As the NFL continues to go small, Titans' Derrick Henry a huge beneficiary

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Spread concepts have infiltrated the NFL for some time now, some teams happily embracing them, some more grudgingly adopting some out of necessity due to the personnel available from the league’s college farm system.

The Titans have not really headed that direction offensively, remaining a run-heavy team and even recently returning to a share of I-formation sets with a fullback.

It turns out, however, they found the back who’s turning the league's general course alteration inside-out.

Those smaller linebackers chasing down those smaller backs who are catching passes and even lining up wide are not nearly as equipped to handle the 6-foot-3-inch, 247-pound Derrick Henry as the sort of defenders Eddie George (6-3, 235) saw during his career were.

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In Titans' context, just how good A.J. Brown has been as a rookie receiver

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With three games left in an explosive rookie season, A.J. Brown has been the cure for a cursed position for the Titans.

For over 20 years and through 28 draft picks before him, not one draft pick at the spot for the franchise has had the sort of impact he’s having, with a remarkable 20-yards per catch average and six touchdown catches, two more than any drafted rookie for the franchise since 1997, and with three regular-season games still to go.BrownAtBatCelebrate

He’s already got the most yards, 779, for any drafted receiver for the franchise since 1997.

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OAKLAND, Calif. – When Mike Vrabel was kind enough to sit down and do a Periscope/Facebook Live with me on June 12, we joked a bit about the Titans’ generally conservative offense.

I gave him a hard time with him about my craving what many of us did: a more modern, open passing game.

Like the one we are seeing now with Ryan Tannehill putting up crazy numbers as part of an incredibly efficient and effective unit. 


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Scout's Take: Offensive line set the tone with outstanding push and control in Oakland

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are playing four quarters and not letting up.

Offensive and defensive scores for a big win.

Another Titan turnover to start the game that turned into an opponent touchdown, but it didn’t faze the team.RaidersTitans

Derrick Henry was dominating, Ryan Tannehill was accurate and distributed the ball to a number of receivers.

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Mortar guys help build another giant day for Titans' offense in runaway win in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. – The hot quarterback, the dominant running back and the rising rookie receiver were on full display for the Titans Sunday.

Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown keyed a win that got the team three games over .500 and kept it on the wonderfully steep trajectory that’s got the AFC on alert.RaidersFlameheadOak

But in the sad final days of the Oakland Coliseum, what stuck out to me was the contribution the Titans got out of second-and third-level guys on the ever-expanding offense.

“They’re proving to be an all-round hard to deal with offense,” Jon Gruden said. “They have shown it on tape and they again put an exclamation point out here.”

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Scout's Take: Raiders' young talent can be exposed by Titans

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Both teams need a win, but the Raiders can’t afford a loss.

The Titans need to continue to focus on the run game with Derrick Henry to allow the play-action to work.HenryRunAway

This will be the game plan for the rest of the season.

The Raiders personnel is young in a lot of areas and can be exposed. The Raiders start to rookie defensive ends in Clelin Ferrell (first-round) and Maxx Crosby (fourth-round), Trayvon Mullen (second-round), Josh Jacobs (first-round).

The defensive line is a strength of the Raiders defense, while the linebackers are the weakness.

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Yazoo Podcast: Ryan Tannehill and analytics talk with Ben Baldwin

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  -- Twitter is loaded with great accounts that teach me analytical outlooks, ever-adjusting the way I look at football.

One of them, Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, titles his account "new-age analytical." He joined me for this week's edition of the podcast and we delved into a bunch of stuff that will likely perk your ears up.PodcastYazooArtSquare

After I talk a bit about the Titans-Raiders matchup, I quizzed Ben on several areas where he doesn't buy into old-school, conventional thinking. We start with his belief that Aaron Rodgers has been an average NFL quarterback since 2017 and then move on to much that applies to the Titans.

Do teams really need to run effectively to set up play-action? Do running backs actually wear down offenses over the duration of a game? These are two long-standing football mantras that people think Derrick Henry and the Titans are plugging into, but there is evidence that suggests old beliefs need new thinking.

We also cover the extent to which a quarterback controls his own sack rate, COPE -- completion percentage over expected -- an area where Ryan Tannehill is performing off the charts and how running back production is mostly driven by their environment.

Part 1 of the podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSticher, Spotify and TuneIn as well as directly through the Vokal website. (Please subscribe and offer a nice rating!)

If you're a member of the site, Part 1 and Part 2 are together, and all you have to do is log in and head below the line. (Here's the path to membership, where there is currently a great Cyber sale.)

You can find the history of this site's podcasts that require membership right here.

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Of course the Titans will be able to afford both Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the Titans prepare for a crucial game in Oakland, a lot of the conversation about them centers on the future of the two guys who have keyed the team’s resurgence.

Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry do not have contracts beyond this season, and paydays await them, with the Titans or elsewhere.TannehillFistChiefs

I’ve heard a lot of people wondering about the economics of keeping both, so let’s run through that.

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