Week 1: Three up, three down

An offseason full of hype led to incredible disappointment on Sunday. The defense had been fixed with key free agent acquisition. The offense was improved with the addition of Julio Jones. Who could possibly keep up with the firepower of this team? Fans were (rightfully), excited going into the game against the Cardinals. Now they are left wondering what was actually improved this offseason.

Three Down:

Offense: How much time you got? What a failure of a performance. During the offseason, A.J. Brown was asked how teams were going to be able to stop this offense. His reply? “Good luck.” Well, it didn’t take luck to shut down the Titans offense. It actually didn’t take much at all. A sprinkle of coaching ineptitude, individual failure and collective failure.

Taylor Lewan was possibly the worst player on the team on Sunday. Chandler Jones whipped him all over the place, en route to a 5 sack performance with 2 forced fumbles. At one point, Kendall Lamm replaced Taylor Lewan at left tackle for a couple series. Lamm was equally ineffective against Jones. Would be nice to be able to plug either a first or second round tackle selection in for this situation. Oh wait, the 1st rounder is off the roster and the 2nd rounder wasn’t even active because he can’t beat out 3 journeymen tackles.

Tannehill was not bad, but he was not quite as sharp as he normally is either. He was harassed all game, and I thought the coaching staff did him a disservice by keeping him in the game well after it was in hand for Arizona.

Remember when the offense was going to be “pick your poison”? Not so fast. Arizona made sure Henry didn’t hurt them and the Titans obliged by not targeting Julio or A.J. until the 5th drive of the game. That’s absolutely unacceptable from the coaching staff. The biggest mismatch in the game was Brown and Jones against the Cardinals corners. They did nothing to test that matchup until they had to play catchup.

Even when Julio was targeted, he was not very sharp. He had at least three opportunities that he could have absolutely caught but didn’t. Were they tough plays? Sure. But a future Hall of Famer should make those plays.

Overall, this team cannot play like this on offense if they want to win. The defense is just not good enough to keep them in games like these. Only 2 teams scored less than the Titans on Sunday. I would imagine it will get better, but it needs to improve in a hurry.

Defense: After an entire offseason to fix a horrific 3rd down defense, you would think they could figure it out, right? Well, not exactly. From the executive producers that brought you the 2020 defense, introducing the 2021 defense.

Kyler Murray and the Cardinals were able to convert 7 of 13 third down opportunities, which was not exactly surprising. The Titans applied more pressure than we are accustomed to seeing, but were not able to sack Murray when it mattered. Instead he ran around and made play after play on the move.

We will see if any adjustments are made going forward, but this looks to be a slightly below average unit at best and a bottom tier unit at worst at the moment.

Special Teams: Who’s idea was it to sign the “Money Badger”? A 72% kicker last year with the Chargers, he should not be on an NFL roster. I promise you, there are more than 32 guys that can kick a field goal in the world, the Titans are just allergic to finding them.

Additionally, Mike Vrabel has no pulse on kickers. Absolutely none. He let Cairo Santos kick when he clearly didn’t have it. He let Stephen Gostkowski kick when he didn’t have it. On Sunday he let Michael Badgley attempt an ill-advised 46 yard FG with 20 seconds left in the half after the Money Badger missed an extra point. He would have been better off attempting to get a first down or punting, because that kick was never going in. Finding a new kicker needs to be a high priority on JRob’s to-do list this week.

Three Up:

Kristian Fulton: One of the few bright spots on the team, Fulton had a couple pass break ups and played 100% of the defensive snaps. I’m looking forward to watching him play this year, and if Caleb Farley can become a starter across from him, the cornerback tandem could look really good for the next few years. It certainly appears that this could be his breakout campaign after missing most of last season.

A.J. Brown: 4 catches, 49 yards and a touchdown. Brown was targeted 8 times, but not until after the 5th drive of the game. He’s always a bright spot on the team and the staff needs to get the ball in his hands more often. Vrabel talked about getting him more opportunities in the post game presser. How that wasn’t part of the gameplan is beyond me.

Mike Vrabel’s blood pressure: Self-inflicted? Definitely. Vrabel did not properly address the glaring need at defensive coordinator. Instead he just promoted the guy already doing the job. Vrabel hates questions about the subject and spent most of last season trying to deflect them. However, if the defense continues playing the way it did on Sunday, he’s going to get 16 more weeks of questions about it, as he should.

Who are your 3 up and 3 down for this game? Leave in the comments below!

Author: Robert GreenlawBorn and raised west of the Mighty Mississippi, a 2nd-grade project on the state of Tennessee introduced Robert to Steve McNair and Eddie George, turning him into a Titans fan for life. Robert was best known for being the Music City Miracles "links guy" for the better part of a decade. He loves all things sports and can be found on The Flex fantasy football podcast, part of Broadway Sports Media.

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