Week 4 is in the books for the Tennessee Titans, courtesy of a 27-24 loss against the New York Jets.
This was a dumpster fire of a game, one the Titans had no business losing. Lots of losers as expected, so let’s jump into it.
Winner: Josh Reynolds
Reynolds was expected to be this team’s WR3 after the addition of Julio Jones.
But injuries during training camp derailed his opportunity to solidify his status within this offense. He hasn’t been called upon much to make plays through the first three weeks of the year, but he finally got his shot to make a name for himself today and he didn’t disappoint.
With A.J. Brown and Julio Jones out for today’s game, Reynolds was leaned upon quite a bit in the passing game. He finished with six catches for 59 yards, serving as the leader in a receiving group that was full of inexperience and and consistency. It was a promising performance for the former Los Angeles Ram wideout, one that could springboard him towards more snaps week to week once Brown and Jones do indeed return.
We’ll see if he can take advantage of the opportunity he presented himself today, but if he can, the Titans’ wide receiver depth will look a lot better than before.
Winner: Randy Bullock
It’s not a good thing when your kicker is one of the first winners on this list.
When the Titans’ offense couldn’t get going in terms of converting drives into touchdowns, Randy Bullock bailed the team out by going out there and simply doing his job.
He was 3/3 in the first half on field goals, giving the Titans at least something to work with on the scoreboard. After those three field goals though, he wasn’t involved much, mostly because the Titans’ offense couldn’t work their way down the field consistently.
Bullock had some concerns because of his checkered past when it came to nailing fields goals at a consistent rate, but he’s performed well at a spot that’s given the team so many pains in the past.
That’s something Mike Vrabel’s team can hang their hat on moving forward.
*I typed this before Bullock’s miss, so don’t yell at me*
Winner: Derrick Henry
Henry came into this game as the only solidified weapon on offense for the Titans.
But despite that, and with the Jets’ defense keying in on limiting whatever impact he was potentially ready to have on the game, Henry came through and gave this offense a boost when they really needed it.
Henry rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown today.
He did most of his damage in the second half and overtime, rushing for 102 of his total 157 yards. Time after time, this team calls on Henry to carry them whenever it’s deemed necessary. And time after time, Henry has delivered regardless of how much a defense attempts to shut him down.
He’s a special player, one that the Titans are extremely lucky to have.
I’m sure the Titans want to limit the amount of carries Henry receives since he’s accumulated so many of them over the last couple of seasons. But if he’s cooking, then this team has no choice but to give him the ball and watch him roll.
Loser: Offensive execution in opponent territory
There’s a few things you can do to allow a bad team to hang around in a football game.
Turnovers, bad execution in the red zone offensively, and poor play defensively. The Titans decided to indulge in the second option, a seemingly clueless move that allowed the Jets to stay in this game far longer than they should have.
It wasn’t just the red zone where the Titans’ offense struggled either, execution in opponent territory was a major blemish on the offense’s performance today as well. This offense had three straight possessions stall in opponent territory to start the game, with all three drives ending due to poor play on late down and distance situations.
When you forfeit touchdowns in favor of field goals like that, you’re basically inviting a bad team an opportunity to ramp up the crowd and get back into the game. Those situations are some of the most unpredictable ones in football, so willingly putting yourself in one is the equivalent of asking yourself to run into trouble.
Execution in opponent territory has been an issue for the Titans all year long, dating back to their week one loss against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s a stark contrast from last season, when we were used to watching this unit continuously punish opposing defenses in favorable positions on the field.
This problem has to be cleaned up, because you won’t escape easily against the top tier of teams if you can’t capitalize on golden opportunities. If it can’t get fixed, then this team is going to kill its chances to seriously make a run this season.
Loser: Offensive Line
It’s becoming a weekly thing at thing at this point.
The Titans simply can’t protect Ryan Tannehill right now, they simply can’t. They’re way behind in recognizing specific blitzes, therefore leading to bad blitz pickups and free rushers. When the offense drops back and leaves 6 or more players to protect, this unit still can’t find a way to give Tannehill a clean pocket.
This line has all of its projected starters out there, no injury replacements or anything at the moment.
Because of that, pass protection shouldn’t be this much of an issue. There’s too much talent, too much cohesiveness, and too much continuity for these problems to persist.
Will they fix this problem?
I think they will, but when?
That’s the million dollar question at this point.
What is going on loser: Todd Downing
For four weeks now, Todd Downing has ran with the same philosophy regardless of result.
Run Derrick Henry on early down and distance situations, then try to chalk something up in the passing game on third down. That’s not only unsustainable, but you’re allowing opposing defenses to telegraph your play calls snap by snap.
I get the importance of establishing the run and wearing down your opponent in the trenches.
But when you’re down two of your best receivers, and a defense has keyed in on stopping your only solidified weapon in Derrick Henry, you’re going to have to open up some things and start getting creative offensively. I know the offensive line hasn’t been the best in terms of pass protection, but there has to be a way to get this offense into a rhythm without being predictable.
Start with a quick passing game, get the ball into the hands of whatever playmakers you have and make the Jets’ defense rethink their approach on traditional run downs. Just something to make things easier for yourself, it doesn’t matter what it is.
Downing has to be open to adjustments early and often, not just when things seem to be going wrong and the offense is stuck in a rut.
Again, what is going on loser: Defense
The Jets came into today’s game with 20 total points scored through the first three weeks of the season.
They couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t establish a good passing game, the offensive line was pitiful, and Zach Wilson was a turnover machine.
But in typical trap game fashion, the Jets suddenly found a way to move the ball down the field and connect on some explosive plays in the passing game. Honestly it was a glimpse of what the Jets envisioned when they took Zach Wilson with the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Nevertheless though, the Titans’ defense has no excuse for how poorly they played. Specifically the front seven, which didn’t play well against a poor Jets offensive line. There were some bright spots, including Harold Landry who’s putting together a really impressive season, but for the most part the play was uninspiring and downright unwatchable.
Shane Bowen has some questions to answer moving forward, particularly his ability to coordinate this defense towards the success this team needs in order to ascend to the top of pack in the AFC. We’re only in week four, but the trends I’ve seen develop within this unit over the first four weeks haven’t been good enough.