Belated thoughts from a trip to Nashville

Last Sunday, I made my annual pilgrimage to LP Field to see the Titans play.  Unlike my previous three times seeing the Titans, in Indianapolis last December, against Houston in Week 2 last year, and the playoff game against the Ratbirds, they came away with that 38-13 victory.  Rather than writing a true recap post, I thought I’d give a list of various things I noticed and have seen about the game:

1. I’d planned to write a detailed post on CJ’s long touchdown run.  Fortunately, by waiting to write this post, I can instead point you to this video segment from NFL Network’s Playbook show.  It’s better than what I would’ve written.

2. Alternatively, or maybe in addition to, writing about CJ’s long touchdown, I’d planned to write about Nate Washington’s long touchdown reception.  Again, I’ve been preempted by NFL Network’s AFC Playbook show, with this outstanding video segment.  Also in that video is a great breakdown of the third post I wanted to write, how the Titans were able to bring pressure with their defensive line.

3. One thing about the Washington TD not mentioned on Playbook: when running the bootleg, the Titans normally have the outside wide receiver to the bootleg side run the deep comeback.  That gets a little stale after a while, and cornerbacks were starting to sit on the comeback and not respect the deep route; Josh Wilson’s interception against VY in Week 1 of the preseason was a good example of this.  They may have to hit a go route with Gage, but Washington’s TD will help open up the deep comeback for the next 4 weeks.

4. FO colleague Doug Farrar also wrote about the two touchdowns, including talking to CJ.  Nothing hugely insightful, but still worth a gander.

5. Without that long run, CJ only had 26 carries for 66 yards.  That ugly yards per carry number actually somewhat understates his true value, since 12 of those 26 runs were actually successful.  That’s pretty much right in line with how he did last year and my expectations for this year as outlined in this post.

6. Worry nary a whit about Kenny Britt’s complete lack of production.  As Fisher pointed out in the post-game presser, the Titans only attempted 17 passes.  Even further, the Raiders seemed to primarily be matching up Nnamdi Asomugha against Britt when Kenny was in the game.  Guideline when playing the Raiders: find Asomugha in coverage, throw the guy to ball he’s not covering.

7. I don’t think Damian Williams was in offensively for a single play.  One thing I get out of going to games is a better look at just how big or small players are.  Williams clearly fits into the shrimp variety of Titans wideouts along with Nate Washington.

8. Williams active over Hawkins was certainly a surprise to me when I heard it, but the returner logic makes sense.  Heimerdinger also doesn’t like to rotate his wideouts and doesn’t often play 4 wide receiver sets, so the Titans weren’t hamstrung positionally by Williams and Mariani’s rookie status.

9. The beneficiary of the reluctance to use the two rookie wide receivers on offense looked to me like Jared Cook.  Functionally, his role this season will probably be primarily as essentially a slot receiver.

10. I don’t have anything to say about the strip sack Kamerion Wimbley got against Michael Roos-there’s probably some technical aspect of his play that was wrong, but I don’t know enough about line play to speak intelligently on it.

11. You still see plenty of non-current player jerseys at LP Field with Vanden Bosch and Bulluck now joining McNair and George among the most popular, but Raiders fans have to wear more non-current player jerseys than any other fans in the league.  I saw Kenny Stabler, Cliff Branch, Charles Woodson, Bo Jackson, Larry Brown, Howie Long, John Matuszak, George Blanda, and Fred Biletnikoff.  Alas, I didn’t see any Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, or Jim Otto jerseys, showing once again offensive linemen jerseys are underrated even by diehards.

12. The Titans blitzed more than I expected them to, including more linebacker blitzes than they’d shown in the past.  I’m not sure how much of that will be sustained, and how much of it was a product of facing the Raiders.

13. Jason Campbell is a horrible fit for that offensive line and the traditional Raider attack centered around the deep pass.  Campbell has terrible pocket presence and check downs or scrambles much too readily.  Sliding short of the first down like he did also isn’t a way for him to endear himself to a new team.

14. The Raiders seemed to be using Michael Huff to spy CJ early in the game as part of their strategy of overloading the box.  Huff has frequently been a disaster of a play for the Raiders, especially as a single high safety, but seemed to do well in that defined role.

15. Jamie Winborn started at OLB rather than Colin Allred, though Allred also played some (I noticed him in midway through the second quarter, though I didn’t keep good track of how much each played).

16. The Raiders’ best weapon in the passing game last year was TE Zach Miller, and with Campbell’s checkdown tendency, I expected him to have a good game.  Didn’t happen, as the Titans seemed to give Miller a lot of attention, primarily with Will Witherspoon, who had a very strong game.

17. The flipside of that focus on Miller was it opened up space for Darren McFadden.  Tulloch tried, but simply couldn’t match him.  There’s a reason McFadden was a very high draft pick, but Sunday’s game didn’t assuage my fears about Tully’s coverage ability.

18. A couple points I mentioned during the game that ended up in Audibles on FO: (a) the Titans ran what I call the counter option three times in the first half, which I believe is more than they ran it in any single game last season; and (b) on Ringer’s TD run, Stevens motioned into the backfield to create a full house look, which is something the Titans didn’t show more than a couple times last season.

I have a couple more points, but more along the nonsense that made up much of my 50 thoughts from the Indianapolis game, so I’ll spare you those.

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