The Miami Dolphins will seek their 10th season victory as they welcome the Tennessee Titans to Hard Rock Stadium for Monday Night Football. One of the worst performances of Tua Tagovailoa’s career came against the Tennessee Titans back in 2021. Reports surfaced that it was the moment when his and former coach Brian Flores’ relationship finally boiled over with the young quarterback firing back at the now-fired head coach.
A lot has changed since that game and this is a great opportunity for Tagovailoa to exercise some demons in front of roughly 15 million people on Monday Night Football. Let’s take a closer look at this Titans squad and see where Miami will have an advantage.
Not a terrible defense, but ill-suited to handle Tyreek
At the beginning of this season, the two best defenders on the Tennessee Titans were Kevin Byard (their long time all pro safety and team captain), and Jeffery Simmons. Byard was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and Simmons suffered a knee injury that is likely to keep him out for multiple weeks. The Titans struggled to contain a vaunted (joking) Colts passing attack in their most recent defeat.
The Titans defense is still tough up front (even minus Jeffery Simmons), but they're struggling on the backend without Kevin Byard-who is now a Philadelphia Eagle. Will be interesting to see how they approach this game in Miami. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/jU6Q8k0KvF— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 8, 2023
The Titans main corners are Kristian Fulton, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Roger McCreary. Murphy-Bunting and Fulton have had some major struggles this season (especially Fulton who has allowed a 129.3 QB rating in coverage this season). They like to run some form of man coverage on about a third of their defensive snaps, but don’t really have the guys to do it right now.
Up front, they still have a talented defensive line that is headlined by Denico Autry, Teair Tart, Harold Landry, and Arden Key. Without Jeffery Simmons, they are likely to struggle to pressure the QB, but they won’t be pushovers in this department either. One of the more interesting matchups to watch in this game will be Miami’s middle of the field throws against the Titans line backers Azeez Al-Shaair and Jack Gibbens.
Another gun slinger
After watching Will Levis in preparation for this game, I think there are a lot of similarities between Sam Howell (the last QB they faced) and Levis. Of course, Howell is in his second NFL season, but the two players have high end physical traits and aren’t afraid to take shots. The differences are that Howell may have better surrounding talent in the passing game, while Levis has an offense that relies more heavily on their running game. Lets take a look at where Levis can be dangerous.
It's easy to see why draft folks became enamored with Will Levis in the offseason; the physical tools are off the chart. You can expect a ton of effort and gutsy decisions (not always good) from Levis Monday night. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/v0FGmr8dl9— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 8, 2023
Some of these throws are downright impressive. If you’ve ever heard draft people say that the “ball explodes out of his hand,” this is what they mean. Levis is still struggling with the more nuanced skills that the position requires, but he has the physical ability to be a difference maker. That ability combined with his gunslinger mentality, gives the Titans a chance each week.
With that said, the Titans are surely going to try and ride Derrick Henry in this game. They’ll want to keep Miami’s offense off the field and set up some of these play action shots to give Levis more time in the pocket and easier reads down the field. If Miami can stuff the running game, they’ll have a good chance at forcing Levis into bad decisions and turnovers as the game progresses.
Facing a Vrabel-led team
Mike Vrabel’s squads tend to take on his tough-minded demeanor and play style. The Dolphins offense has struggled the most with defenses that are physical at the line of scrimmage and throw off their timing based passing attack. In McDaniel’s first season with the team they got bullied by a Chargers defense that was bereft of talent and star players.
While we haven’t really seen anything like that this year (they’ve struggled against good & talented defenses), this would be the sort of team to come at them and not back down. I still expect Miami to lean on their running game, but it will be interesting to see what happens when they take some shots down the field. Equally as interesting will be seeing how the Titans plan to play Miami. For a team that likes man coverage, it would be surprising to see very much of it after what happened against the Commanders.
I think the image of “Titans football” may more intimidating than the actual team they’ll be fielding on Monday Night Football. Some of that is due to injuries and moving on from older players, but they’ve also struggled to develop talent behind their veterans. This is a team transitioning from their old guard and trying to find an identity. Will Levis is a really talented young quarterback, but is still struggling to see the entire field and be consistent with his accuracy to all parts of the field.
This game could go a couple of different ways. I think the offense is going to get their points in this one, especially playing at home. If the defense can contain Levis the same way they contained Howell, this could get ugly before half time. I think Levis will make some plays for Tennessee, but ultimately come up short against a surging Miami Dolphins team. Miami wins this one 35-17 on Monday Night Football and inches one step closer to an AFC East division title.