The Titans had a head on collision with Gang Green at MetLife Stadium and came back to Nashville with a very bad headache. That’s understandable considering the Jets have the best red zone defense in the NFL. But this is a lingering headache, one that began with the season opening loss to Arizona and is starting to look more and more like a serious concussion.
The red zone is the field of play inside the 20 yard line. With Ryan Tannehill under center, the Titans have had one of the best red zone offenses in the NFL, scoring a touchdown 75% of the time, until this season where touchdowns inside the 20 have dropped to 50%. So while 9 of the Titans 10 total touchdowns have been scored in the red zone there have been 18 attempts. Of those 18 attempts, Derrick Henry gets 58% of the touches scoring a touchdown 75% of the time. So he (and his blockers) is doing his job–and more.
According to coach Mike Vrabel, there are three key aspects to the passing game, whether inside or outside of the twenty yard line.
- It is about getting open, recognizing man and zone, running the correct route.
- It is about protection holding up.
- And it is about the quarterback getting rid of the football and getting it to someone quickly.
The Titans are failing in all three of them.
During training camp and the preseason, we heard a lot of gushing about the depth in the receiving corps. So far this potential hasn’t flashed. Against the Jets, running back Jeremy McNichols led the team with 8 receptions for 74 yards.
The pass protection has been woeful. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is obviously still suffering from the affects of a torn ACL that sidelined him for most of last season. On the other side is David Quessenberry, a great guy with a great story, having beaten Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he played his way back into NFL and onto the Titans practice squad where he languished on and off again until last year when he made the active roster in October and stayed there. That withstanding, Quessenberry is a serviceable right tackle that shouldn’t have been elevated to a starter.
And then there’s Ryan Tannehill, who has reverted to some of the bad habits he had in Miami like holding on to the ball too long and taking too many sacks. Yes Tannehill is patient, waiting for his receivers to get open, but he’s never been more than proficient at making fast reads. He needs to throw the ball away rather than hanging in a collapsing pocket.
Unlike some fans and commentators, I believe that this anemic play will clear up when Julio Jones and A.J. Brown return from hamstring injuries. But if they can’t stay healthy, I look for the Titans to be just another mediocre team…at best.