The Tennessee Titans found some momentum in the run game in their first win of the year over the Las Vegas Raiders, mostly due to an explosive first half from the offense, but also because of some clutch second-half defense.

I want to focus on the offense for a moment, though.

Buy Titans Tickets

The reality of this Titans season is the defense will be just fine, even if not ELITE like some thought, so it is the offense that will determine their fate.

If the Titans can be the offensive team we saw in the first half of Sunday’s game consistently, this team can be what everyone hoped. If not, things could get uglier than expected.

So, how did the Titans do it Sunday and what do they need to do to build on it going forward?

To answer that, we need to take a quick step into the Titans time machine. In 2018 Matt LaFleur, now head coach of the Green Bay Packers, became the Titans’ offensive coordinator and brought over the zone-run, play action-based system you see from the team and all over the league.

It is an offense based on the Outside Zone run. Arthur Smith tailored the system even more to the Titans’ players in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

But since the end of the 2020 season where the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers loaded the line of scrimmage, it has been obvious that Mike Vrabel wanted more out of his run game.

Now we get to the next chapter, and here is where we get to the Titans’ run-game salad. Since Vrabel installed Todd Downing as offensive coordinator, the Titans have a much more diverse run game.

Instead of purely zone football, the Titans, starting in 2021, now run traps, toss sweeps, counters with pullers, inside lead and duo, all different types of run-game approaches and plays. Some power, some gap, some zone.

I am a salad fanatic. My father tells the same story any time we go out to eat.

“This boy loved salad. I had to buy a head of lettuce a week. He’d eat one every night,” he would bombastically proclaim.

Well, he is right, and I am here to say any good salad has a ton of ingredients, but the best foundation is always some crisp, green lettuce. So, while I love cheese, croutons, bacon bits, banana peppers, red onion, tomatoes, carrots, ranch dressing, etc., I still realize that without the lettuce bed to dump it all on, the salad cannot be its best self.

That is also true about the Titans’ rushing attack. I do not mind a few pieces of shotgun traps or some sprinkles of counter out of I-Formation. I don’t mind a dash duo out of 13 or a handful of read option, a drizzle of Wild King, but the Outside Zone run is still the Titans’ lettuce, and we saw that Sunday.

The Titans averaged 8.3 yard per carry with 67 yards total on eight Outside Zone runs against Las Vegas. Tennessee averaged 2.5 yards per carry with 44 yards total on 17 rushes of any other kind. I removed two kneel downs for -2 yards because duh.

So as we do every week, let’s step into the film room and see exactly why OZ worked so well…

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This first example is Titans Heaven.

The Titans are in 12 personnel (1 RB/2 TEs). They are in a singleback formation with both TEs in a twins look to one side; remember this formation.

Teams like to put a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage (LOS) against the Titans to limit double teams and prevent linemen from getting to the LBs.

One way to counter that is by extending how many of your own guys are on the LOS, hence the two tight ends. Now you have 7 on the LOS and the defense won’t typically match to seven.

Watch Ben Jones pancake his nose tackle first. Aaron Brewer then gets a great seal block on No. 91. Nate Davis, who is playing some great ball, gets to Jayon Brown at the second level and drives him back (poor Jayon  had a tough day). To finish, Derrick Henry does what only he can do best: stiff arms the defensive lineman and gets downhill.

This is beautiful, green, fresh and tasty lettuce, folks.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Again, same formation here and you can see why. Raiders have five directly on the LOS with Jayon super close, essentially being the sixth.

With No. 5 and No. 30 at LB depth, the Titans OL does not care and handles its business well. Swaim and Hoop create the edge, Brew creates the inside seal and Daley drives Jayon back.

Ben’s block wasn’t pretty, but it gave Henry some extra yards. These five- to six-yard runs are key for the Titans to sustain drives.

Syndication: The Tennessean

The inside trio of Ben Jones, Aaron Brewer and Nate Davis are asked to do a lot in this system, but they seem to be up for it.

Ben Jones with a savvy move to use a straight arm to help Brewer reach his man, which sets all three up to just drive; that’s exactly what they do. Henry does the rest with two quick skip steps. Also, same formation again, reset the LOS math.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This is early in the game and the Titans set the tone. Credit to Geoff Swaim here for a great edge set on Chandler Jones, but the stars were again the interior trio.

All three get good initial movement and open up enough of a runway to let King Henry get up to full speed. Once he is there, bodies seem to start to fall.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When the defense tries a different approach other than crowding the LOS, it can be deadly for them. Now the Titans’ OL have room to get directly to their assignments, and with a few 1-v-1 wins, big plays can happen.

Great job here by Swaim on a safety, but NPF is the highlight.

He just lets an aggressive player like Maxx Crosby fly inside and rides his momentum to push him out of the play. Nate Davis gets up to the LB. Henry gets downfield and make a guy miss, but early in the game he was still finding his balance and this might be a house call by Halloween.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The other thing to consider here is how the Titans’ play-action game is improved by focusing on Outside Zone. One, it naturally gets the defense moving horizontally and it gets Tannehill in a natural bootleg motion, which caters to his skillset.

The biggest play the Titans have had all year on offense came off of a play-action fake to Henry out of the same formation we have seen all day, pretending to run Outside Zone.

Same Singleback TE Twins look with Burks and Woods as the wide receivers, which is critical because if the deep safety doesn’t respect the deep speed of the receiver (NWI, Hollister), then it doesn’t open up the middle.

Burks’ deep-speed threat must be respected, so he runs a deep post. This draws the attention of the deep safety as intended. Robert Woods runs a deep crosser that is meant to sit in between the deep safety and the linebackers.

The play-action fake pulls the linebackers up, Burks pulls the safety deep, opening up a huge play for Woods. Again, the biggest offensive play of the season so far.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Vrabel talked about being better at their “bread-and-butter” plays after the loss to the Buffalo Bills. I hope he is talking about Outside Zone, because we see what kind of damage it can do when run properly.

It fits this offense as perfectly as possible. That’s how the Titans’ offense had that brief glimpse of explosiveness not only in Week 3, but in 2019 and 2020.

So, while I am with Vrabel that all the other run types are very important parts of the Titans’ run-game salad, he can’t let Todd Downing forget that any good salad begins with an incredible base level of quality lettuce.

So, Titans fans, let’s eat!



Source link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *