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Cardinals-Titans Matchups

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NFL: Tennessee Titans at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Background: Dec 10, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Tramon Williams (25) tackles Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (82) at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas

According to ESPN via the Associated Press, here is a quick recap of the last time the Cardinals played the Titans (Dec. 10, 2017):

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Phil Dawson kicked four second-half field goals and the Arizona Cardinals shut down Tennessee’s offense nearly all day Sunday in a 12-7 victory over the Titans, who had entered the game leading the AFC South.

Dawson connected from 47, 23, 32 and 35 yards and missed from 40 for the Cardinals (6-7), whose victory came two weeks after they beat then-AFC South leader Jacksonville on the same field,

The Cardinals intercepted Marcus Mariota twice in the second half after the Titans (8-5) nursed a 7-0 lead at halftime.

This year, as Cardinals’ fans well know, the Cardinals (8-8 in 2020) travel Week 1 to Tennessee to open the 2021 season versus the Titans (11-5, AFC South Champions).

In my most recent Red Rain podcast article, we heard this from an avid Titans’ fan Titan4lif3:

4 days ago

Looking forward for our week one matchup. Should be a good one. Two highly talented teams that do not play each other often. Literally anything can happen, so pumped that football is almost back!

See you in Smashville!

Titan4life3’s post prompted me to ask him to predict the Titans’ starting lineups so that I could perform this early pre-season analysis of the matchups. Here is his reply:

QB- Tannehill

RB- D Henry, 2nd being Darryington Evans

TE- Anthony Firkser, Jeff Swaim

WR1- AJ Brown

WR2-Julio Jones

WR3-Josh Reynolds

LT - Taylor Lewan

LG- Rodger Saffold

C- Ben Jones

RG- Nate Davis

RT- Dillion Radunz

Anthony Firkser is a good pass catching TE however his blocking is suspect. Jeff Swaim is a good pass blocker but not so much pass catcher. TE is definitely a weak spot in my opinion. RT Radunz being a rookie will have a learner curve. Hopefully he can get up to speed quickly. Everyone else on this list I am not worried about at all. More worried about our newest O Coordinator.

DT- Jeffrey Simmons

DT - Denico Autry

DE/OLB- Harold Landry

DE/OLB -Bud Dupree

DE Rashad Weaver

ILB Rashaan Evans

ILB Jayon Brown

CB1 - Janoris Jenkins

CB2- Caleb Farley (yes I expect he will be ready week 1)

CB3- Kristian Fulton

S- Kevin Byard

S- Amani Hooker

So here I am also worried about our D Coordinator as well. However will Farley reinjure his back? IDK lets hope not. But signs are pointing he will be ready. Amani Hooker flashed last year. Rashaan Evans needs to step up for he is gone next year. We got some good name on defense but we need the unit to jell and have a better gameplans and coordinating than we had last year.

Here are PFF’s starting lineup projections which Ben Linsley posted on May 17th. Since then, the Titans have traded for WR Julio Jones, which Titan4lif3 has accounted for —- and thus he and PFF are in full agreement of what the Titans’ starters are going to be.

According to PFF roster rankings via 2020 player grades and 2021 projections

https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-roster-rankings-for-all-32-teams-for-2021-strengths-weaknesses-and-x-factors-for-every-teams-starting-lineup#ARZ

here is what they compiled:

Cardinals (21st)

QB Kyler Murray (82.8) DI J.J. Watt (85.4)

RB James Conner (69.4) DI Leki Fotu (41.0)

RB Chase Edmonds (69.2) DI Jordan Phillips (54.4)

WR DeAndre Hopkins (87.1) EDGE Chandler Jones (86.0*)

WR A.J. Green (66.3) EDGE Markus Golden (59.9)

WR Christian Kirk (62.3) LB Isaiah Simmons (59.9)

TE Maxx Williams (67.7) LB Zaven Collins (90.5**)

LT D.J. Humphries (88.3) CB Malcolm Butler (74.5)

LG Justin Pugh (64.8) CB Robert Alford (56.6*)

C Rodney Hudson (73.6) CB Byron Murphy Jr. (64.7)

RG Justin Murray (56.7) S Budda Baker (75.3)

RT Kelvin Beachum (69.0) S Jalen Thompson (70.1)

Titans (13th)

QB Ryan Tannehill (90.6) DI Denico Autry (63.7)

RB Derrick Henry (91.8) DI Teair Tart (48.7)

WR A.J. Brown (90.4) DI Jeffery Simmons (83.6)

WR Julio Jones (86.3) EDGE Bud Dupree (60.2)

WR Josh Reynolds (65.5) EDGE Harold Landry III (64.9)

TE Anthony Firkser (78.6) LB Jayon Brown (66.4)

TE Geoff Swaim (60.1) LB Rashaan Evans (55.1)

LT Taylor Lewan (80.2*) CB Janoris Jenkins (66.7)

LG Rodger Saffold III (72.8) CB Caleb Farley (86.9***)

C Ben Jones (78.6) CB Kristian Fulton (56.1)

RG Nate Davis (71.1) S Kevin Byard (65.8)

RT Dillon Radunz (77.7***) S Amani Hooker (66.6)

The Titans have the higher PFF grades at QB, RB, WR1, WR2. WR3, TE, LG, RG,, DI2, DI3, EDGE2, ILB1.

The Cardinals have the higher PFF grades at LT, C RT, DI1, EDGE1, ILB2, CB1, CB 2, CB3, SS, FS.

Note: where rookies were projected as starters (with their PFF college grades), the nod goes to the veterans at those positions.

According to PFF —- Cardinals:

  • Biggest Strength: QB Kyler Murray
  • Biggest Weakness: CB depth
  • X Factor: DE J.J. Watt

According to PFF —- Titans:

  • Biggest Strength: Physicality pf RB Derrick Henry and WRs A.J. Brown and Julio Jones
  • Biggest Weakness: Defensive line
  • X Factor: CB Caleb Farley

Starting Positions Edge: Titans 12-11 (not including STs)

Coaching Edges (in my opinion):

  • Head Coaching Edge: Mike Vrable (Kingsbury 13-18-1, Vrable 31-21, including 2-2 playoffs record)
  • Offensive Coordinator Edge: Kliff Kingsbury (Todd Downing replaces Arthur Smith)
  • Defensive Coordinator Edge: Vance Joseph (Shane Bowen replaces Dean Pees/Mike Vrable)
  • Special Teams Coordinator Edge: Jeff Rodgers (2020 ST Grades ARZ 90.1, TEN 67.3)

Opening Odds as of today (per CBS Sports):

Tennessee (-2.5) Over/under: 51

3 Nutshell Keys:

For Arizona:

1- Using their size and improved strength on defense to slow down Derrick Henry.

2- Applying consistent pressure on Ryan Tannehill

3- Beating the Titans between the tackles and exposing their secondary on offense.

For Tennessee:

1- Maintaining a physical advantage on offense with Henry, Brown and Jones.

2- Protecting Ryan Tannehill versus the Cardinals’ pass rush.

3- Containing Kyler Murray and the Cardinals’ skill players on offense.

  • The Cardinals’ preparation for game one at the Titans can set the tone for the entire season, particularly in how the coaches stress the teaching of fundamentals. For example, the Cardinals can forget about trying to tackle Derrick Henry high. The Cardinals’ coaches would be well served to teach tackling the Budda Baker way right from the get-go.
  • Special thanks to Titan4life3 for sparking the interest in this preview.
  • ROTB: can you picture the Cardinals winning this game? If you do, how are the Cardinals able to pull off the upset?