In the Trenches: Buffalo Bills review / Houston Texans preview

The Tennessee Titans had valid reason to complain about their situation over the last two weeks, or to feel sorry for themselves. I don’t think many would have blamed them if they came out rusty or lackluster against Buffalo. But this is not a Titans team who fades in the face of adversity.

This is Mike Vrabel’s Titans. And we should probably remember that moving forward.

The team showed a ton of heart and effort in the beatdown of the Bills. Even so, there are always areas to improve. A smart person once told me that if you are not trying to improve constantly, you are destined to find failure.

There are always little things to gripe about like defensive pressures not converting to sacks, or the lack of explosive plays in the run game. I’ve been saying it every week, but the Titans are very close in both regards.

Offensive Line Review

Starting with the offensive line… I know it hasn’t been perfect and there are voices out there saying the running game is a failure. Teams are selling out to stop the ground game, throwing extra defenders in the box.

The fact that the Titans are averaging positive yards should be a very good sign for things to come. Tannehill and company have been on point so far this season, thanks in large part to how clean this offensive line has kept him. Tannehill and the receiving crew have been fantastic, but this is a phenomenal stretch that the Titans offensive line has been on in the pass blocking department to start the 2020 season.

Individual Notes:

  • Dennis Kelly — Had another positive game. Not as stellar as he has been this season but still over all good. He overextended and was high at  times in the run game, losing his man during the play. He had other plays were he was the main reason the running backs had space to operate. On a toss that lost 3 yards, Kelly did not gain ground with his first attack step and let his defender wrap around him to hit Henry in the backfield. A rare miss for Kelly this season. He was still overall good in this one.
  • Nate Davis — Picked up some great stunts and continues to show his ability to really help at the point of attack in run fits. A weak spot continues to be his second level attacking. He sometimes aims for where the defender is more than where the defender will be. His feet also pause at contact at times. He’s been way better than last year and has been solid overall. Looking to go from good to great here.
  • Ben Jones — Turning into one of my favorite offensive lineman in the NFL. He has grit and takes fantastic angles on second level blocks. His overtaking ability is borderline elite; long gone are the days where he makes his block but does so three yards in the backfield. He’s been a great anchor for the line this year and it continued against the Bills.
  • Rodger Saffold — Aggressive and made the majority of his blocks, he also continued his improved pass block sets from earlier in the year. He did have some issues with maintaining blocks and working to second level like Davis did. But overall, he worked well, and I didn’t notice him much on film (which is a good thing for offensive lineman — and corners).
  • Taylor Lewan / Ty Sambrailo — Lewan missed a few plays towards the end of the second half after having a 300-pound man land on his right shoulder. He was able to come back in the game for the 2nd half, so nothing of great concern there. Sambrailo was fine in relief, but the Titans also ran away from him and had quick pass sets when he was in. Lewan seems to be forgotten by yours truly every week, and maybe he is being taken for granted. But he plays well, and my only complaint is that sometimes he works himself into bad positions by being over aggressive. Honestly, I would rather see aggressive errors than passive ones. His pass sets are really good. His only glaring miss this week — outside of nitpicks — was allowing a defender to be in the throwing lane on a screen to Henry. Lewan needs to influence the defender up the field to clear that lane. The defender was able to deflect the pass on the play.

Whiteboard Reviews:

Toss with WR Crack Block:
  • Linebackers are offset to strength, which is intended response to formation
  • Jonnu motions over to the right side of the line
    • Will now work frontside stack up to linebacker with Dennis Kelly
    • DE is able to work under the double and cause inside out pressure on running back
    • Jonnu and Kelly should both continue to work this stack together up to backer
    • Kelly oversteps at point of attack, and his shoulders are turned
    • Jonnu pushes DE inside
    • DE then has the angle to get under Kelly quick to impact running back
    • Stack backer crashes B gap and if Kelly has his shoulders square, he can see this and help clog the penetration
  • Nate Davis and Ben Jones have middle stack
  • Saffold and Lewan are working scoop, or backside stack, to cut off pursuit
  • Just off to the right side of the screen is Kalif Raymond, who is meant to crack the closest box threat outside Jonnu
    • This is typically a Corey Davis or Adam Humphries blocking responsibility
    • All Raymond has to do is get a piece, and in most cases, Henry will be able to pass that defender
      • Raymond loses him over the top to impact running lane
      • Credit to Raymond for continuing to engage the defender, “A” for effort
    • Raymond does have a corner to his right that will go unblocked…
      • When you have the choice between blocking a corner or a safety, you block the safety. It’s a mismatch in the Titans favor to have King Henry one-on-one with a corner (see Josh Norman)
      • The corner makes a nice play, and Henry does not have a clear path due to interior pressure
      • Corner wraps up Henry near the line
Toss with WR Crack Block + Short Pull Outside
  • Here is another toss play with a crack block from the WR

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