The Titans opened the season with an extremely disappointing loss to the Giants. It was not just that they lost, but HOW they lost; essentially giving up the game in a slow death. That loss wasn’t something we hadn’t seen before under Mike Vrabel, however. Typically the Titans respond the next week.
That absolutely didn’t happen on Monday night vs the Bills. Mike Vrabel in his tenure with the Titans has had the reputation that when his team suffers a loss, you expect their best effort the next week. The Bills (who may be the best team in the NFL) not only beat the Titans, they flat-out embarrassed them. Following the lone good drive of the game resulting in a Derrick Henry touchdown, the Bills scored 34 unanswered and could’ve scored more.
We can all tell this team needs to start performing better and it needs to happen quickly. Let’s look at what they can do to get this train back on track.
The Titans have had a serious number of injuries to key guys already this season, but that isn’t something they can control. What the Titans can control is having an offensive identity. For years, the Titans have been a team that wants to run the ball and play good defense. Right now, they seem incapable of either of those things.
There are reasons why the Titans haven’t been able to run the ball. One key reason is that the offensive line has been very underwhelming. Derrick Henry also hasn’t looked like himself. There are many possible reasons for why that is, but let’s face it, Henry hasn’t been effective. Before, he had AJ Brown to keep the defense honest. Now, he has no other threat on offense to scare the defense.
With the potential loss of Taylor Lewan for the season, the offensive line will not get any better. We aren’t yet certain that Lewan is out for the year, but let’s assume that he is. That means the traditional offensive identity of running the ball needs to be altered. This isn’t to say they should have Ryan Tannehill throw it 50 times a game. I am, however, saying they need to run a more spread offense. Yes, that means no more Cody Hollister and Geoff Swaim as your primary receivers in passing sets. What is the thinking behind this group of receivers sometimes? I’ll let you know if I ever find out…
Treylon Burks and Robert Woods need to be included more in the offensive game plan, plain and simple. Those two should have a minimum of 10 touches a game. The Titans have had real trouble moving the ball this season. If they start spreading it out and getting the ball out quickly to their playmakers, it could help make everyone’s life easier. It puts less pressure on the OL to block for long spurts and opens up the box, which will get Henry going. Something many people forget is Henry typically has a slow start to the season. This can be a way to get Henry going while also getting the passing game going, which is the best of both worlds for the Titans.
Another aspect in which the Titans need to get better is eliminating the big play in the passing game. Through two weeks they have gotten killed for deep balls, whether it’s Sterling Sheppard or Stefon Diggs.
In Week 1, Sheppard caught a 65-yard TD in the second half when Daniel Jones caught Kristian Fulton looking into the backfield. That play is what really got the Giants into the game, as it tied the game at 13 in the third quarter and the Giants started to believe they could win. Fulton missed the game Monday night and Diggs sure made the Titans pay.
Diggs hauled in 12 catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Diggs is one of the best receivers in the NFL and the Titans didn’t have Kristian Fulton, but that is still unacceptable. Caleb Farley was awful. The fact that he’s coming off a torn ACL and is a young player is important context, but that’s still a horrible look for the 2021 first-round pick.
There are multiple reasons for the Titans being unable to stop the big play. Some of it falls on the coaches. Without Gabriel Davis, everyone knew Josh Allen would be looking for Diggs more than normal, which he already does a lot. With that said, there was still no stopping him. Why the coaches never thought to double-team Diggs is beyond me and coaching malpractice frankly.
There were several plays where the pass rush barely missed a sack, leading to a big play. It’s a game of inches, if they get to Allen a few more times instead of him having all day to throw you never know what may happen. The pass rush can certainly help the secondary moving forward if they are able to bring down the quarterback. Last year the pass rush improved drastically from 2020 leading to a much-improved defense.
Going forward, the secondary needs more help from the coaches than they’ve received thus far. This may mean defensive coordinator Shane Bowen and Head Coach Mike Vrabel need to game plan differently. They can’t keep leaving these corners on an island. Blitzing more often is something they should at least explore moving forward. The secondary will need help from the defenders on the two levels in front of them in order to improve on the back end. The pass rush needs to get home more often as well. No matter who is playing corner, they can’t defend for 10 seconds. If the ability to stop the big play doesn’t improve soon, the season may fall off the cliff fast.