In the recent string of defensive success for the New York Giants, they’ve gotten a break with some of the quarterbacks they’ve had to face. They got the likes of Nick Mullens, Chase Daniel, and Mark Sanchez. Even Carson Wentz was proven to not be healthy when he played. Whatever your opinion of Marcus Mariota is, he’s probably still the best quarterback the Giants have faced in a while.
The Titans also present a mystery of what team will show up, especially on offense. Per Football Outsiders, Tennessee ranks 27th in offensive variance, meaning there’s little consistency to the Titans’ production from week-to-week.
Numbers that matter
Can the turnovers continue?
Over the past few weeks, the Giants’ defense has taken advantage of forcing turnovers. Since the Giants’ bye, they are tied for third among NFL teams with 12 turnovers forced. Only the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints have more. Over the first eight weeks of the season, the Giants only had nine turnovers forced. Obviously, this has helped both the offense and defense score points during the second half of the season. But it’s also not a sustainable way to play defense.
While the Giants rank third this season in interceptions per drive on defense, they also rank just 20th in yards allowed per drive and 24th in points allowed per drive. That suggests when the Giants aren’t taking the ball away, the opposing offense isn’t having a tough time moving the ball down the field.
Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota can miss some throws and be forced into interceptions. His 2.7 interception rate is tied for the ninth-highest among 32 qualified quarterbacks this season. As a team, the Titans are 16th in interceptions thrown per drive. The task is not going to be as easy as forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, or Mark Sanchez into a mistake.
Corey Davis is No. 84 and a No. 1
Janoris Jenkins was asked today about what he sees in #Titans WR Corey Davis, whom #Giants face Sunday.— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) December 13, 2018
Jenkins: "Corey Davis? What number is he?"
Jenkins: "Oh. He aite. I mean, he a receiver. Just gonna go out there and play football."
Per Next Gen Stats, Davis is sixth in the league among wide receivers in the percentage of his team’s targeted air yards at 37.05 percent. This year he hasn’t been great on intermediate routes, but he’s won a high number of his deep targets with a better catch rate than expected per airyards.com
Janoris Jenkins has played better over the past few weeks, but overall still ranks 68th of 72 qualified cornerbacks in success rate per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders. He’s only slightly better — 57th — in yards allowed per pass.
Davis has the ability to line up anywhere on the field, is a smooth route runner who sets up breaks well, and is quick enough to take advantage of cuts and double moves. Watch what he does to Stephon Gilmore — third in success rate, fifth in yards allowed per pass — after Davis motioned to a trips bunch and set up the corner with a stutter step. Gilmore was even called for pass interference on the play.
Through Week 14, the Titans have allowed the fifth-lowest rate of pressure in the league. But now tackle Jack Conklin is on injured reserve and tackle Taylor Lewan has been limited in practice during the week. That could set up the Giants to continue the stretch of defensive pressure they’ve put up over the past few weeks.
After one sack in his first six games of the season, Oliver Vernon has 3.5 in the past two weeks. It was a matter of time before the sacks started coming and a short-handed Tennessee offensive line could allow that hot streak to continue. Per Football Outsiders, Vernon leads the team in pressure by a significant margin. His 20.5 are well ahead of Kareem Martin’s 15.0 and Lorenzo Carter’s 11.0.
Taming the tight ends
The Titans typically love to use the tight end. Per Sharp Football Stats, Tennessee has the third-highest rate of plays (31 percent) in 12 personnel, which is one running back and two tight ends. They run 62 percent of the time from that personnel grouping. All that made sense with Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith, but Walker has been out for most of the season and Smith was just placed on injured reserve.
With the injuries, the Titans could see a switch in philosophy, which could help them out in the run game. Despite the heavy running from 12 personnel, the Titans only have a 41 percent success rate on the ground. Out of 11 personnel (three wide receivers), Tennessee has a 48 percent success rate running the ball.
That’s the opposite trend with passing, though. The Titans have a 41 percent success rate throwing from 11 personnel and 58 percent success rate from 12 personnel and they pass more often with three receivers on the field — 66 percent.
Tennessee’s top tight ends right now are Luke Stocker and Anthony Firkser. The Titans could try to run more out of 11 personnel with Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Tajae Sharpe on the field, which could lead to more success on the ground and gives the Titans better options through the air.