In my last article, I looked at some positive things for the Titans as they entered their bye week. This post will address the negatives, and there have been too many of them.
The o-line, particularly the interior, hasn’t been run-blocking. Eugene Amano and Leroy Harris are each strong as an ox yet neither of them is getting a push. Michael Roos, Jake Scott and David Stewart haven’t done much better. I’m tired of hearing the chemistry excuse. This line has been together for a year and a half, since OTAs and minicamp last season. That’s far more than enough time to develop some chemistry.
How important is chemistry? Twice this year we’ve seen makeshift, patchwork lines that had issues (the Jaguars and Steelers) push the Titans defense around, so it doesn’t seem to take a whole lot of chemistry for a line to function well.
The Steelers line, which was a shambles already, lost their left guard, flipped the right guard to the left side, had a backup starting at RG and brought in a street free agent in mid-week to play right tackle against the Titans. They didn’t need chemistry to block well enough for Pittsburgh’s third and fourth-string running backs to rush for 156 yards.
As Paul Kuharsky has said on radio, maybe Mike Munchak is finally admitting there’s a problem with the line, when in response to a question about a change in personnel, he said “not yet.”
Chris Johnson is not without blame for the problems in the running game. He sure doesn’t look like the CJ of old and he’s not getting the results either. He’s been too hesitant. He’s not hitting the hole (when there is one) quickly or hitting it hard. He’s not running with authority. Too often, it’s only taken one man to tackle him, even in the open field, and I’m not seeing much second effort from him.
On the other side of the ball, the d-line is getting blown off the line of scrimmage too often. The Steelers and Jaguars running backs were consistently gaining two yards before they were touched.
Shaun Smith hasn’t been as effective as it was hoped he would be. Rookie Jurrell Casey has had his moments, but he’s inconsistent. Sen’Derrick Marks isn’t the factor you’d expect out of a second-round draft pick, especially one who’s now in his third season. A second-round draft pick in his third year should be a difference maker, a star, not a backup.
To be fair, it should be noted that while the Jags and Steelers ran all over the Titans, they fared much better against Baltimore, Denver and Cleveland.
The Titans are not getting a strong pass rush with their front four and have had to rely too much on blitzes to pressure quarterbacks.
Besides Smith, another free agent addition who hasn’t lived up to expectations is Barrett Ruud. Perhaps expectations were too high for him. Ruud wasn’t known for making plays at the line of scrimmage in Tampa and that hasn’t changed in Tennessee. He is somewhat better in pass coverage than Stephen Tulloch but not significantly more as far as I can tell.
As it has been the last two years, the safety play remains inadequate. Fortunately, with the acquisition of Jordan Babineaux, the depth is now better than it has been for years. With Chris Hope sidelined, Babs has been a welcome addition, though his play hasn’t been something to cheer about either. There’s no telling how bad things might be now if the Titans had to rely on a backup from previous teams.
You still don’t know which Michael Griffin will show up on Sundays. So far, we’ve seen more of the bad Griffin than the good one.
Most of the problems the Titans are having are more personnel-related than schematic. That’s something which good coaching can improve, but not by a lot, so many things which need fixing will remain so for the rest of the season.