NFL 2019 (Week 3): Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 3): Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

In the NFL, the best path for sustained success is to strike gold with a franchise quarterback. By definition, every team has a starting quarterback, but far fewer have one capable of altering the organization's trajectory for years to come. Tennessee drafted Marcus Mariota second overall in 2015, and they are still waiting for him to establish himself as the future of the team. Mariota has yet to play all 16 games in one season and is now in the last year of his rookie contract. This is his time to reach the potential they saw in him four years ago. Jacksonville has tried a different tack with their quarterback situation: they released former first-rounder Blake Bortles in the offseason, signed Nick Foles as a free agent, and drafted Gardner Minshew to back him up. It took less than one game for that plan to go awry, as Foles broke his collarbone, and Minshew was thrust into a starting role. This will be the rookie's first primetime game—is he up to the task?

Titans: Tennessee stands at 1-1 after opening the season with a resounding defeat of the upstart Cleveland Browns, only to follow that up with a narrow loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Second-year coach Mike Vrabel has been charged with building a winning team around Mariota, relying upon a powerful running game and a multifarious defense. The Titans believe they should be 2-0 after committing fewer penalties and turnovers than the Colts, but Cairo Santos missed a field goal late in the third quarter, which ultimately would have proved the difference. Visiting a familiar foe may be just what the doctor ordered to get this season back on track. It was last December's Thursday night tilt between Tennessee and Jacksonville that running back Derrick Henry tied the NFL record for longest run at 99 yards. Surely everyone in Nashville hopes that such a herculean effort is not necessary to overcome the Jags this time around.

Jaguars: Duval County has embraced Minshew Mania, and the charismatic gunslinger hopes to deliver on the excitement. He has had his work cut out for him thus far, being thrown into action against the reigning AFC West and South champions (Kansas City and Houston), and now taking on Tennessee's sixth-ranked scoring defense. Jacksonville, like Tennessee, has opted to build their roster around a bruising running back and a stifling defense. That defense's best player is cornerback Jalen Ramsey, whose representation is now asking for a trade after a rift with head coach Doug Marrone. The two were seen arguing on the sideline in Sunday's loss at Houston. Ramsey is a competitive player who has stated repeatedly that all he wants is to win. After all, a mere 20 months ago, these Jaguars had the New England Patriots on the ropes in the AFC Championship game before eventually succumbing in a four-point loss. Jacksonville is 5-13 since that game and needs some positive traction. If Minshew wants to convince Ramsey to stay on as his teammate, a lights-out performance would be a great way to start.

Prediction: Harold Landry and Cam Wake get after Minshew, while Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler leave him nowhere to throw. Jacksonville still notches a few touchdowns, but Tennessee thoroughly outplays the host Jaguars.

Tennessee Titans 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 21

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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