When it comes to a contending franchise, the Titans should be right up there. But things are not going to plan and there needs to be a change if they are to win the championship. Having experienced back to back losses, and embarrassing losses at that, what should the coaches do to turn their fortunes?
Problems? What problems? The Tennessee Titans won five games on the bounce at the beginning of the season. Sure, they just lost two in a row, but 5 – 2 are not bad stats. Indeed, it puts them at the top of the AFC south alongside the Indianapolis Colts. But, when you look closer there are signs of frailty that just won’t cut it. For instance, against the Jacksonville Jaguars they lost 480 yards in defence -464 against the Vikings. They were forced to score a massive 33 and 31 points respectively to mask the struggles of the defence.
Then, there is the shocker. A 31-20 loss to Cincinnati – a team they should have easily beaten.
Let’s compare third downs. Last season teams converted just 36% of third downs. This season, it is up to 62%. They have the second and fourth highest conversion rate in the game. And the missing ingredient is clear – Dean Pees retired as defensive coordinator at the end of last season and there is no replacement named as yet. The outside linebackers coach is calling the defensive plays
Option 1: Solve the coverage mishaps. At the most basic level, the defense keeps finding itself out of position and so leaving massive gaps. The quarterback is too easily able to find an open target, no matter if the Titans are in the zone or man coverage.
If you need an example of this then you need only look at the game against the Bengals. It came on the fourth and 5 in the second quarter. The Bengals had the ball at the Titans’ 43 yard line. While all routes looked to be covered, Joe Burrow was too easily able to drop into the pocket and get away a pass. Hooker drifted away from Higgins who was on the vertical route and with that the pass was made and the second touchdown achieved. It was just too easy. Brown has some part to play as he was just too late in the play.
There are definitely trust issues. The Titans seem to play coverage to prevent getting beat in the deep. The receivers get free and run the routes they had mapped for them in the playbook – with no disruption from the Titans’ defense.
Option 2: Get more consistency in the pass rush
Any pressure that they could put onto Burrow was easily evaded by the QB. There was a moment where Clowney looked like he had a free run on Burrow but with just a quick spin away he was able to evade and get the pass away. The Titans are squandering opportunities – and this needs to stop if they are to be genuine contenders.
Option 3: Improvement in the red-zone
Most teams are scoring touchdowns about 80% of the time when they make a trip to the red zone. The Bengals made five trips to the 20 yard line and came away with four touchdowns. That has to be too much. Why? The Titans just don’t blitz much – there is no trust in that secondary line.
Look to the game against the Browns
The problems might seem to be overblown here. The coach might feel some defensiveness, as the team has shown some character. Look at the game against the Cleveland Browns. At the halfway point the Titans were down 38 – 7 but by the end it was 41 – 35. The positive spin on this is that the Titans’ showed massive determination and fight to bring the game back so close.
However, it was a lopsided affair and only this kick up the backside in the locker room saved them from embarrassment. Again in this game the problem with the defense is clear. The Titans have the fifth worst secondary in the league, allowing an average of 268.5 yards per game. The team is missing Logan Ryan, who was a reliable workhorse, making over 100 tackles and defending 18 passes.
However, the players on the field were less charitable about the problems. Titans safety claimed the problems were a result of bad communication and bad execution. There is a need for someone to coach the defensive line better, rush better and cover better.. Just be better.
The Titans are still in the game but they have lots of room for improvement. Let’s celebrate the character it takes to keep putting points on the board from a tough position. However, the truth is that the defense needs to step up and play a better game to support the offensive successes. It is not hard to see that there are some basic coaching problems that can be easily addressed.