Since I'm really not in the mood to do the writing about Chris Johnson that an examination of the run game would entail, I decided instead to turn my attention to one of the other headaches for the Titans on offense. Yes, it's a Kenny Britt post.
I decided to go ahead and watch all of Britt's targets this year. My goal in doing so would multi-fold:
(a) See if there were patterns in how the Titans were using Britt;
(b) See just how bad Britt was at catching the ball; and
(c) Determine if there were other issues affecting Britt's performance beyond his issues catching the ball.
I ended up primarily concentrating on (b) and (c), as a better post on (a) would require going into a broader look of what the Titans are doing on offense than I wanted to get into in this post.
Normal tape caveats apply to this post. While I have the all-22 and the TV broadcast angles to see what happened, sometimes it's still hard to check on precise details. I am doing this without specific knowledge of the playcall, read, or assignment on any given play. I have some idea what the Titans are doing, less so of what defenses are trying, especially with things like pattern-recognition making it so much harder to state with any confidence what, exactly, defenses are doing. That was also kind of irrelevant to my main point, which was breaking down Britt. I don't have a good eye for technique, so there may be and probably are subtleties in stance, alignment, and hand usage I'm missing that would enrich what I write below. Content of this post is provided as-is, where-is, and void where prohibited by law. All warranties, including but not limited to the implied warranties of habitability, merchanability, and fitness for a particular purpose, are hereby expressly disclaimed to the extent permitted by applicable law. Do not pass go, and do not collect $200.
After the jump, a breakdown of each of Kenny Britt's official 23 regular season targets through Week 6 against Seattle.
Week 1-at Pittsburgh: 2 targets (1 really, I think), 1 catch, 15 yards.
1. (1Q-8:16) 1-10-TEN20 J.Locker pass short right to K.Britt to TEN 35 for 15 yards (T.Polamalu).
Aligned as the outside man in twins to the right side with Nate Washington in the slot, just outside the number. Ran a curl at 15 yards against off coverage, as Polamalu was playing deep and Washington's outside route, plus Mooney's flat route took away underneath LBs. Looks like a body catch rather than a hands one (back to defender, front of Locker). PYD 15, 0 YAC as Polamalu hits him immediately.
2. (1Q-5:50) 2-6-PIT49 J.Locker pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt [B.Keisel].
Align split left, outside the number, with the ball on the right hash and a WR stack with a wing TE to the right side (wide bunch). Taylor in press coverage, 2-deep look with a safety 20 yards off at the right hash able to provide support if needed. Actual coverage ends up looking like quarters man. I think this pass is actually intended for Wright on the crossing route as the head man in bunch. He's open 12 yards downfield in the middle of the field, but Keisel beats Levitre with an outside move and crushes Locker in motion, resulting in a throw near nobody.
Week 2-at Houston: 9 targets, 4 catches, 28 yards.
3. (2Q-12:14) 3-11-TEN6 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt.
Align reduced split to the left side, with two wide receivers to the right and split backs in the gun. CB Joseph is 9 yards off, with S Manning on the left hash 11 yards off. Runs an out-and-up, with just enough on the out cut to get Joseph to give him the room. Both Joseph and Manning run deep. On his route, Britt seems to be running angled slightly to the sidelines, as he starts up inside the numbers and is outside them when the pass is thrown. Locker's throw lands at the 48, at the numbers, and a little ahead of Britt. I think a throw that's a couple feet further outside, that doesn't force Britt to come back inside, has a chance of being a 91-yard TD. On the other hand, maybe Britt's route shouldn't have been angled like it was and he should've been on top of Manning for 6. PYD 42.
4. (2Q-7:50) 2-9-HST47 J.Locker pass incomplete short middle to K.Britt (D.Sharpton, J.Watt).
22 personnel. Aligned reduced split to the left side, Walker motions from wing right to near slot left. Texans showing a possible 3-deep look with RCB Jackson 7 yards off and to Britt's outside. Britt runs a 5-yard curl off an inside release, right into LB Sharpton's zone drop. Britt tries to work to the outside, but Locker's throw is off with Watt diving toward his legs after easily beating Warmack is too far inside. I think/hope/believe a good throw is to the outside, where Britt has leverage on Sharpton, but the pressure-influenced throw goes towards inside. Not Britt's fault in my book. PYD 5.
5. (3Q-4:01) 2-3-TEN26 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete short left to K.Britt (J.Joseph).
2×2 look out of 11 personnel, Britt aligned outside left with CB Joseph about 2 yards off him. Britt runs a 4-yard in and does a good job in the hand-fighting of getting position. He keeps running, and ends up having to catch a ball that's behind him. Impossible to say if this is a throw behind him caused by bad timing on his part, the coverage, or if he needed to stop his route instead of continuing to run. In any event, Joseph does a good job of getting his hand in the ball to disrupt the play, but this is a ball Britt could have and should have caught. PYD 5.
6. (4Q-10:45) 1-10-TEN1 J.Locker pass short left to K.Britt to TEN 7 for 6 yards (D.Sharpton) [J.Watt].
Same alignment as target #2, except this time Joseph is RCB and it's an offset I instead of a straight I (Titans seem to love play-action out of the straight I). Britt runs a similar route-not the same inside slant release, but he ends up in the same spot-5 yards downfield, covered by Sharpton. Locker has to reset, as Battle blows his block on OLB Mercilus. Britt uses the time to work outside with his leverage on Sharpton and eventually hauls in a low throw from Locker, who's has Watt (who'd beaten Warmack) bearing down on him. Well, he's given credit for hauling in a low throw, at least, as LB Joe Mays and I weren't so sure he had control. PYD 6, 0 YAC.
7. (4Q-9:48) 1-10-TEN38 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass short left to K.Britt ran ob at TEN 47 for 9 yards.
Aligned wide left, outside the numbers, with trips (not bunch) to the short right side. CB Joseph is aligned over him, a clear man look with the 2 deep safeties aligned to the offensive right and inside the left hash, respectively. Britt runs a 9-yard comeback and hauls in the throw from Locker as he goes out of bounds. Solid route, solid grab. PYD 9, 0 YAC.
8. (4Q-9:06) 2-6-TEN42 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass short left to K.Britt to TEN 46 for 4 yards (W.Mercilus).
Aligned wide left, outside the numbers, in a 1×2 look. CB Joseph is 7 yards off. With the defenders rushing, the slant is wide open. Except, what looked like a 2-deep look ends up being revealed late as perhaps Cover-3, with S Keo dropping immediately presnap. He pops Britt right after he catches the ball. Keo doesn't make the tackle, but he knocks Britt off his route enough that it gives time for the rest of the defenders to make the tackle. PYD 4, YAC 0.
9. (4Q-7:48) 1-10-HST40 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt.
Aligned wide left, outside the numbers, again, with a trips (not bunch) to the right again. Outside CBs playing well off, Texans showing 2-deep look though again Keo rotates late for more of a Cover-3 look. Britt runs an outside vertical route, one Joseph defends perfectly. No chance of a completion, and given the coverage my inclination is this ball should have gone elsewhere, like to an open Delanie Walker in the middle of the field. PYD 34.
10. (4Q-1:48) 2-10-TEN20 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass short left to K.Britt to TEN 29 for 9 yards (J.Joseph).
Aligned wide left, outside the numbers, in a 1×2 look. CB Joseph is 2 yards off. Britt runs a 10-11 yard comeback, but doesn't appear to handle the catch cleanly and doesn't appear to get possession until he's behind the sticks. Whether this route should have been a deeper one than the one in target #7 this game is an excellent question, and one I cannot answer. In either event, both plays were 9-yard gains, while the throw here presented the possibility of a first down while the one in target #7 did not. A consequential difference, as it turned out. It's possible Kenny was just screwed by the spot here, but the official had the best view of the play and I'm going to defer to his judgment. PYD 9, YAC 0.
11. (4Q-1:12) 3-1-TEN29 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete short left to K.Britt.
:(. PYD 4, YAC could have been 67.
Week 3-vs. San Diego: 5 targets, 0 catches.
12. (1Q-14:53) 1-10-TEN13 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete short left to K.Britt.
Aligned wide left, outside the numbers, with Washington in the slot in what ends up as a 2×1 look once CJ motions wide right. CB Cox is playing well off. Britt runs the short smash route against the off coverage and can't hang on. Pure, unadulterated, no excuses drop. PYD 5.
13. (1Q-:10) 1-10-SD19 J.Locker pass incomplete deep right to K.Britt (D.Cox).
Aligned wide right, outside the numbers, in a 1×2 look, with CB Cox playing 7 yards off. Even with Weddle retreating late to the middle of the field, this is a clear Britt v Cox coverage, very likely man. Britt runs a hitch-and-go. Cox doesn't really bite on the hitch and is an excellent position to battle for the deep play. You could argue this should be DPI on Cox for not getting his head around to play the ball, but I'm not buying it with a throw that forces Britt to go through Cox to make the play. Compare Hunter's TD, which I think was an easier play for him even without the push-off. Call it PYD 22 (19+3 yards deep in the end zone).
14. (2Q-8:00) 2-20-TEN46 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete short right to K.Britt.
Aligned wide right, outside the numbers, in a 1×3 look (Walker on the wing, counting him). CB Cox playing 4 yards off before retreating deeper right before the snap. Britt runs a 9 yard smash route, Locker throws a 7 yard out. One of them is wrong. PYD 7.
15. (2Q-7:56) 3-20-TEN46 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete short right to K.Britt (J.Addae). TEN-K.Britt was injured during the play.
Aligned wide right, outside the numbers, in a 1×2 set. Cox aligned 7 yards off, SD this time showing a 2-deep look, possibly quarters with both outside CBs aligned well off. Britt runs the 18-yard dig. When he goes up for the high throw, S Addae comes up and pops him, and he loses the ball when he goes to the ground. The Titans call this a drop. By Football Outsiders charting guidelines, it's a pass defensed. On this play, I lean with the FO definition, though you do want your receivers to make contested catches. PYD 18.
16. (4Q-8:18) 3-3-SD40 (Shotgun) J.Locker pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt (D.Cox).
Aligned with left, with a bunch close right. CB Cox in press position, SD in a 2-deep look, though it ends up much more Cover-3-ish after the snap. Britt gets a good outside release and has a half-step or so on Cox. It's an edge, but not enough of one to win on a good but imperfect throw from Locker under pressure from Liuget off an inside move against Levitre (who maybe should've gotten more help from Turner considering Liuget's 1-tech alignment). Yes, you'd like to see your receiver win one of these, but this is a good defensive play. PYD 28.
Week 4-vs. New York Jets. Inactive after being listed as questionable on official injury report.
Week 5-vs. Kansas City: 6 targets (5 really), 1 catch, 9 yards.
17. (1Q-2:13) 2-10-TEN31 (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short right to K.Britt (M.Cooper).
Aligned outside right in a 2×2 look, with CB Cooper in press look. As you'd expect, the Chiefs blitz Fitzpatrick empty backfield with 6 and get a free rusher, forcing a quick throw. Britt wins to the outside and has the comeback, but Fitz's pass is too far to the inside, forcing Britt to go against his momentum and through Cooper to make the play. Doesn't happen. Errant through under pressure. PYD 7.
18. (2Q-7:35) 1-10-TEN47 (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete deep right to K.Britt.
Aligned outside right on the backside of trips. Matt Hasselbeck LOVED single coverage from the 3×1 set, enhancing the Fitz-Hasselbeck parallel in my mind. Fitz gets the single coverage here and throws it deep for Kenny, who has a step on CB Cooper on the outside release. There was some hand-fighting that looked like it was beyond the 5-yard area, so possibly illegal contact, but it looked pretty mutual and the no-call is not clearly wrong. The throw is a bit too far for Kenny, who gets a hand on it, nothing more. Deep balls are tough, because timing has to be exact. I think this is an overthrow. PYD 26.
19. (3Q-7:34) 1-7-KC7 (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short left to K.Britt.
Aligned outside left in the backside of the 3×1 again. See above re backside of trips. CB Smith in press alignment. Britt gets an outside release, Fitz throws the fade stop. Smith has his left arm in position to disrupt the throw, but he doesn't actively defend it. This is a drop in my book, and a costly one in the end zone. PYD 12 or so.
20. (3Q-2:01) 1-10-KC17 (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete deep left to K.Britt.
Well, this pass is not intended for Kenny Britt. He's the outside man in a trips (not bunch) set, and the Titans fake the smoke screen to him, hoping to get outside slot man Nate Washington free in the back corner of the end zone. The Chiefs don't bite, though, and this ends up as a functional throw away.
21. (4Q-12:29) 1-10-TEN35 (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short left to K.Britt pushed ob at TEN 44 for 9 yards (E.Berry).
Back to familiar ground, aligned outside left with a bunch close right. CB Smith in press, possible 2-high coverage. Britt gets an outside release and runs a 5-yard comeback. He shakes Smith's tackle (Smith is listed at 6'3", 218, aka Tommie Campbell +20 pounds) and gets some YAC before Berry shoves him out of bounds. Good play. PYD 5, YAC 4.
22. (4Q-11:45) 3-1-TEN44 (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short right to K.Britt.
Britt aligned outside right, this time in a 2×1, with CB Cooper in press. He starts with the outside release, then crosses inside of Cooper to get open on the slant. Fitz's throw is low, and he can't haul it in. Not a perfect pass, but certainly a catchable one and a play you really want to see your wide receiver make. Drop. PYD 5.
Week 6-at Seattle: 1 target, 1 catch, 7 yards.
23. (4Q-4:42) 2-4-SEA33 (No Huddle, Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short left to K.Britt to SEA 26 for 7 yards (B.Browner).
Aligned outside left in a 1×3, this is a 7-yard comeback after an outside release against Browner's press alignment. PYD 7, YAC 0.
I don't know what to say. One of the big impressions I had is that Britt had been struggling to catch the ball, both in terms of contested catches and even the uncontested ones. I think my attempt at an objective analysis bears that out, as he has three drops even with an unexpansive definition of the term and more if you have an expansive definition like the Titans do. I think theirs is a little over-broad; not even Tony Gonzalez makes every contested catch, and he may be the best maker of contested catches in the history of the NFL. I see why they do it from an aspirational perspective, and I think the right number of contested catches to make is not the zero Britt has made.
Beyond the difficulty catching the ball, the other thing that stands out to me is the deep passes, the timing for which has been a work in progress. He's gotten a little open a few times, but they just haven't worked out. There has been one sort of exception to this I did not break down because it did not even technically sort of happen, the play against Houston after the delay of game.
The thing about both these issues is they both seem like they're instantly correctable in the right circumstances and never correctable if things aren't going right. That's what makes Britt's play this year so incredibly frustrating. You could tell me he goes 8-180-2 against the Rams as Locker comes back, and I wouldn't bat an eye. At the same time, though, it's hard to blame the Titans for giving him only 2 snaps against the Seahawks because the passing offense with him has been so darn ineffective this year (and I didn't even get into the penalties and all the other plays where he wasn't targeted).
The good news, if you want to think about it that way, is the Titans don't have a clearly wrong option in what to do with Britt in my book. They could keep throwing him out there, with the reasonable expectation that things could change at any time. They could keep him in their back pocket, hoping that they can play him extensively only after things change again. Or they can trade him, since 2013 is his list year in Tennessee and they have enough other receivers they can get by without him (keep an eye on Kevin Walter's status in this case). Naturally, while I consider all of these options reasonable ex ante, the only thing Ruston Webster, Mike Munchak, and Dowell Loggains have to do is choose one that stands up to ex post scrutiny. Good luck, gentlemen, you're going to need it.