The Titans got their much-needed first win of the season Sunday vs. the Raiders. It wasn’t always pretty, but a win is a win in the NFL. That is especially the case when down several key players and being 0-2.
There were some significant changes in what the Titans did on offense and defense. Many of those changes can be used moving forward and potentially propel the Titans into a winning streak. There are three takeaways from Sunday’s victory that stood out to me in particular:
1. How Derrick Henry was used in the passing game. Henry was used in the passing game like never before, which was quite surprising, but very productive. Henry, who certainly isn’t known for his hands, caught five of his six targets for 58 yards. That included a screen early in the game that he bobbled but held onto, turning upfield for a 23 yard gain.
Henry was split out wide at times, which if he continues to display his hands, will draw additional attention from the defense. Henry as a decoy can even be a weapon for Ryan Tannehill and the Titans’ offense. Several of Henry’s catches were dump-offs when nothing else was open, and he picked up a first down more often than not. Typically nobody bothers to defend him in the flat after play action, and he made the most of it vs the Raiders. Moving forward, keeping Henry involved in the passing game can open up the offense significantly.
2. Robert Woods was finally utilized like we thought he would be. Woods had a season-high nine targets for four catches and 85 yards. A couple of his other targets were close to connecting as well. It was refreshing to actually see Woods be involved in the game plan, unlike in the first two weeks.
Woods has the ability to open up the Titans’ offense more than any other player right now. He is the one receiver that is proven enough for defenses to have to respect. It’s the job of offensive coordinator Todd Downing to get him involved to the point where the defense respects him as they did before he came to Nashville.
With AJ Brown’s departure, Woods was expected to be the number one receiver at least for this season, and Sunday he showed that ability. Moving forward, if Woods can get those 8-10 targets a game, it will open things up for the offense and create plays for Woods and others. Given the chance, he will capitalize; he just needs opportunities.
3. Kristian Fulton staying healthy can’t be overstated and Sunday proved that. We all probably knew this going into the season, but we saw what Stefon Diggs did with Fulton out vs the Bills. Diggs had three touchdowns and it could’ve been more if the game wasn’t out of hand early.
On Sunday, Fulton had a major challenge of stopping the best receiver in the game: Davante Adams. All things considered, Adams was held in check. Adams caught five of his ten targets for 36 yards and one touchdown.
The Titans are breaking in several first or second-year players at corner, and that makes Fulton’s job even more important. If he can lock down one side like he did Sunday, then it helps young corners Caleb Farley and Roger McCreary focus on one side. In order to get the defense where Mike Vrabel wants it, McCreary or Farley need to have one side and Fulton have the other.
The secondary is extremely vital with the Titans down Harold Landry and Bud Dupree at the moment. Moving forward, the secondary play is the biggest X factor on the defense, and Fulton’s health is a big determination factor for how good they can be.