Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughts from Titans vs Lions – Offense

You might say its hard to criticize an offense when the score is 44 to 41 and the team wins but the numbers don't accurately reflect the offensive production. Two special teams scores and a defensive score are included in that final tally. The offense scored twice. Jake Locker did finish with good numbers as he was 29 of 42 for 378 yards, two touchdowns and most importantly no interceptions. He lost a fumble on a bad snap however.

I will give this coaching staff credit they put Locker in a position to succeed. We primarily use the shotgun formation and we also run some bootlegs which is what he did in college. Le''s turn to individual and group evaluation to see how well we are really going.

Jake Locker:

Jake needs to get better seeing the field. He is getting rid of the ball quick, mostly because he is forced to do it, and throwing into coverage often missing guys who are wide open. Jake isn’t afraid of contact at all and he is not afraid to lay a block. We also aren't afraid to let him air it out but we simply have to get the running game going or it is going to be a long season.

The first play from scrimmage showed  how young Locker still plays. I loved the play call we went immediately to a pass play from the shotgun formation. The pass was complete for a 7 yard gain to Kenny Britt. However, look closely at the field and you will see another receiver is wide open in the slot with a clear shot of toward the end zone.

A drive later, Locker shows how incredibly talented he can be by reading the field beautifully. He throws an abolute strike to Craig Stevens and for the most part the rest of his performance was excellent.

Offensive Line:

People who think Jake is being protected well aren’t watching film. The pocket collapses pretty quickly he just gets rid of the ball very quickly most of the time, or runs with it. You cannot just look at stats when evaluating offensive line production and that is particularly true with the Titans offensive line. There are very much protection issues but a running quarterback, particularly in a shotgun formation.

 I am a big fan of Michael Roos but it might be getting close to time to start grooming a successor. As much as  I hate to admit it, I do think the play has slipped a bit the past couple of years. He is still a good left tackle but at one point he was one of the best but sadly I don't know that is the case any longer.

 Running Game:

I like Quinn Johnson and from what I can tell he does a pretty good job blocking. I also feel much more comfortable with Quinn Johnson catching the ball than I did with Sarge. I loved Sarge but I held my breath when he ran with or caught the ball.This was a particularly nice play.

Chris Johnson ran a lot more decisively against the Lions. Hit the line a lot quicker and didn’t seem afraid to hit the edge. There was some good blocking but it was mostly CJ like the CJ of old. He seemed a lot more willing to just get yardage instead of going for the homerun play and he did not shy away from contact. That often led to a run that was 5 yards or more.  He was also more willing not only to engage the edges but run into traffic in the middle and make something of nothing. This gives you hope that the running game may be soon back in order.

One thing I did notice, and I love Nate Washington, but he did miss a couple of blocking assignments. One led to a negative 7 yard run by CJ. He appeared to have a couple of plays where he and the offensive line miscommunicated in blocking assignment.

Tight Ends:

Jared Cook is a baller plain and simple. We need him to stay healthy. He has really come a long way in his blocking game too. The touchdown play was just amazing and I was particularly impressed to see him protect the ball when he got tackled in the end zone. He has a couple of really nice catches and is simply hard to take down once he gets the ball. 

Another thing that impressed me about Jared Cook was his ability to keep his cool and hang onto the ball even after this bush league move by the Lions. The Lions defender simply launches himself at Cook after he is already going down being tackled by two other defenders.

Craig Stevens is criminally underrated. He very quietly had a stellar game and we wouldn’t have won this game without him. Period. He kept us advancing the ball in overtime which led to the only scoring. His blocking ability is well known but he is also an excellent receiver and puts me in the mind of Frank Wycheck.

Wide Receivers:

Kenny Britt looked really good out there. He didn’t appear to have a lot of rust and is really a guy who goes after the ball like he wants it.Nate Washington has turned into a hell of a receiver for the Titans. Does need to work on blocking a bit as he missed a block on the play where CJ netted negative 7 yards rushing as mentioned above. He has turned into a playmaker though and has become a "go to" guy in the Titans offense. Kendall Wright is also making an impact despite being a rookie, and I expect Damien Williams to have a breakout game any time now.

Special Teams:

How can you NOT give some specials team love. Two touchdowns is spectacular in itself but they way they were scored is just jaw dropping. The special teams touchdown on the pass from Tommie Campbell to Darius Reynaud was just fantastic. Well designed and well executed.  However, the 105 yard TD by Reynaud from the middle of the endzone was a beautiful thing to see. Textbook perfect blocking from Taylor Thompson to spring the play in the beginning.

Reynaud himself is just pretty fantastic in the return game. Just exciting to watch and something this team needs with a struggling run game.

We did struggle a bit in the kicking game but I have no doubt Rob Bironas will get back on track in the next game. He doesn't get much action but Brett Kern is a really good punter. I did see some missed penalties on special teams but that is not that unusual in my experience.

In sum, while there are certainly some areas where the Titans offense needs work, there are a lot of things that are going really well. I don't think its farfetched to say this team is close to putting forth a good TEAM effort that could carry them into the post season.