Following the Titans’ 33-30 overtime victory in Seattle, The Titans now turn their focus on the Indianapolis Colts for an AFC South showdown.
This is a crucial game for you teams so let’s dive right into what I liked and disliked about last weeks victory. As well as go over what I would like to see out of this offense in Week 3.
What I liked last week
Use of 11 and 12 personnel.
The Titans hit the Seahawks with a healthy dose of 11-and-12 personnel throughout last Sunday’s matchup. Before I break down their usage by quarter, let’s explain what each personnel looks like.
11-personnel is the grouping that contains three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back. Along with your five offensive linemen and one quarterback.
12-personnel on the other hand has two wide receivers, two tight ends, and one running back. These two groupings seem like the most effective and most frequent with 11-personnel being Todd Downing’s bread and butter.
Now, let me do a quick explanation of what qualifies as a successful, stable, and negative play.
When you hear something qualifies as a “positive play” that means at minimum, the player netted enough yards to stay ahead of that particular down and distance.
Example: To keep it simple, on 1st and 10, if the runner gains four or more yards with no penalty, that would be considered a positive play since two similar results on the next two downs will give the team a first down.
Second example: Should the runner get three straight plays of three yards or less on a 1st and 10, that would then be considered either a stable or negative play depending on what happened in that particular situation.
Note: ALL big gains, first downs, touchdowns, etc., count as positive.
ALSO: Any sack, TFL, incompletion, or short gain counts as stable and/or negative.
Keep that in mind as we discuss Tennessee’s two most frequent and effective personnel packages.
Last Sunday, Downing ran 11-personnel onto the field a total of 47 plays. That is 25 more plays than he called for the next closest package (12-personnel).
After taking the time to track each play, it became visibly obvious that this was the personnel that Downing prefers, and for good reason.
From the 47 plays Downing called out of 11-personnel, 68% of those plays netted a positive result. To get more specific, here’s a breakdown by quarter:
1st quarter – 10 plays were called out of 11-Personnel, six of those netted a positive result (60%).
2nd quarter – five plays were called out of 11-personnel, three of those plays netted a positive result (60%).
3rd quarter – 12 plays were called out of 11-personnel, eight of those netted a positive result (25.5%).
4th quarter – 16 plays were called out of 11 personnel, 13 of them netted a positive result (81.1%).
Overtime – four plays were called out of 11, two netted a positive result (50%).
As far as 12-personnel goes, the Titans ran that package a total of 22 plays. Yet these 22 were arguably some of the most effective throughout the game.
Out of those 22 plays, 63% of those play calls netted a positive result. Here is the breakdown by quarter for 12-personnel:
1st quarter – three plays were called out of 12-personnel, only one of them netted a positive result (33%).
2nd quarter – eight plays were called out of 12-personnel, SEVEN of those netted a positive result (87.5%).
3rd quarter – three plays were called out of 12-personnel, ALL THREE netted a positive result (100%).
4th quarter – four plays were called out of 12-personnel, two of them netted a positive result (50%).
Overtime – four plays were called out of 12-personnel, only one of them netted a positive result (25%).
These were the only two personnel packages that produced positive plays on over half their play calls. In fact, no other personnel grouping reached 35%. 13-personnel was the next closest with just over 30% of positive plays when called by Downing.
The offense got Julio Jones involved early and often
This was arguably my favorite adjustment that was made from Week 1 to Week 2. After a disappointing season debut, Julio Jones had his typical monster outing early in the season that reminds everyone just how good he still is.
The future Hall of Famer was practically the only thing Tennessee had consistently rolling in the first half. Without his early effort, this team probably isn’t in any position to make the comeback they did in the second half.
Jones produced a monster first 30-minutes of play that saw him eclipse the 100-yard mark before halftime. Although the offense featured more of a ground attack in the second half, it was undoubtedly aided by the pressure the defense felt with Jones out wide.
The improvement in Jones’ timing with Tannehill was obvious throughout the day as the two seemed to be in sync while playing with the type of trust and chemistry that we didn’t see in Week 1.
Jones finished the day with six catches for 128 yards. In reality, his stat line should have also included a beautiful six-yard touchdown, but the referees controversially decided to overturn their on-field decision because the pictures below clearly show indisputable evidence of an incompletion (sarcasm).
Good things happen to the entire offense when Jones is fed early and often. Tennessee should look to continue this trend going forward.
Screen and check down game used to counter aggressive defenses
One of the more frustrating things from their abysmal Week 1 game was their inability to take advantage of an aggressive defense who seemingly was coming downhill at all times.
This week, the Titans offset a lot of that undisciplined rushing by using their screen and check-down game to their advantage. Derrick Henry in particular had a career day in terms of catching the ball. Henry had a career-high six catches for 55 yards, second on the team to Jones’ 128 receiving yards.
If Henry is able to consistently add this receiving threat to his arsenal, he really may become one of the more unstoppable forces the league has seen in recent memory.
Titans fed Henry once the threat of Julio Jones and the underneath game presented itself.
Ever since the Titans acquired Jones in a trade, Titans fans have had their imagination running wild with what this offense would look like. On Sunday, we finally got our first taste of what this star-studded offense could become. The Titans fed their new superstar wideout to start the game and set the tone that you have to worry about the Hall of Famer on the outside now.
The opposing defense refused to make early adjustments and insisted on stacking the box so Tennessee made them pay for it. This inevitably set the fear of Jones for the rest of the game which undoubtedly helped keep defenders just hesitant enough to give Henry that crease he needs to start wearing the opposing defense out.
What I did NOT like last week
Not taking advantage of Julio Jones when on an island with 5’9’ corner
By my count, there were at least five separate situations where Jones was isolated on an island with D.J. Reed. Jones stands at 6’3 and runs every bit of a 4.3 forty still, meanwhile DJ Reed stands at 5’9 and looks every bit like his 4.5 speed suggests.
The Titans must do a better job at identifying these matchups with a talent like Jones out there. The threat of Henry leaves Jones in many more one on one’s than he’s seen in years past. Tennessee must continue to find ways to take advantage of his talents while also not veering away from their identity too much either.
Too many predictable heavy front’s (13-personnel)
As I mentioned earlier, 11 & 12 personnel was the team’s bread and butter on Sunday and likely for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, 13-personnel had a heavy presence as well, and to be honest, I am not a fan of running this package near midfield like this team consistently does.
13-personnel consists of three tight ends, one running back, and one wide receiver. This essentially looks like a modified goal line and has about as much creativity as it sounds.
Henry is an impeccable runner and there is some logic in putting this type of heavy look in front of him. However, it is way too predictable and doesn’t produce nearly enough positive plays for my liking.
In total, the Titans ran 13-personnel a total of 13 plays. Tennessee only netted one positive play per quarter out of this package for an average of 30.7% of positive plays out of 13-personnel — a massive drop off from the 63-68% positivity that 11 and 12 personnel packages provide due to their flexibility to be more creative.
If the Titans are going to continue to trot 13-personnel out there, they must start getting more production out of this group.
Going completely away from Julio after a dominant first half
The future Hall of Famer was borderline unstoppable in the first half. Whether the team was throwing haymakers off play-action or looking for Jones at the sticks, No. 2 was about as reliable as it gets in the first half.
And then after halftime, it seems like they forgot they had the superstar wideout on the team. And yes, the team started to get Henry rolling, but that doesn’t mean they need to completely isolate their attack from Jones either. Especially when he had a favorable matchup throughout the game. A couple of early throws to Jones to start the second half likely opens things up even more for Henry.
Instead, for the majority of the second half, Jones was mostly just a decoy. Which makes sense with the threat of Henry, but then on the teams’ final drive, Jones is standing on the sideline with his helmet on for half the drive and the majority of the red zone period.
To not have Jones of all people not out there for the majority of that situation is inexcusable. Especially with how dominant he was to start the game.
The Titans must find ways to take advantage of Jones’ talents for four quarters while not drifting too far away from their identity either. Finding that happy medium as the season goes on is vital towards this team reaching their full potential.
What I want to see against the Colts
More 11 and 12 personnel
The Titans clearly prefer and excel out of these two packages the most so I would like to see a creative blend with these two personnel’s going forward. They should continue to use a combination of spread, bunch, and condensed formations with these packages in order to keep the opposing defense guessing.
I personally prefer having more spread-out formations where you take advantage of all 53 yards from sideline to sideline, however, Downing proved last week that he has the ability to be much more creative out of condensed looks than I originally thought.
If Downing is able to continue this blend of creativity the more comfortable he gets with each passing week, there’s no reason why this offense shouldn’t be full throttle sooner rather than later.
More play-action haymakers to Julio Jones and A.J. Brown
Obviously, last week was one of Brown’s worst games of his young career. He had a plethora of game-changing drops that are simply inexcusable for someone with his talents. Jones on the other hand likely goes for over 200 yards if he was given the type of target share he’s used to.
The amazing thing about having three legitimate superstars on offense is the fact that you have legitimate unpredictability as to who’s going to be getting the ball. The Titans must continue to find ways to get the ball into all three of their hands. Tennesse’s play-action attack with Henry, Brown, & Jones has the potential to be one of the more lethal attacks in NFL history.
The Titans must continue to work on and evolve this attack early and often in order for this offense to reach its ceiling.
Brown usually responds very strongly after a disappointing outing and Julio Jones is, well, Julio Jones. Look for both superstars to make their presence felt throughout Sunday’s AFC South showdown.
Continue running opposite of overloaded strong side
One of the things I noticed that Tennessee didn’t take nearly enough advantage of was how vulnerable defenses are when the receivers are all lined up with man coverage on one side.
Last week, Henry’s biggest run of the day happened off this situation. Tennessee emptied the left side by motioning Brown to the line right before the snap. Now he is able to help create the alley for Henry while the Titans’ running back attacks the empty side where he rarely has more than one defensive back to beat, and we all know how that usually ends.
Tennessee must take advantage of these situations as much as possible in order to give Henry the best chance at getting himself outside on an island so he can create the game-changing play he’s known for.