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Pat Kirwan and the Power of Three: Who are the Titans' Three?

We need you healthy Kenny.
We need you healthy Kenny.

As America celebrated the Fourth of July, this Canadian was out searching the internet for any football articles in what is the most boring part of the offseason. I managed to stumble across an article by Pat Kirwan on offensive matchups. The premise is simple. Teams that have three players that create mismatches make it easier on the offense. It all comes down to numbers.

Teams with one or two "matchup" players can be contained, keeping scoring down. When an offense adds that third threat, defenses must roll coverage to an elite wide receiver, have a linebacker carry the tight end to the safety and bracket a running back with two underneath players. It's just not doable because it requires six defenders players to handle three offensive players. That leaves only five defenders for the other eight offensive players.

There are a variety of combinations possible, but Kirwan uses the Saints as the best example:

The ideal situation is the Saints' package. A wide receiver that requires rolled coverage along with a tight end who no linebacker and very few safeties can cover and running back who empties out of the backfield and performs like a wide receiver. The same combination also can present a solid run threat, too. The Saints provide the blueprint for an ideal three-headed monster.

The Titans can't mirror the Saints this way, but they are on their way to creating their own Big Three.

First, let's go over the WR-TE-RB combo employed by the Saints. Marques Colston's a potent deep threat with a good mix of height and speed. They have an uber-athletic tight end in Jimmy Graham, a matchup nightmare for either a linebacker or corner. Jitterbug Darren Sproles adds the final element.

Jared Cook and Chris Johnson would be needed to complete a Titans' Big Three like that. Everyone knows I'm not sold on CJ's potential to rebound this year, but that isn't a devastating blow to the offense. In fact there's good news for CJ a little lower in this post.

The Titans best bet for the triple threat is WR-WR-TE. At this point it should become obvious who those players will be:

WR Kenny Britt: He can fit the Colston role here. Corners won't be able to handle his height and speed, and double teams will be needed to prevent a barrage of deep passes. He's likely a work-in-progress this year as he comes back from injury, but coming back healthy is more important than when he comes back.

WR Kendall Wright: Wright gets the nod over Nate Washington here. Nate was a solid receiver last year, but I'd hesitate to call him a matchup nightmare. Wright will be an asset on a lot of short routes for us.

TE Jared Cook: Once again we see a lot hinging on the inconsistent play of our tight end. Cook has the athleticism to match some of the top tight ends in the league. If he can become that consistent playmaker, this offense can vault itself into the elite category.

Now we get to the good news for CJ. He will be the main beneficiary of the extra attention to the above three players. Kirwan has a scout use the Patriots as an example:

"The reason a player like Danny Woodhead up in New England can be so effective is because you have to do so much to handle [Wes] Welker, [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez. To make matters worse they just put Brandon Lloyd in the mix."

Chris Johnson is clearly a much better player than Woodhead, so consider how much these matchups help Woodhead out. Imagine Chris Johnson in the Patriots offense and you can see why things will look a lot better for him if we can successfully use three receiving threats.

For part or all of this year, our big three situation will be quite fluid. Most of the players discussed face a major challenge this year, and a big three of Nate Washington-Chris Johnson-Kendall Wright has me much less enthusiastic. Still, if the coaches can get Britt, Wright and Cook to play up to their potential, fans will see a lot of offensive firepower on Sundays.