Several reporters and analysts joined Glenn Clark Radio leading up to the divisional round playoff matchup between the Ravens and Titans Jan. 11. Turron Davenport, Derrick Mason and Geoff Schwartz helped break down Tennessee, the No. 6 seed in the AFC and winners of nine of their last 12 games.
Davenport covers the Titans for ESPN. Mason was a receiver in the NFL from 1997-2011, mostly with the Ravens and Titans, and now is a radio host for 102.5 The Game in Nashville. Schwartz was an offensive lineman in the league from 2009-2015 and now is an analyst for SiriusXM and SB Nation.
Here’s a sampling of what they had to say …
Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing during the regular season with 1,540 yards and was tied for the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns with 16. During the Titans’ 20-13 victory at New England Jan 4, Henry controlled the game to the tune of 182 yards on 34 carries. How do the Ravens go about containing the 6-foot-3, 247-pound former Heisman Trophy winner, and what makes him so special?
Davenport: “The way he is, once he gets the full head of steam and gets his number squared up at the line of scrimmage, it’s a bad decision for anybody to come up and tackle him and he’s shown it with the stiff arm. I think they’re going to attack the outside. They did bang the interior gaps [against the Patriots]. And one of the things with that outside zone is it always leaves that opportunity for your running back to put his foot in the ground and cut it back, so that’s another reason why you’re seeing some success on the inside.”
Mason: “It’s difficult. It’s like Mike Tyson said, ‘Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.’ Well, everyone’s got a plan to stop Derrick Henry until you actually have to tackle him, and that’s the dilemma that the Baltimore Ravens are in. I think they believe enough in what they’re doing that they cannot stop him, but contain him. And that’s all they need to do. They need him not to rush for 150 or 160 yards. If he gets 100, so be it, but at least they controlled him not taking over the game.”
Tennessee’s season turned for the better once head coach Mike Vrabel turned the starting quarterback keys over to Ryan Tannehill, who replaced Marcus Mariota during a 16-0 loss at Denver Oct. 13 and started the final 11 games. (The Titans went 8-3 and made the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 6 seed.)
The Dolphins’ 2012 first-round pick never reached his full potential in Miami and struggled to stay healthy toward the end of his six-year tenure there. Under Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, Tannehill has enjoyed the best stretch of his career: 2,742 yards, 9.6 yards per attempt, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
What’s made Tannehill so successful?
Davenport: “It was simply just more efficiency on offense, more decisiveness out of the quarterback position. Tannehill is a guy who is playing with supreme confidence. If you talk to basically anybody on the offense, they’ll tell you now there’s an undying confidence that they’re going to score. That’s what he brings to the huddle. You’ve got that, you’ve got the ability to just distribute the ball around, that’s a big thing.”
Schwartz: “Ryan Tannehill this year has been really, really good against man coverage. He has 15 touchdowns; that’s first in the NFL against man coverage. Against man coverage, he’s third in yards per attempt, he’s first in touchdowns, seventh-best completion percentage. And A.J. Brown, he’s averaging 20 yards a reception [with Tannehill]. Marcus Peters likes to kind of cheat sometimes on some of those routes. Finding a way to get him isolated if you’re the Titans and try to beat him on a double move and get some easy points is going to be important.”
Tennessee’s defense was 21st in the NFL in total defense (359.5 yards per game) this year, but 12th in scoring defense (20.7 points per game). The Titans were 12th against the run, but they’ll have to try to contain the Ravens’ top-rated rushing attack without third-leading tackler Jayon Brown, who is out with a shoulder injury. Tennessee was 24th against the pass, though they have some productive players in the secondary such as cornerback Logan Ryan (four interceptions) and safety Kevin Byard (five).
Can the Titans find a way to slow down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens?
Davenport: “When you have a guy who can lead the league in touchdown passes and rush for 1,200, there is not a defense on this planet that is suited to stop that. That’s just being real, and that’s why he’s the MVP. I think as the Titans’ coordinator, I would personally be very nervous about the speed and power this offense presents.”
Mason: “You can’t say enough about Lamar Jackson. The kid’s a wizard. With all those people that said he couldn’t do it, it shows you when you’re dedicated to a sport, to your job, how much better you can become when you have a year to really focus on yourself as a player, and he did exactly that. But you credit a lot of it to Greg Roman and that offensive line, which they don’t talk about enough and what those guys have been able to do for Baltimore. If Baltimore’s clicking like they have been during the season, it’s going to be difficult for Tennessee to beat them.”
Schwartz: “I think scoring really early for the Ravens, which they’ve done great this year on opening drives, it’s going to be super important for them. I just can’t see it, man. The Titans have played good ball lately, but the two previous games before the Patriots game where they had to win, they lost to the Texans and they lost to the Saints. They beat a Texans team that didn’t play anyone, and obviously they beat the Patriots by one [before the Tom Brady interception]. I don’t know, man. I don’t see it. I think this game’s not even close.”
To hear more from Davenport, listen to the full interview here:
To hear more from Mason, listen to the full interview here:
To hear more from Schwartz, listen to the full interview here: