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Tennessee Titans third preseason game review: Offense

This is the first of what should be two installments breaking down how the Titans performed in more detail in their 27-16 win Saturday night at LP Field against the Atlanta Falcons in the third preseason game. This first installment covers the offense, while the second installment, which will be up tomorrow or Wednesday, covers the defense.

General disclaimers apply to this post in spades. Preseason production values meant some plays were hard to break down. Camera work, while better than it was the first game, was still not up to regular season quality. Coaches film is not available for preseason games, so unless there was a good replay (rare), identifying precisely things like if a back made a proper read or coverages is an exercise in educated guesswork. What I write below, as is the case in just about every post I write, what I saw and think rather than definitive statements of fact.

Depth chart:
1. Jake Locker (36 snaps)
2. Ryan Fitpzatrick (21 snaps)
3. Rusty Smith (6 snaps)

As I indicated in the recap post, Locker played pretty well after some moments early where I was less impressed. After last week, it was encouraging to see he was 5-6 on throws 10+ yards downfield, though I think a great throw instead of a good one results in Nate Washington getting 6 points instead of “just” 34 yards at the end of the first half. I think Dowell Loggains will be glad to see he took off; at least one of the sacks counts in my mind as a failed scramble; that it was a sack was a product of him getting -5 yards instead of +1. None of the throws seemed to have a particularly high degree of difficulty, but 10+ yards completions are 10+ yard completions.

Fitzpatrick did an un-Fitzpatrick-like thing in hitting Michael Preston downfield in stride. He kind of made up for it with what looked like a pretty bad interception; the Titans had been picking on rookie corner Robert Alford all game, but it looked like he did something in coverage he hadn’t been doing and Fitzpatrick wasn’t expecting and didn’t compensate for. (Unless I’m wrong completely as to what happened.) Everything else Fitzpatrick threw was short and generally on target. He showed good composure under pressure with a rusher bearing down on him on both touchdowns.

Rusty! didn’t get to throw a pass, but did get to take two kneels.

Running back
Depth chart:
1. Chris Johnson (25 snaps)
2. Shonn Greene (11 snaps)
3. Jackie Battle (27 snaps)

Collin Mooney (32 snaps)

CJ did CJ-like things. He ran well at times. I was less impressed with his running at other times. He picked up about 15 extra yards with a cut on a safety in the open field I didn’t expect. There was a time or two he seemed close to a big play until either he didn’t beat the safety or the blocking broke down just enough.

Battle had some good blitz pickups Eddie George pointed out on the broadcast, but overall I didn’t feel I learned much about either him or Greene from this game. Both run hard, have a sense for how NFL run plays are supposed to work, and offer nothing at the third level. The blocking was generally better for Greene (5-17) than it was for Battle (13-41).

I still don’t think Mooney is a better fullback than Quinn Johnson, though QJ is unimpressive enough to me I can’t say Mooney is clearly worse than him either. No snaps at halfback and only one catch, for zero yards, on a pressured bootleg when he was covered. I’ve said it before I won’t believe the Titans will cut QJ until they actually do so. Mooney’s versatility should be an asset (I can’t see QJ ever getting any snaps at halfback), but Battle’s emergence as a third viable ball-carrier probably hurts his chances.

Wide receiver
Depth chart, more or less:
1. Kenny Britt (31 snaps)-Nate Washington (25 snaps)
2. Michael Preston (26 snaps)-Justin Hunter (22 snaps)

Damian Williams (32 snaps)

Williams played most of the time in 22 again with every position group, played WR3 with both the first and second units, and also got six snaps with Britt in 2WR sets once Washington left the game with his injury. Would he have played more with the second team offense had Washington not gotten hurt? Who knows.

Washington and Preston had the big downfield plays. Britt did what he should have done on his three catches, I think, and the one incompletion he was targeted on might have been an underthrow. Williams only had one target despite playing as much as he did. I’d say the guy who did the most to help himself was Preston, who caught every pass I thought he should have after there were a couple catches the first two preseason games I would have liked to see him make.

Tight end
Depth chart:
1. Craig Stevens (27 snaps)
2. Taylor Thompson (20 snaps)
3. Jack Doyle (26 snaps)
4. Brandon Barden (11 snaps)

Thompson played most of the snaps of 11 personnel, but otherwise Stevens was the single tight end with the first team offense. I did not see Doyle get any snaps with the first team after Thompson’s injury last week gave him the chance for that. These guys pretty much did what they should have done. Thompson had two catches, one on a deep out from a bunch set and the other when he motioned from a wing position strong to out wide weak.

Offensive line
Depth chart:
1. Michael Roos-Andy Levitre-Rob Turner-Chance Warmack-David Stewart (36 snaps each)
2. Mike Otto-Chris Spencer-Brian Schwenke-Fernando Velasco-Byron Stingily (27 snaps each, except Otto played 21 and Barry Richardson got the last 6 at LT)

Static offensive lines this time, though the shuffling continued on the second unit. I liked Stingily and Otto better at left tackle and right tackle, I think, though the Titans were still pretty successful in the second half on offense. Warmack still wasn’t perfect, but did his crushing some small players bit. His reach block on CJ’s 7-yard gain at the start of the second possession was a really nice one.

As I noted in the RB discussion, I thought the second line struggled a bit in the run game. That changed in the four-minute drill at the end, when they killed the clock by beating the defensive line. Most plays it was more a team thing than a specific player, though I did note Spencer got beat on a pull and Stingily didn’t get a seal and his man took down Battle when he had a big cutback lane on an inside run (CJ may have been through this hole already).

I did not pay much attention to him specifically, but Schwenke in his first action did not stand out to me as particularly good or particularly bad.

Offensive Personnel Groupings
Snap counts are the official ones from the NFL. These are off my count, throwing out the last three plays:

11: 19 snaps
12: 12 snaps
20: 3 snaps
21: 17 snaps
22: 10 snaps

After last week’s excess of 11 personnel, this looks like a more normal distribution to me of plays to me, albeit perhaps a bit heavier on 2-back than I expect the Titans to be this year. I counted three instances of full house, all with Mooney and a tight end rather than the 2-TE full house the Titans have done at times in the past.

I was happy to see the Titans run something other than Spot when they were in bunch sets.

No matter what it feels like to me, technically the Titans do not actually have a play-action pass called the rare times they line up in a straight I instead of the normal offset.

Conclusion-Type Things

The Titans ran the ball with pretty consistent success. The Titans threw the ball with pretty consistent success. Those are two things the Titans did only rarely last year and two things that really help when it comes to winning games in the NFL. Oh, no procedure penalties and only one penalty total (Chris Spencer had a “beat” hold). You can nitpick a few things, but if the Titans can regularly operate with something like this level of offensive proficiency they can go over that 6.5 over/under win total.

Defense tomorrow or Wednesday.