For a team that’s picked up their third win of the season, we’d usually use words like impressive, stout, and maybe even dominant to describe them and their play.
But for the Tennessee Titans, the only word I can use to describe them so far through five games is….weird.
You see, we haven’t really gotten a full grasp on what the Titans actually are.
Yes, they’re a physical team that employs the best running back in football, and two physical freaks at the wide receiver position. But they’re also a team with a pitiful offensive line that gets their prized possession under center killed every week, and a defense that can’t seem to consistently put together positive plays.
It’s why it’s so difficult to judge how the Titans stack up against the top tier of teams in the AFC. They have a great deal of talent on both sides of ball, and at key spots as well, but the execution hasn’t been there consistently enough for us to get a grasp on if this team is for real or not.
That’s why today’s “get right” game against the Jacksonville Jaguars doesn’t move the needle all that much.
It was good on the Titans to beat up on a bad team, embrace the “good teams take care of business against bad teams” mantra, and get some things flowing on both sides of the ball.
But in despite the win, most of the problems that have plagued this team so far this season popped up on the radar today and reared their ugly head. For instance, take the Titans’ inability to consistently string together stops defensively against a young and exciting, but at times out of order Jaguars offense.
Trevor Lawrence was 23/33 for 253 yards and a touchdown, often exploiting the soft coverages that were presented to him all game long. He wasn’t too aggressive, but he wasn’t too passive either, he stuck right in a performance related soft spot that most coaches tend to desire from a rookie quarterback.
And what about James Robinson? The young stud that stands as one of the only few positive things in Jacksonville ran buck wild, rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries.
Both of those players aren’t bad per say, but you’d like to see a unit full of talent and cohesiveness prevent these types of performances from ever becoming a thing. Especially if it’s a rookie quarterback that’s been riding a massive wave of up and down play so far throughout the short duration of his NFL career.
If you can’t keep a rookie quarterback and the Jaguars’ lone offensive threat — aside from Laviska Shenault Jr. and Marvin Jones, both of whom were kept quiet today — in check, then what are you going to do against other teams with offenses that are to be feared? Like Kansas City’s, or Buffalo’s, or Cleveland’s, or Los Angeles’, or even Baltimore’s? Just fall back and let them walk all over you?
Well…that probably won’t happen.
But in a metaphorical sense, it seems likely based on how shaky this defense’s play is from drive to drive.
Offensively, there aren’t as many issues as their defensive counterparts, but the issue they do have are significant enough to warrant important discussions.
Protection, push in the run game, and red zone offense stand as the biggest obstacles blocking this unit from fully exploding.
I’ll give credit where it’s due though, the red zone offense was much better today with four touchdowns scored in five trips. Does it mean much when these stats were achieved against a team with an ongoing PR crisis and a now 20 game losing streak? Maybe, maybe not, but just the feeling and the flow that led to those drives ending in touchdowns has to be worth something moving forward.
Pass protection and push in the run game from the offensive line still remains an issue though.
Ryan Tannehill was pressured a number of times today, primarily in the second half when things began to unravel for the Titans on both sides of the ball. It’s become a reoccurring problem that’s going to lead to further repercussions if it isn’t fixed soon. How severe could those repercussions be? I don’t want to say it outright, but you risk your quarterback picking up an injury, minor or serious, whenever he takes a repeated beating whenever he drops back to pass.
That obviously rings alarms, but will these alarms truly wake this offensive line up and give them the moment to finally figure out the idea of keeping their quarterback off the ground? Or get more physical and open up more lanes for their star running back so he doesn’t get stonewalled behind the line of scrimmage on virtually every carry on first and second down? It remains to be seen. Because when you begin to dissect the offensive line issue, you don’t find one singular problem, you find multiple.
Taylor Lewan hasn’t played well this year, Ben Jones has been okay but not at the level that led to him receiving so much praise last season, David Quessenberry has been the Titans’ best offensive lineman alongside Rodger Saffold, but even he has had some forgettable moments out at right tackle.
But perhaps the biggest disappointment along this line, has been right guard Nate Davis.
He’s been soft in the run game, he’s looked foolish as a pass protector, he just can’t seem to do anything right. Coming off his stellar 2020 year, you would’ve expected him to continue, no maybe even improve on the level of play he displayed last season. But he hasn’t done that, in fact he’s done the complete opposite, an unwelcome development for a team that was expecting even more big things from him in 2021.
There’s still plenty time for him to figure out what’s going on and find that needle in the haystack that made him play as well as he did in 2020 though. I think he will, since he’s too talented and way too smart to not do so. But his play moving forward is definitely something worth monitoring, as him finding his groove would serve as one big lift for the entire starting five up front offensively.
We’re going to see how for real this Titans team is over the next month and a half. You know that schedule gauntlet I was speaking of previously? Well it’s here and ready to snap at the Titans like an alligator gnawing for wild food in the Everglades of Florida.
Buffalo is first up on the list, after that it’s Kansas City, then a couple of contests with the New Orleans Saints and high flying Los Angeles Rams to close out this tough stretch. It would’ve been good to see just how comptent this team is as a whole before this gauntlet arrived, as them doing so would’ve eased any concerns and eliminated the hard working members of the media asking themselves what the deal is with this football team.
But that misfortune falls on the team and I’m sure they know that too.