In the first part of this review, I gave my take on the state of the Titans’ offense. We continue our review of the first quarter of the Titans’ season by turning our attention to the offense. What little there has been, anyway.
During the offseason and preseason, we opined on several occasions (most notably by Tom) that the offense would have to carry the team this year. They haven’t, and the poor offensive showing in two games is the reason why the Titans are no better than 2-2 at this point, with the toughest part of the schedule, plus the division games, still to come.
Here’s my take on the Titans’ first-quarter offense, by position group, after the break.
Quarterback: Vince Young got off to an extremely inconsistent start, with a great game followed by a very poor one. Games three and four were more consistent, and both were pretty good. Give me the consistent VY of games 3-4, not the hot and cold of weeks 1-2, for the rest of the season. The Titans should be able to win with that.
Running back: The Titans simply could not get the running game going in either of their losses. Chris Johnson gained 267 yards in the two wins but was held to a combined 87 yards in the two defeats. After racking up 2,000 yards at a clip of 5.6 yards per carry last year, he’s only averaging 3.8 ypc this season. With 354 first-quarter rushing yards, CJ is on pace for 1,416 yards this season. That probably won’t be good enough to lead the league, but it will be right up there.
While 1,416 yards looks pretty good, I’m troubled by the Titans’ inability to run the ball when they need to. Part of this is on CJ and part on the line, which I’ll get to later in this piece. Tom is planning to write about “What The Heck Is Going On With The Titans’ Running Game” next week, which he says may be more than one post. Tom’s analyses are always interesting, so we have another great piece or two to look forward to.
Wide receivers: Nate Washington leads the Titans with 14 receptions for 194 yards, numbers that would rank him fourth on two of the teams the Titans have already faced, the Giants and Broncos. That’s a telling stat about the offensive philosophy. Justin Gage, after his usual inconsistent play, may miss several weeks with a hamstring injury. Damian Williams and/or Lavelle Hawkins should reap the benefits of more playing time, though I hope it will give Kenny Britt the opportunity for more targets. Britt does have two TDs to his credit.
Tight ends: Not surprisingly, Bo Scaife is still Vince’s favorite target among the TEs. I’m glad Jared Cook has seen the field early this year and I’d personally like to see him play well enough to be gradually phased in as Scaife’s replacement. Craig Stevens has done a fairly good job as an inline blocker, though he had a tough time last week.
Offensive line: Stink, Stank, Stunk. The Titans haven’t been able to run for a yard when they need to and it all starts up front. The holes haven’t been as frequent or as large as they were a year ago and the line should actually be better from addition by subtraction. So far, it’s not.
Leroy Harris has struggled (he’s not alone) and to make things worse, he’s now injured. Harris was limping in the fourth quarter on Sunday and I’m not thrilled about any of the depth on the line. Mike Otto is the next best o-lineman, but he’s injured too. That leaves the underwhelming Troy Kropog, Ryan Durand and Fernando Velasco. None of them provide the quality depth the Titans have been accustomed to having.
It’s not just the run-blocking that’s deteriorated. The Titans have already given up nine sacks after allowing only 15 last year. Not all of those have been the line’s fault, but the protection hasn’t been as good. It was absolutely horrific against Pittsburgh and not much better in the other three games. I don’t understand why I keep hearing some people say the Titans have one of the best lines in the league.
Outlook: Things get tougher from now on. On paper, the first quarter of the season was supposed to be the easiest, and the Titans failed to make much hay. The second quarter schedule is at Dallas, at Jacksonville, versus Philadelphia and at San Diego. That’s three playoff teams from last year, two of them on the road, and a divisional rival on the road. It will be tough to break even in the second quarter with another 2-2 record and that may be overly optimistic.
If the Titans don’t start making some improvements on offense, this will be a long, painful, and losing season.
That’s my take. What do you think of the Titans offense after the first four games?