It has been a season full of reunions for Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz, from seeing the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 to playing the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3. On Sunday, he will face another familiar team.
Washington (1-3) is coming back to FedExField for Week 5 to take on the Tennessee Titans (2-2). For the Commanders, it will be the first time in four years since they last faced the AFC South opponent and eight years since they last played them at home. For Wentz, it will be about 11 months, as he was in same division as the Titans with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Commanders' roster is not full of players who have experience against the Titans, but Wentz knows what kind of challenges they, specifically the defense, present better than most of the team. It will be a challenge, Wentz admitted on Wednesday, but he believes his new team will be up to the task.
"It's a good team," Wentz said. "Obviously, they're a good defense, they're coached well, they fly around, and they make a lot of plays."
Like the Commanders, the Titans have run into their share of inconsistency in the first quarter of the season. The offense, which is notably without A.J. Brown after trading him away to the Eagles, has gone through some growing pains as Ryan Tannehill is still learning to work with a mostly new receiving corp. The defense has plenty of talent, but many of their key contributors are either young or do not have much starting experience.
That does not undercut the Titans' defensive front, which is still arguably the most well-built group on the team despite losing Harold Landry with a torn ACL. Jeffrey Simmons leads the front with 12 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups, but it also boasts players like Denico Autry (eight tackles), Teair Tart (three pass breakups) and Bud Dupree (two fumble recoveries).
Together, the Titans' defense is 12th in sacks. Wentz was sacked three times in his matchups with the Titans, both of which were losses. He completed 46-of-88 passes (52.3%) of his passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
"It's a good team that is very disciplined on that side of the ball with their zone drops and how they want to be in the right spots," Wentz said. "For us, it's just about execution, playing faster than they are and being able to be efficient."
One of Wentz's interceptions came from Kevin Byard, who last season received the highest overall grade among safeties from Pro Football Focus. Byard is not off to as strong of a start this year, but he is second on the team with 29 tackles and has one of the Titans' three interceptions.
While Byard does excel in coverage, he also knows how to operate closer to the line of scrimmage and be disruptive against the run. The mix makes him a versatile player, and Wentz said the former MTSU Blue Raider "makes things difficult."
"You have to always know where he is at," Wentz said. "He really seems like the leader of the defense over there as far as playmaking in the secondary. He does a really good job ... He got me a couple of times [last year], so I look forward to seeing him and competing against him."
While Washington's offense has been rocky at best after a strong outing against the Jaguars in Week 1, there are some areas where the unit can be dangerous. Even if Jahan Dotson (hamstring) and Curtis Samuel (Illness) are absent from Sunday's game, the Commanders are in good position to take advantage of cornerbacks Roger McCreary, Kristian Fulton, who have contributed to the Titans giving up the fourth-most passing yards in the league (274).
And even if Terry McLaurin does not get more targets until the second half, which has been the case so far this season, although Scott Turner and Wentz want to get him the ball earlier, that could still play into Washington's favor. The Titans have been outscored 64-7 in the third and fourth quarters.
Of course, Washington still needs to sort out its own issues, as slow starts continue to plague the offense. There was some hope kindled on the ground against the Dallas Cowboys, though, with the Commanders rushing for 142 yards behind solid days from Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and Jonathan Williams.
Washington could utilize that philosophy against a Titans defense that has given up 118.3 yards per game (19th) and an average of 393.2 total yards (26th).
Washington needs to get back in the win column, and it will attempt to do so against a perennial playoff team that is looking to ride the momentum of back-to-back wins. For Wentz's part, he has faith that the offense can get back to the potential it showed in Week 1.
"I am confident the guys will be ready for that," Wentz said. "I know we have a tall task, but it will be fun. I am excited for it."