Owning a three-game lead in the AFC South with just five games left, the Tennessee Titans still pulled the trigger on a major move on Tuesday.
Owner Amy Adams Strunk canned general manager Jon Robinson, two days after watching wide receiver A.J. Brown, who Robinson traded in the offseason to Philadelphia, catch eight passes for 119 yards and two scores in the Eagles’ 35-10 rout of Tennessee.
The Titans try to pick up the pieces from that outcome and organizational upheaval Sunday when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are hoping to mount a late challenge to Tennessee in the division.
Fifth-year coach Mike Vrabel, whom Robinson hired in January 2018 after Strunk fired then-coach Mike Mularkey, will team with vice president of player personnel Ryan Cowden to handle player moves for the season’s remainder.
“The message is the same as it’s always been — we’re charged to win,” Vrabel said Wednesday. “We’re here to win championships. We all have a job to do and we’re held to a high standard and we’re evaluated each and every day on that job.
“And it’s the same thing I told the football team and the players this morning.”
The Titans (7-5) have lost their last two games after going 7-1 in their previous eight games to take command in one of the league’s weakest divisions. They are the only team with a winning record in the AFC South.
As things presently stand, they would be the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs and in the first round would face Cincinnati, which knocked them out of the postseason back in January and defeated them in Week 12. With just one winning team left on Tennessee’s schedule, there’s an opportunity to improve its playoff positioning.
For that to happen, the Titans need to get Derrick Henry going. A two-time league rushing champ, Henry has been held under 100 yards in each of the last four weeks, including just 30 on 11 carries at Philadelphia.
“I pride myself on being a playmaker for this team and I feel like I haven’t really done that these last two weeks,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville (4-8) has one shot to maneuver into some sort of contention. It either wins this week or it will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year since advancing to the AFC finals in 2017, when it held a fourth-quarter lead before losing in New England.
The Jaguars are coming off one of their worst games of the year, allowing points on Detroit’s first eight possessions last week in a 40-14 loss at Ford Field. The Lions carved up Jacksonville for 437 total yards and never punted, going 8-for-12 on third down.
“It was an ugly day for us, for sure,” said Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who went 17-for-31 for 179 yards and a touchdown in defeat.
And Lawrence didn’t go unscathed, leaving the game after his left leg was twisted during a sack. Lawrence didn’t practice Wednesday with a sprained toe and there’s a chance backup C.J. Beathard may have to play in his place this week.
“He’s been in these situations before in his career so it’s not unfamiliar territory to him,” said Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson of Beathard.