Mailbag: Titans facing top defenses

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – We open this week’s mailbag with a bit of context that should, maybe, make us feel better about the state of the Titans offense.

Through seven games this year, the Titans faced five top 11 defenses --Cleveland, Jacksonville, Seattle, Miami and Houston. Tennessee played two bottom-10 defenses.TitansAccountability 1

Through seven games a year ago, the Titans faced two top 10 defenses --Minnesota and Houston. Tennessee played five bottom-11 defenses.

I’m not apologizing for the poor offensive showing, just providing a piece of context for it.

Baltimore was 18th before shutting out the Dolphins Thursday night. After that the Titans have Cincinnati (fifth) and Pittsburgh (second). Five of the final six opponents are outside the top 10 right now, with three 24th or lower.

If the Titans get where they want to go, odds are they will face a good defense there. Regardless of opponent, the offense needs to find more consistency.

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Three things I'd like to see from the Titans after the bye

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Three things I’d like to see the Titans do on offense moving forward:

Go up-tempo: A year ago the Titans would jump into a no-huddle option as a periodic changeup, which they felt like could jump start things when they go flat.TitansLogoGlass

Where has that been this year?

“We talked about it (in Cleveland), we talk about it every game, it's part of our scheme,” Mike Mularkey said. “We felt like we didn't want to go into it (against the Browns).”

Why not? Let’s see some urgency/ Let’s see an attempt to get things going when they are sputtering in the slow first halves or against a team with a clear weakness to attack (like the Browns had at cornerback).

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How much do the Titans trust Derrick Henry?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sunday wasn’t good evidence for the Derrick Henry side of the debate pitting him against DeMarco Murray.

Henry turned 13 carries into 13 yards and failed to get into the end zone on a big fourth-and-goal from the Cleveland 1.

murray vs henry cleveland

"It's the NFL, it going to be up and down," Henry said. "It's hard to win in this league. You've got to be patient, keep working and good things will happen. Every game is not going to be pretty. You're not going to have miraculous stats.”

Like the rest of the elements of the run game, Henry has been too inconsistent.

But the way Tennessee approached the run against the Browns led me to a theory:

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In discussing Titans' offensive predictability, let's use numbers that matter and show full context

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A nice info gif from @TitansTalk_ is making the round among fans as evidence for how predictable the Mike Mularkey-Terry Robiskie offense has been through seven games.

I do not disagree that the offense has been bad. No objective observer can say differently.

IMG 3367

But the graphic lacks a great deal of context. (Its authors ultimately revised it, and the new version is here.) It tells us the Titans have run 109 times on first down. But it doesn't tell us if that's a lot, or what percentage of first down plays that amounts to. Without knowing how often the Titans pass on first down, 109 runs on first down tells us nothing.

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A week after no mental errors by receivers, Rishard Matthews questioned pass distribution

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Of Marcus Mariota’s 34 pass attempts in Cleveland on Sunday, just 13 went to wide receiver, who only caught seven of them.

“We’ve got to do a better job, in my opinion, at getting us receivers more involved,” Rishard Matthews told me in the post-game locker room. “It is what it is. I don’t call the plays. We got a W, that’s all that matters."IMG 3348

Was he surprised at the number of passes throw to wideouts a week after Mike Mularkey touted the group for making no mental errors?

“Yeah as far as the distribution,” he said. “It is what it is. Sometimes you get games like that. But we definitely want to be involved more earlier, early on. But like I said, I don’t call the plays.”

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Problems need to be solved in coaches' offices while players are off during bye

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans get the entire bye week off after meeting an incentive Mike Mularkey laid out for them. The coach declined to share what that incentive was.

Injured players must remain in town, so DeMarco Murray (shoulder/hamstring) Delanie Walker (ankle bone bruise), Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring), Corey Davis (hamstring) and Quentin Spain (toe) headline that group.IMG 3342

It wasn’t clear if Marcus Mariota is on that list at this stage of his recovery from his hamstring issue.

You should have no issue with time off for this team, though even at 4-3 it has not played well.

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As most Titans trumpeted 'Any win's a good win,' one offered a more honest assessment

mdi construction barCLEVELAND – Just as their boss wants, the Titans spat back the conventional, cliched, expected answers in the locker room after a 12-9 overtime win over the woeful Browns Sunday.

I don’t hold it against the players, honestly.

Mike Mularkey says any win is a good win, it’s hard to win in the NFL, the Browns are a good team on the cusp. It’s understandable, too, that the coach wants to hear his players echo the themes.

But it’s nonsense, frankly.Titans3logos

Sure, finding a way to win it and get to 4-3 and stay atop the AFC South is significant. Sure, winning it is better than losing it. Sure, anyone with a stake in the team would happily have taken an overtime win against a bad Jaguars team on Christmas Eve last year.

The display on the shore of Lake Erie, however, showed us a team that is far, far less than it expects and claims to be.

And only one guy had the gumption to say so.

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