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.
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…