When: 4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: LP Field, Nashville TV: CBS
Two of the NFL's five worst team's square off Sunday at LP Field.
Young players will gain experience, and coaches will see how willing their players remain to give them their all.
But a win in this game could be unhealthy for the long-term forecast, because the high draft pick to come should have a big bearing on the potential for a turnaround in 2015 and beyond.
ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini and Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky got together to chat about the New York-Tennessee game.
Paul Kuharsky: Chris Johnson spoke before the season as if his new offensive coordinator was going to have all the answers and he was going to prove the Titans wrong for moving on. I saw some good runs when they were on national TV, but how’s the body of work been?
Rich Cimini: Suffice it to say that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg hasn't had all the answers. This has been a frustrating year for Johnson, who has expressed his feelings on a few occasions. This will be the first time he doesn't reach 1,000 yards. He got off to a slow start, probably because of the surgically repaired knee. He has been more elusive in recent weeks, looking more like the Johnson of old. Your Titans' followers might find this hard to believe, but he's third in the league in yards-after-contact per rush with 2.29. I thought he'd be a bigger factor in the passing game -- so did the coaches -- but he had a couple of early drops and they forgot about him. Johnson will be highly motivated for this game. He's been talking about it since he signed nine months ago.
What happened to Shonn Greene? He was a tough, workmanlike back with the Jets, but he seems to be off the radar now.
Paul Kuharsky: He is. Last week he was a healthy scratch as the Titans tried to get a look at rookie Antonio Andrews, who’s a similar back. But Andrews, like Greene so many times before him, didn’t get much action as the game steered the Titans in a different direction. Greene hurt a knee in the 2013 opener, missed five games and was never the same. He still got 19 carries in a game with Mike Munchak as the coach. This year he’s maxed out at 15 in the opener and hasn’t had more than 11 since. Since Week 5, he has 16 carries total. He’s not a bad situational back, but the worst third-down offense in the NFL isn’t in third-and-short a lot. They gave him a three-year, $10 million deal. I don’t think he’s going to see Year 3.
The Titans are beat up on the offensive line and got torched for eight sacks by the Giants. The Jets look to have a more formidable front than the team they share their stadium with. How’s the pass rush?
Rich Cimini: The pass rush looked good early in the season, but like most everything else on the Jets, it faded -- only nine sacks in the past five games. That said, the defensive line is the strongest unit on the Jets. The Titans should pay attention to Sheldon Richardson, who is coming off the Jets' first three-sack game since 2009. The 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is making a Pro Bowl push. There's a chance that Muhammad Wilkerson, sidelined the past two games with turf toe, could return this week. He has a specially designed shoe and is planning to test it in practice. Their pass-rushers are hungry, and there could be plenty of eats against the Titans' woeful line.
Paul Kuharsky: I don’t think so. Mariota is a good player, but running around is a big part of what he does, and Ken Whisenhunt is big on pocket passers. Winston would bring some potential to have Vince Young-style issues, and the Titans are not that far removed from that headache and the setbacks it caused the franchise. Anything is possible. But I think they’ll probably go forward with Zach Mettenberger as the starter. He’s shown some promise and is just the style Whisenhunt likes -- a tall guy who can stand in against the rush and has a big arm to deliver the ball. If they stick with him, perhaps they can trade back a bit and land more picks to address their giant list of needs. A pass-rushing threat at outside linebacker in the 3-4 is a must.
Is Rex Ryan down to his final three games in New York? How about general manager John Idzik? Who deserves the most blame for the state of the team?
Rich Cimini: Yes, Ryan's days are numbered. He knows it and everybody in the organization knows it. When you miss the playoffs four straight years, especially in a market like New York, it's tough to make a strong case for him to stay. Idzik's future is less certain. My sense is there's a chance that he, too, will be fired. This is only his second year, but nothing has gone right. He inherited a 6-10 team and turned it into a 2-11 team. I'd say he's probably more at fault than Ryan. Idzik did a poor job of drafting and attacking needs in free agency. He also has turned off people in the organization with his stubborn, closed-door style of management. They could use a good house cleaning.
Obviously, this isn't a stellar matchup, but I think the Jets are still playing hard for Rex Ryan. Can the same be said for the Titans and Ken Whisenhunt?
Paul Kuharsky: I’m not so sure. They are so overwhelmed so quickly these days, there is a resignation that runs through the team as the familiar pattern unfolds. Neil O’Donnell, who quarterbacked the Jets and the Titans, still lives in Nashville and said on the radio this week that he doesn’t believe guys want to play for Whisenhunt. It’s a complete mess, and while no current players are critiquing the coach and his staff, there have been some hints they have questions. And they should. The Titans don’t have much talent, but Whisenhunt has done a poor job of making the most of what he has. There will be big roster turnover in the offseason, but if a roster filled more with Whisenhunt guys doesn’t show significant improvement, his job could have just a two-year tenure.