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 Post subject: It is no secret: the Tennessee
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:28 pm 

Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2019 12:59 am
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Titans offense has struggled thus far in 2018.The run game has sputtered and been mostly ineffective for the better part of 5 games http://www.tennesseetitansteamonline.com/wesley-woodyard-jersey , as evidenced by the team’s current rank of 24th in rush DVOA (which accounts for strength of opponent) according to Football Outsiders.The Titans have played 21 total periods (counting overtime) this season. They have been held without a touchdown in 16 of those 21 quarters. The nerve injury sustained by Marcus Mariota, the multiple injuries suffered by Taylor Lewan, the devastating injury that ended Delanie Walker’s season, Jack Conklin’s recovery from a torn ACL, Dennis Kelly’s mystery illness, and the demise of Rishard Matthews have all factored in to the offense’s struggles, no doubt about it.Tyler Marz struggled mightily filling in for the injured Lewan on Sunday after the league’s highest-paid tackle exited the game with a foot injury.But the crazy part is that despite all the injuries and all the ineffectiveness, the Titans offense could be doing much better if the team could simply eliminate mental mistakes and execute when it counted.One position group that has struggled consistently with making mistakes is the team’s pass catchers, particularly when it comes to... well... catching the ball.The graphic above was posted prior to Sunday’s game at Buffalo, but I can’t imagine the number improved much after Nick Williams’ costly drop in the 4th quarter.There are lots of things that could be better about the Titans’ offense, but for today’s article, we’re just going to look at the Titans drops, because those miscues are pretty easy to identify, and for the Titans, they’ve come in pretty huge moments.I reviewed all of the Titans’ incomplete pass attempts since Week 1 and determined that there were 8 (give or take) drops by Titans receivers on balls that should’ve been caught (the most questionable one is the downfield play against the Eagles where Taywan Taylor was egregiously interfered with, drawing no flag).6 of these 8 drops occurred on third down. Let’s take a closer look at each painful drop to assess just how much damage the receivers are doing to the offensive production...NFL Gamepass.This first one came on the Titans’ very first possession of the season. The offense drove to the Dolphins 28-yard line and, facing a 3rd-and-4, Mariota lofted one into the end zone for Taywan Taylor.Now this isn’t exactly an easy catch, and there may be a small amount of pass interference, but the fact of the matter is the ball landed squarely in both of Taylor’s hands and bounced cleanly out, costing the team a touchdown. This is one you expect your starting-caliber receivers to catch.And I don’t mean this next part to be blaming Taywan Taylor for the disastrous start to the season, but hear me out - had Taylor caught this ball, every play that followed would have changed (you know, the butterfly effect and all), including (but not limited to) Marcus Mariota’s injury, Taylor Lewan’s concussion, and Delanie Walker’s broken ankle.So, all in all http://www.tennesseetitansteamonline.com/dennis-kelly-jersey , a brutal first drop. Moving on...The second one came Week 3 against Jacksonville. Rishard Matthews questioned his role in the offense. Perhaps if he had managed to make this simple reception, he would’ve received more snaps...NFL Gamepass.As you can see from the endzone cam, this third-and-2 pass attempt deep in Jacksonville territory hits Rishard Matthews exactly where quarterbacks are instructed to hit their targets - in the hands directly in front of the facemask. Naturally, Rishard Matthews did not want to be a Titan anymore so rather than set the team up with a first down in the red zone, he dropped the pass, ending the drive.Moving on to later in this game...NFL Gamepass.In the second quarter, the Titans faced a 3rd-and-6 from their own 20 yard line. Tajae Sharpe does a nice job of getting open over the middle, and Mariota delivers a great throw that hits his receiver right between the numbers.Sharpe tries to corral this pass between his arms as if he’s fielding a punt. As he rolls over, the ball squirts free. Incomplete pass, drive over, Titans punt. Shall we discuss the next one?NFL Gamepass.Onto Week 4: here we have one of Mariota’s best plays as an escape artist in the pocket. Notice that it is again third down. Mariota, evading the rush, somehow keeps his balance and maneuvers back around to find an open Jonnu Smith just beyond the first down marker. Rather than use his hands, Smith goes for the ole’ bread basket catching technique, and the ball doinks straight off his chest into the ground, killing another Titans drive deep in opponent territory. Mariota’s reaction is a reflection of how we all felt. Later in the game...NFL Gamepass.This one was not on third down, and it should’ve been flagged for a pass interference penalty, as Leodis McKelvin clearly grabs Taywan Taylor’s facemask. For those reasons, this is the least egregious drop of this breakdown. Even so, Mariota delivered a beautiful pass that hits Taylor in the hands. PI or not, it’d be nice to see him catch this ball.Let’s take a look at another...NFL Gamepass.This next one, again in the Week 4 game, is a bit tougher to see, but using the end zone cam you can tell that this ball hits Taywan Taylor squarely in the chest - again on third down - and Taylor is again unable to secure the pass, thus ending another Titans drive.This next one belongs in a slapstick comedy routine...NFL Gamepass.The speedster Darius Jennings runs straight past the Philadelphia defense and Mariota delivers a perfect downfield strike, in overtime, needing a touchdown to win the game.Jennings feels compelled (for reasons unknown) to jump as the pass is arriving and thrust his chest upwards into the ball while alligator-arming the attempt to secure it. And so, with the chance to set the Titans offense up inside the red zone http://www.tennesseetitansteamonline.com/kenny-vaccaro-jersey , the undrafted free agent proved that he is indeed capable of being yet another Titans receiver to drop a crucial pass.The Titans are very lucky that this drop did not cost them a win. I wish I could say the same about the next one...NFL Gamepass.I don’t think I need to elaborate on how devastating this drop was, as Marcus Mariota says enough with his reaction at the end of the play.Converting on third down is a great way to gain an edge in any given week. If the offense can sustain drives, it keeps the opponent off the field while increasing the team’s chances of putting points on the board. This much is obvious. So while the Titans certainly have a lot of kinks to iron out with the offense after five weeks, they’d be in a lot better shape if they hadn’t turned 6 sure-fire first downs into incompletions.Was Mariota throwing shade at his receivers with his word choice during his press conference on Sunday?(Just kidding, that’s a joke...)Before we end this breakdown focusing on the mistakes of Titans pass-catchers, I’ll leave you with one more play... While the Titans have won three straight, that doesn’t mean they are without problems. These days the run game doesn’t matter as much as it used to, but it hasn’t been able to get going in Tennessee. The logical explanation might be that the Titans have faced defensive lines such as the Eagles and Jaguars, two of the best in football, and the injuries to the tackles haven’t helped either.Still, on the ground, it hasn’t been a successful year for Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, who are averaging a combined 32 yards per carry. It’s a bigger issue for Henry because he’s a liability in the passing game, only putting up 12 yards on 3 receptions. Lewis, on the other hand, is a much more reliable option in the passing game, and is coming off a 9-catch, 66-yard day against the Eagles. This is no longer a rushing league; Things have changed. When your team is trailing, you need to pass the ball, making Dion Lewis a much better fit for today’s NFL than Derrick Henry. Does that mean Tennessee should pull the plug on the Henry experiment and trade him? Not necessarily—not yet anyway—but Lewis, to me, should be getting more touches in this offense.gamepass.nfl.comDevonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were able to thrive together in 2016 (when LaFleur was an assistant with the Falcons) because both brought a lot to the passing game. To this point, Henry has brought nothing as a receiving back, while Lewis has been able to do that.Lewis’ quickness and shiftiness are massive for what Matt LaFleur wants to run. Here, Lewis is able to use his size and agility to make a 2nd and 12 turn into a 3rd and 1. Whereas the Eagles’ defense would crowd players in the box because they would know if a handoff to Henry was happening, Lewis’ versatility allows him to be schemed in the backfield, in the slot, or outside. gamepass.nfl.comLate in third quarter Womens Derrick Henry Jersey , the Titans trailed 17-3 when facing a 2nd and 22. This 17-yard play from Lewis was one of the biggest of the day; He’s one of the toughest backs to tackle due to his size and pad level, and spins by an ankle tackle to create 17 yards and give the Titans offense a much more manageable 3rd and 5. This was important because on the next play Marcus Mariota converted the first down on a 16-yard pass to Tajae Sharpe. You don’t call Henry in on these plays unless you want to get some chunk yardage. Sure, Lewis got chuck yardage here, if by “chunk” you mean 17 of the 22 yards needed to convert a first down on 2nd and 22. You want Lewis over Henry in moments where the team is trailing because of his superior receiving ability.Finally, let’s not forget the most important play of the entire game. 4th and, head coach Mike Vrabel can elect to play for the tie and kick a field goal with less than 1:20 left, or he can go for the win and convert the 4th down. Vrabel chooses wisely and picks the latter option, and LaFleur puts Lewis in the driver’s seat.gamepass.nfl.comFirst of all, this is a phenomenal, gutsy call from Vrabel that has no doubt earned him well deserved praise and has made him a possible candidate for Coach of the Year. Second, plays like this show you how much the Titans respect Lewis in these situations. While getting the first down itself was easy, it’s what he does after that makes it count. Lewis spins and breaks by a tackler while using blockers to pick up even more than a simple first down conversion.Eventually, this set up the game winning touchdown from Mariota to Corey Davis.While the backfield has faced some tough tests, one thing remains clear: Dion Lewis is the better player than Derrick Henry. Henry is a big, powerful back with an excellent cutback ability, but as a receiver he adds little and has yet to impress this season outside of a certain touchdown run that was called back due to holding. Lewis has also had his issues as a runner, but his receiving ability has not disappointed. Henry certainly offers value late in the game with the lead, but very little when Tennessee is trailing. Whether leading or trailing, Dion Lewis adds value. The Titans model their offense on a quick scheme that favors yards after the catch, and there’s little doubt that Lewis fits that mold perfectly. And yet, it feels like he’s not getting the ball as much as he should.I’ve said in the past that Lewis is a game changer for the Titans offense, and he has been this season. Eventually the coaching staff should recognize who the more reliable player is and use both in the situations that put them at their best. Henry should be used to pound the rock in the red zone and late in the game with the lead, while Lewis needs to be featured on all three downs more prominently.In short, feed Dion Lewis.


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