perspective on this matchup.
Patrick Judis: It would feel wrong to not start this off by talking about Derrick Henry. He seemingly caught fire last season, and he hasn’t really shown any signs of slowing down as he comes into this game as the league’s leading rusher. What makes him one of the most dangerous backs in the NFL, and what does the Titans’ offense do to highlight his skill set?
Jimmy Morris: He is the best running back in the NFL because he has the rare combination of being a bruiser but also being able to hit the home run. How many running backs are just as dangerous inside their own 10-yard line as they are inside the opposing team’s 10-yard line? The answer is 1 - King Henry. The other thing about Henry is that nobody works harder to prepare for a season than he does. Go look through his Instagram page. No one wants to try to tackle him for 60 minutes.
One of the biggest things they have done to highlight his skill set is to truly commit to getting him carries. They continue to feed him the ball pretty much regardless of game script. He has shown time and time again that he gets stronger as the game goes on, and as I said above, defenses get tired of taking that punishment in the 4th quarter.
PJ: While Tennessee is coming into Cincinnati with a red hot offense, their defense has been surprisingly cold. They allow just over 400 yards and 25.5 points per game to opposing offenses. What are some weaknesses that can be exploited by the Bengals this week?
JM: They have 2 big weaknesses - the first is the inability to generate a pass rush. They paid Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney a combined $22+ million this offseason. They have combined for ZERO sacks through the first six games of the season - not a great return on investment there.
The other issue is that their corners have been hurt/bad. Adoree Jackson hasn’t played yet this season. Hopefully, by the time this post goes up on the site, the Titans will have activated him from IR. Malcolm Butler has been Malcolm Butler. He’s really good at times and rough at times. Second round pick, Kristian Fulton, has also been up and down and is also currently injured. Johnathan Joseph is slow. You get the picture.
I’ll be honest, I’m worried about what Joe Burrow will be able to do against this defense.
PJ: Ryan Tannehill is finally starting to get some publicity for how well he has done during his time with the Titans. Some have even mentioned him as a candidate for MVP during certain parts of the season. What are some things he has done to push this offense over the top, and do you view him as the long-term solution for that position?
JM: I do view him as the long-term solution. Tannehill is extremely efficient. There was so much talk about the contract he got in the national media because they only watched the Titans in the playoffs. It was just assumed that Henry was 100% of the offense the entire season. While the offense runs through Henry, Tannehill is able to take advantage of things that are available to him because defenses pay so much attention to Henry. Tannehill is decisive with the ball and has a great understanding of the offense. It also doesn’t hurt that he has been great in late game situations. This team, from the coaches to the players, have faith that he is going to pull through in the clutch.
PJ: Who is an underrated or under appreciated player that you think could have an impact on Sunday’s game?
He’s not underrated here, but Jonnu Smith is a guy that doesn’t get enough talk around the week. He suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Texans two weeks ago. He played against the Steelers but was only targeted 4 times in the game. He hasn’t been on the injury report this week. Smith is a good blocker, a great receiver and dangerous after the catch. He had 5 TDs in the Titans first 4 games.
PJ: What is your prediction for the game this Sunday?
This game should be really fun to watch. You have two explosive offenses against two bad defense. I do think the Titans are the better team so I’m going to say they win 38-31.
Thanks again to Jimmy for taking the time out to answer our questions. You can find more of his work and Titans coverage at Music City Miracle.