Mike Mularkey’s first task as interim head coach: Facing the red-hot Saints

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I recently caught up with Les Bailey, managing co-editor of Titan Sized, which is our FanSided affiliate that covers the Tennessee Titans. We traded a series of questions in regards to the upcoming matchup this Sunday. I’ve asked him several questions around the team’s 1-6 start, and if they can upset the New Orleans Saints.

What do you realistically expect out of the coaching change to Mike Mularkey? What was the biggest breakdown from Ken Whisenhunt?

If Mike Mularkey wants any shot at a full-time gig in Music City, he will need to do something that shows Amy Adams Strunk that he can protect Marcus Mariota and win some ball games. He has already told us he has a game plan that will keep Mariota and Zach Mettenberger off their backsides and I think that in order to do that, he will need to involve the tight ends in pass protection, especially on the right side, and he needs to run the football.

I think that was Whisenhunt’s biggest disconnect. He abandoned the running game and never gave the backs time to settle in and see what the defense could give them. You only need to look at how many times he threw the ball on third and short last week in Houston to get a feel for where he missed the boat.

The Titans offense is currently second to last in the league. What has been the biggest problem for them?

The biggest problem with this offense is there are no star playmakers to support their rookie quarterback. Too many dropped passes, especially on third down, kept the chains from moving. I think Dorial Green-Beckham is one of those playmakers, but Whisenhunt was afraid of putting too much on his plate. Other than Delanie Walker, there is no one in the receiving corps that will go up and fight for a pass.

The defense is much better than many will give them credit for, what do they have to do to beat Drew Brees?

Dick LeBeau is the real star of this defense. He came here to show them how to play the 3-4 properly and I think he will figure out something to challenge Drew Brees. One thing for sure, is he will put pressure on Brees and make him hunt for a receiver. The only problem he will have is the health of Perrish Cox. He will need that second solid corner to beat the Saints.

Despite a 1-6 start, there have to be some positives. Who do you give some midseason MVP awards to on offense and defense?

Until he got hurt, Marcus Mariota was the bright spot in this offense. He is the franchise quarterback every team wants. With that being said, if he has to play in three or four different systems in the next three or four years. we might end up with Blaine Gabbert or worse. On defense, I think the Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan are the stars on this defense and are one of the best in the league. I think you can also give an assist to Brian Orakpo.

How do you see this game playing out? Do the Titans get their first win with a new regime?

I’m not convinced that Mike Mularkey can beat the Saints right out of the gate, but I think you will see some progress over the last three games. I think Antonio Andrews is a good three-down possibility and if they stay with him as the bell cow back, they can start moving the ball again, especially on third down. I’m also going with the Saints in a close one, 17-14.

We’d like to thank Les for his time, and encourage you to check out more intel on the Titans at Titan Sized! The Week 9 matchup is set for 12PM CST on Sunday, November 8 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The broadcast will be on CBS, with Kevin Harlan handling the play-by-play and Rich Gannon as the color analyst.

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