Thursday, November 15, 2012

Notes from Titans vs Dolphins - Offense

The Titans have certainly had an eventful two weeks. Following a horrific home performance against the Chicago Bears where the Titans lost 51-20, the 3 and 6 Titans traveled to Miami to take on the 4 and 4 Dolphins. Immediately after the Bears disaster, Titans owner Bud Adams called out the entire organization including the front office and players stating the team had been "grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish." The good news was that quarterback Jake Locker was prepared to make his return. So how did he fare? Let's take a look. The Titans ultimately won this game 37-3.
Locker's passing numbers were relatively pedestrian. He was 9 of 21 for 122 yards with a 5.8 average, 2 TD's and a passer rating of 93.8. He was sacked once. However, he was also the Titans second leading rusher with 4 carries for 36 yards. This is where Locker makes the difference and what the Titans offense has been sorely needing. More importantly, he did not turn the ball over.
Much ado has been made about Locker and his accuracy issues, both pre-draft and since he was drafted by the Titans 8th overall in the 2011 draft. I have addressed this in previous blogs and won't spend a lot of time here except to say two things. First, I think the accuracy problems are overstated. Second, I really don't care as long as he is able to direct the offense down the field and get the ball into the endzone. I also expect that this issue will become less noticeable as he becomes more comfortable.

Regarding accuracy, in my review Locker only threw 3 bad passes and let's not forget the wind was a factor. Darius Reynaud saved one interception. Overall, Locker was pretty accurate and on the money. Credit Chris Palmer and the Titans coaching staff for putting Locker in a position to succeed. Initially, Locker operated out of the shotgun quite a bit. As he got more comfortable and settled into the offense he operated more under center.
The Titans also rolled Locker out, primarily to the right, and let survey the field to either throw the ball or to run with it.

This caused the Dolphins defense a lot of problems and allowed a Kenny Britt to slip behind the Dolphins secondary later in the game.

Locker's first first touchdown, to Kendall Wright on 3rd and goal, shows exactly what he and Wright bring to the table. Locker operates out of shotgun and Wright uses his athleticism to bring the ball in and make it into the endzone. He actually carries a defender with him. For the record, Wright leads all rookie wide receivers in receptions, and he is the Titans leading wide receiver.

I was also impressed with Locker's command and presence in the huddle and at the line. Kudos as well to Titans head coach Mike Munchak for going for it on 4th and 2. I loved the call and Locker acquited himself well. I'm not sure if he is changing the playcall at the line here but clearly he sees something and comes in to advise his line. He seems like a natural born leader and always appeared in complete control of the game. He also spread the ball around and threw to 7 different receivers.

Much was also made of the Dolphins stout run defense and the string of 22 consecutive games where it didn't allow a running back to gain 100 yards or more. The Titans shattered that record as Chris Johnson was simply dazzling, gaining 126 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown. Again, credit to the coaching staff for the gameplan because the Titans ran a lot of 2 tight end sets, and made really effective use of its tight ends and fullback Quinn Johnson.

I simply must give some love to Quinn Johnson, who I think has been really fantastic this season and who has been a big boost to the run game. This block by Quinn Johnson was just fantastic.
 I also liked the fact that we gave the ball to Quinn Johnson on 3rd and 1 and let him bang it for a first down.

I talk a lot about the tight ends in my post on Jared Cook, but I was really impressed with Taylor Thompson in this game. It is amazing how far that guy has come from training camp and preseason. He and Stevens seem to have forged a good relationship on the field and I can't say enough about how fantastic they did blocking. It really was beautiful.

I also want to give some love to Kenny Britt who I think is a pretty good blocker as well. This block helped spring a 21 yard run from CJ leading to a Rob Bironas field goal.
One final note about the running game and this to give credit to Chris Johnson for being willing to earn the tough yards. I have mentioned this before and you really do see a difference in how CJ is running this season.
Another 2 TE formation

You see the difference even more in this touchdown run in the first quarter. He runs right and is met with a wall, reverses course, moves left and accelerates into the endzone like the Chris Johnson everyone saw his first couple of seasons. It looked like something out of Madden.

Again I wrote extensively about Jared Cook in another blog and he does have a bad drop in this game. He also has a fantastic touchdown from a Locker throw that highlights what he can do to a defense.

Another thing about the offensive line and that is I thought David Stewart did a good job controlling Cameron Wake who is just amazing. I also won't fault him for his holding penalty as he saved his quarterback from getting slammed. The Titans did give up a sack that was credited to Jimmy Wilson but Wake was in on the action too. What actually happened is that Mike Roos loses Karlos Dansby, leaving Jared Cook to pick him up. That allows Wilson to come around the edge unblocked and sack Locker.

Overall I thought the offensive line did well and I think new offensive lineman, Deuce Lutui, has done a really nice job replacing LeRoy Harris who was placed on injured reserve with a partially torn ACL.
Finally, it is worth noting the Titans had their longest offensive drive of the year in 3rd quarter, going 85  yards on 12 plays and eating up 8:06 off the clock. Time of possession has been a problem this year for the Titans but it certainly wasn't this game as the Titans held the ball 33:13 to the Dolphins 26:47. The Titans were only penalized 4 times for 39 yards. In my opinion, this may be been the best offensive playcalling of the season from the Titans coaching staff.


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