The Tennessee Titans are looking to rebound offensively after the unit’s poor showing in week one.
Littered by inconsistency, trouble moving the ball, and questionable play calls that put the unit in poor sports, this offense has a number of issues to correct while the season progresses.
They’ll certainly find their footing later on since they have the talent to do so, but due to their early season schedule being so rough, I don’t think they have the time to sit back and cautiously work out their troubles. All of their problems won’t be solved with the snap of a finger, though the urgent willingness to eliminate their difficulties certainly has to be high right now.
For now, I picked out two problems I think are holding this unit back from exploding and why I think they’re proving to be an obstacle worth fighting through.
Let’s jump into it.
Find More Balance Offensively on 1st Down
With Todd Downing being promoted to offensive coordinator during the offseason, we thought the flow of the passing game on first and second downs would receive attention it hasn’t received during the Jon Robinson era.
The success Derrick Henry has had in the running game on first down isn’t something that’s easy to limit at the drop of a hat, let alone abandon. But with Henry’s carry numbers approaching dangerously high figures, the passing game stood as an easy, yet difficult to execute concept avenue the Titans could’ve elected to go down if it pleased them.
But after one lifeless game on the offensive side of the ball, it looks like Downing isn’t in favor of trying to mix the flow up offensively on early downs just yet.
Through the Titans’ first four offensive drives, Downing elected to run the ball three times on the first play of the drive. Those first down runs equaled a grand total of -2 yards, that’s right, two yards with a big fat intimidating negative symbol right next to it.
That’s an unacceptable figure for any functioning NFL offense, yet the number stings even more considering the reputation of the Titans’ running game being one of the more respected, dominant ground games in all of football. When you realize it could’ve been avoided though, the sting turns into pain comparable to someone sticking a sharp knife in a wound and twisting it to their heart’s desire.
It’s fine to be committed to a specific situational concept within your offense that’s brought you success in the past.
The problem comes when your beloved concept starts to run into some trouble and you stubbornly fail to switch gears to avoid falling into the deep, dark hole known as failure. Once that occurs, you can kiss any sort of rhythm goodbye, at least until your offense eventually gets into the groove of things.
For this Titans offense to replicate the blistering, scoreboard breaking play it achieved last season, early down balance has to be near the top of the to-do list. Once that balance starts to establish itself, I think this unit will find its footing and become the consistent force the league imagined it would be after the addition of Julio Jones.
Abandon the Overwhelming Desire for Heavy Personnel
This adjustment goes hand in hand with the first one I mentioned.
Too often did I see the Titans run out onto the field with multiple tight end sets or heavy personnel. These formations in a sense telegraphed the Titans’ plan offensively from the jump, which in retrospect isn’t a concern for this offense anyways since they pride themselves in bullying men up front regardless of whether the defense knows what’s coming or not.
But once these formations switched from a strength to a liability during Sunday’s game on first and second downs, it took a while for Todd Downing to adjust and open things up during the early portions of drives.
Now I said it before, this team prides itself on dominating the battle in the trenches.
However, once the mission of physically imposing your will on your opponents begins die off, it’s up to you to turn away from what you’re used to and do something different for the sake of success. The Titans did so in the second quarter during Sunday’s game, but it came after the Arizona Cardinals jumped out to a sizable lead and after the flow offensively was seemingly dead in the water.
I’m not saying go crazy and roll out five receivers each play to spread the field
What I am saying though, is to spread things out a bit on early downs just to keep opposing defenses honest. If you can do that, the flow of your playcalls will seem to smoothly roll along like butter on a hot pancake, well at least that’s how it’s supposed go in a perfect world.
Either way, the unhealthy admiration for the over usage of heavy personnel can be beneficial when it isn’t repeatedly abused time and time again. If it is though, you might run into some of the problems the Titans’ offense faced last Sunday against the Cardinals.