Titans film study: A run-game salad, but don’t forget the lettuce

Tyler Rowland provides an in-depth breakdown of how the Titans finally found success on the ground in Week 3.

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…

4 takeaways from advanced metrics of Titans’ Week 3 win over Raiders

Shaun Calderon dives into the Titans’ advanced stats from Week 3 and gives us four big takeaways.

For the first time this season, the Tennessee Titans (1-2) finally broke into the win column after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders (0-3), 24-22.

This victory gives the Titans legitimate hope again. A Week 3 loss to the Raiders would have sent them to 0-3, which ultimately would have been the worst record in the league by the end of the weekend.

Instead, the Titans join a cluster of teams who are within one game of each at 1-2 and 2-1. After last Sunday’s hard fought win, Tennessee is now just one victory away from reaching .500 again after a dismal 0-2 start to the year. 

But before we move on to Week 4, all season long we’ve been reviewing the advanced metrics from several different platforms and reflecting on what’s stood out the most.

Also, prior to going into all of that, we just wanted to give a quick reminder that this article will be using updated advanced metrics from Pro Football Focus (PFF), Next Gen Stats, ESPN, RBSDM, and Sports Info Solutions (SIS).

Some of the verbiages can be a bit confusing at times, so I am also linking to a glossary in this article that contains any elaborate definitions that readers may need to know.

Now, lets take a closer look at the four major takeaways from the advanced stats following the Titans’ first victory of the season.

Doc Walker shocked by Commanders’ weak performance

Doc Walker puts a lot of blame for Sunday’s loss on Ron Rivera and Scott Turner.

Former Washington tight end for two Super Bowl teams, Rick “Doc” Walker, was shocked Sunday watching the Commanders lose 24-8 to the Eagles.

Walker was the scheduled guest on the “Kevin Sheehan Show” podcast Monday. Here are some of Walker’s observations and opinions of Sunday’s game.

During the conversation, Walker questioned the offensive line, Carson Wentz, Scott Turner and Ron Rivera. He praised the three pass breakups by Benjamin St-Juste.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what was going on because the Commanders were manhandled.”

“We really got manhandled; I felt bad for them… I was embarrassed; that’s all I can say about it.  I am hopeful we can get somebody who can block this kid number 11 (Micah Parsons) for Dallas and see if we have a chance.”

“They (Scott Turner, Ron Rivera) didn’t sense that Carson was out of sync, that he couldn’t handle the immediate pressure. He held on to the ball instead of throwing it away. It was a jailbreak on him.”

“One of our best guys 82 (Logan Thomas); it was like he was not even in the game plan. We were out of sync and didn’t recover. With Turner on the sidelines, you’ve got to feel it. You’ve got to see that something is not happening, and how do we fix it?”

“When you got two big horses, 320 pounds in front of you, you don’t expect them to get beat like a turnstile. It was inexcusable. You cannot be beaten that way after the defense gives you a couple of stops (early).”

“Oh, by the way, the game is Sunday. All week you are supposed to peak on Sunday, not Monday. Not at the podium; you are supposed to peak on the field, on game day.”

“Why would it change? The same guy is making the decisions (Dan Snyder). I don’t have to ‘think’ anything (about Ron Rivera). Everybody has a record; it’s documented.”

Sheehan mentioned how an NFL team can’t be outscored 46-0 two consecutive weeks in the first half. Walker responded by asking, And he (Rivera) got pi**** off because he was asked about Jimmy Garappolo?”

“It’s ironic that both guys we got up front (Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner) are once again from Carolina. So clearly there is a soft spot for people who have been in Ron’s past. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is best for the program.  And right now it is blowing up in his face because they are not.”

“As bad as it looks and feels you still got a shot. But you are not going to be able to talk your way out of this one. The people you train are going to have to look like they have been coached.”

Walker called for Chris Paul to be inserted into getting playing time. He stressed the jury is out on the guys up front. “You drafted him (Paul). He made your team; coach him up! Get him in there. It can’t be worse.”

“That’s the problem; we get stuck on people here as if you have no alternative. If you have no alternative, that is your fault (referring to Rivera who has control of player personnel).

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Titans’ top PFF grades and stats from Week 3 win

Dennis Daley went from a 14.5 pass-blocking grade in Week 2 to the team’s best in Week 3.

As we do every week, it’s time to take a look at the top Pro Football Focus grade and stats from the Tennessee Titans’ Week 3 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Before we get to all that, here are some stats from PFF (H/T John Glennon of Sports Illustrated):

  • Ryan Tannehill with a clean pocket: 13-16, 169 yards, 110.7 QB rating.
  • Ryan Tannehill pressured: 6-11, 95 yards, TD, INT, 75.9 QB rating.
  • 74 of Derrick Henry’s 85 rushing yards were after contact. Henry forced six missed tackles after having four in his first two games.

Also of note was the performance of left tackle Dennis Daley, who was making his first start in place of Taylor Lewan. Daley went from a 14.5 pass protection grade last week to the team’s best in Week 3.

Now, let’s take a look at the offensive line’s performance, as well as how the secondary and pass-rush fared based on the grade of Pro Football Focus.

Biggest takeaways from Titans’ Week 3 win over Raiders

Seven takeaways from the Titans’ Week 3 win over the Raiders.

Staring down the barrel of an 0-3 start, the Tennessee Titans faced a must-win situation against the Las Vegas Raiders in Nashville on Sunday.

Titans fans have been used to their team stepping up and winning when its back is against the wall the last few years, but nobody knew what to expect after what we saw from Tennessee over the first two games.

What fans got was a glimpse of the offense we had seen in 2019 and 2020 in the first half, and them more of the same 2022 Titans in the second half.

Thankfully, the defense did just enough to overcome a no-show effort from the offense in the second half and helped secure a 24-22 win for the Titans, which also helped get Tennessee out of the cellar in the AFC South.

The Titans’ Jekyll and Hyde performance is just one of seven takeaways from the team’s Week 3 victory over the Raiders.

Rivera on Wentz: ‘I think he could have played better’

Ron Rivera was honest in his assessment of Carson Wentz’s play.

Washington quarterback Carson Wentz faced the team that drafted him No. 2 overall in 2016 for the first time Sunday as the Commanders hosted the Philadelphia Eagles.

Things couldn’t have gone any worse for Wentz. He completed 25 of 43 passes for 211 yards in a 24-8 loss. The biggest stat from Wentz’s first game against the Eagles was the sacks. He was sacked nine times and hit 17 times.

Wentz was sacked four times in the first quarter and six in the first half, leading the Eagles to gain a 24-0 advantage before halftime. The Commanders had -16 net passing yards in the first half.

It was a far different Wentz than the one who passed for 650 yards and seven touchdowns over the first two weeks. The Eagles were aggressive in attacking Wentz up the middle and on the edge, and the Commanders had little answer.

While the offensive line had a tough day, Wentz often held the ball too long, leading to easy sacks for the Eagles. There were some plays where Wentz could’ve climbed pocket or felt the pressure and released the ball sooner to avoid the negative plays.

Afterward, head coach Ron Rivera was asked about Wentz’s play.

“I think he could have played better. I mean that’s the truth.”

That’s a fair and true assessment. Some of the issues from Sunday are the same issues that followed Wentz from his previous two stops.

Rivera asked specifically if he thought the sacks were more on Wentz or the offensive line.

“Probably a combination,” he said. “Want to take a look at the tape, see what they were doing, you know, defensively, and just go from there.” 

He’s right. Sometimes the offensive line gets too much blame, and this is a case where some will read “nine sacks” and completely blame the offensive line, which isn’t fair.

The Commanders better figure things out quickly as they head to JerryWorld next week to face Micah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys.

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What were some bright spots for the Commanders?

We try to find some positives in Washington’s ugly loss to the Eagles.

Already tired of the depressing commentary on the Commanders horrendous performance Sunday, falling 24-8 to the Eagles?

How about some positive moments in the game?

On the game’s first offensive snap, Curtis Samuel avoided being tackled for a loss, then got good blocks downfield from Charles Leno and Terry McLaurin for a 15-yard gain.

Benjamin St-Juste defended three passes, and Samuel made a diving catch. Jonathan Allen made a tackle-for–loss of Miles Sanders. Bobby McCain prevented a touchdown pass, deflecting a pass in the end zone and Kam Curl filled well when Jalen Hurts kept the ball on 3rd and goal.

Efe Obada ran a two-man stunt with Jonathan Allen, getting a nice sack of Hurts opening the second half. Carson Wentz and McLaurin connected with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter on a 45-yard pass down the left sideline. Wentz then scrambled for a 13-yard gain.

The Commanders’ play of the game (in my opinion) was Daron Payne shooting through a Dallas Goedert block swallowing Boston Scott before he could get out of the end zone for a Commanders’ safety.

Following the safety, Dax Milne gained 29 yards on the return of the Eagles kickoff.

McLaurin concluded his day with 102 receiving yards on his 6 receptions.

Jamin Davis was credited with two sacks, a tackle-for-loss, and a QB hit. While Obada collected 2 QB hits with his sack.

 

 

Commanders manhandled by Eagles

Some ugly numbers for the Commanders in Week 3 loss to the Eagles.

It was clearly over by halftime.

The Eagles outgained Washington 322-50. Philadelphia accumulated 276 passing yards in the opening half alone. Meanwhile, the Commanders were in the hole in passing yards registering -16.

When you read those numbers, it’s a wonder the Commanders were down “only” 24-0 at the half.

Sunday afternoon, it appeared the entire defensive front wearing green was a complete mismatch for the offensive line of the team wearing the white jerseys.

Fletcher Cox reintroduced himself to Carson Wentz early in the first quarter. Early, the interior of the Commanders’ offensive line was simply being pushed right back into Carson Wentz. Repeatedly, Wentz was not allowed to step up into a pocket. Good grief, he was sacked four times in the first quarter!

Benjamin St-Juste defended three passes in the first half, filling in for the injured and inactive William Jackson III. See, I really am looking for something positive to acknowledge from the first half.

But once the Eagles offense was warmed up, receiver DeVonta Smith himself had gained three times as many yards receiving alone as the Commanders gained both rushing and passing in the first half (156-50). The Eagles thumping the Commanders 24-0 in the half, coupled with last week’s disaster in Detroit, means the Commanders have been outscored 46-0 in the last two first halves.

Are the players not ready to play? If so, why aren’t they? Are the players prepared by the coaches’ game plan to play? If not, why aren’t they? The Commanders’ offense was completely dominated by the Eagles. The offense was left looking like a JV team competing against a varsity defense. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

24-0 at the half and the final was 24-8, but I think each and every one of us watching the game knows it could have been worse, much worse.

Offensive tackle Charles Leno might have best summed up the offensive line’s inability to get any movement in the first half, “It’s like we were constipated. We couldn’t get s*** going.”

Titans’ winners and losers from Week 3 win over Raiders

The winners and losers from the Titans’ Week 3 victory.

The Tennessee Titans needed an entire team effort in Week 3 in order to notch a 24-22 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

The offense dominated in the first half, but when the unit went cold in the final two quarters of the game, the defense stepped up to make some plays and secure the team’s first win of 2022.

“It’ll just help everybody,” head coach Mike Vrabel said of the win. “Losing sucks, especially when you’re used to winning and you have high expectations. I’m excited for the players. I really am. They probably deserved one earlier in the season and we didn’t end up with it. You only get what you fight for in this league. I thought they fought for today. I’m happy for them.”

While there are several winners from this contest, there are also some losers, as well as a few in between. Here’s a look at who falls where from the Week 3 win.

What Titans said after Week 3 win over Raiders

What the Titans said about their Week 3 win over the Raiders.

The Tennessee Titans desperately needed a win in Week 3 to avoid starting 0-3, and they got just that with a 24-22 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

It was a tale of two halves for Tennessee, as the Titans dominated during the first two quarters before stalling offensively in the second half, which allowed the Raiders to climb back into the game.

Clinging to a 24-22 lead with just over one minute left to play, the Titans had to get one more stop on a two-point conversion to win the game and the defense came up with the big play to secure the win.

With the victory, the Titans improve to 1-2 and have a head of steam going into a Week 4 showdown with their division rivals, the Indianapolis Colts, who notched an upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.

Here’s a look at what head coach Mike Vrabel and Titans players had to say about the crucial win on Sunday.