The Washington Post has an AP article up about one of the more under-examined trends created by this iteration of the Titans during the first 10 weeks of the season. This quote pretty much says it all:
[The Titans] essentially have wasted the first quarter on offense so far this season. Roughly half of their 30 points scored in the first 15 minutes this season came in one win. They've scored zero points in the opening quarter in five games and managed only a field goal in three others. The Titans have scored one touchdown and two field goals on their opening possessions.
Rarely do you find a good NFL team that struggles that much in the first quarter, and it's even more rare to find one in the post-season. It's the reason we've watched so many games go to halftime thinking 'Geez, we just got massively outplayed, but we're still in this'.
I'm sure there are a lot of things misfiring that create this issue, but this is something Chris Palmer has to figure out how to overcome by this point in the season. That task would certainly be much easier if we could run the ball effectively, especially in the early going where CJ has been useless this year. Without an efficient running game the entire rhythm of the offense is on the shoulders of Matt Hasselbeck and a clearly not ready for primetime group of WRs.
So how do I think we fix this problem? Go with Javon Ringer early. He's undeniably a tougher and more consistent runner this year, even if the final results haven't been spectacular (he's averaging 3.4 YPC to Johnson's 3.2 YPC). He can't make up for the poor blocking in front of him, but Ringer is more likely to at least fall forward for a few yards than get dropped behind the line. If he can just do that early on for us you'd see a much more productive passing game: the difference between 2nd and 7 and 2nd and 12 is huge.
The other thing Palmer can do, and something he's done at least a few times this season, is throw to set-up the run. If they want to go out with 5 short to intermediate pass plays scripted before the first hand-off, I'm fine with that. Instead we've seen too many downs wasted in futile attempts to get CJ involved in a big way, when it's clear that he isn't a playmaker for us right now.
If the Titans are going to make a run at making that final game in Houston meaningful, fixing the first quarter futility has to start this weekend against Tampa Bay. They're even worse in the first half, and their defense is porous most Sundays.
From jump this year we wanted to see this team improve from week to week and be playing better at the end of the season. As it stands, they're running out of chances to start to turn that corner.