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On the Titans Offense: The No-Huddle Doesn't Mean No Running

Remember that 99-yard TD drive Sunday? The Titans should follow that path in the upcoming weeks.

Bob Levey

It's commonly thought that the no-huddle is best for passing teams, as the up-tempo style doesn't fit with a ground-and-pound offense. I thought so too, until I saw this:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>NFL&#39;s run-heaviest offenses so far: 1. Titans (44% pass) 2. Seahawks 3. Buccaneers 4. Eagles 5. Bills</p>&mdash; Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) <a href="">September 16, 2013</a></blockquote>

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Right there at No.4 comes the the Philadelphia Eagles, making waves in the NFL for their desire to quicken the pace on all offensive downs. Looking at their stats, it is pretty clear that they are successful right now at running the ball even though they run a no-huddle offense. Chip Kelly's squad is second in rush yards per game (176) and fourth in yards per attempt (5.1). They are third in attempts (which helps bulk numbers), but clearly their run game is clicking. Consider that the two teams ahead of Philly in attempts, the Titans (1st) and Seahawks, sport 3.1 and 3.3 yard per carry averages, respectively.

The Bills are the fifth-most run-oriented offense in the NFL. They are fourth in rushing yards early this season, fifth in attempts and ninth in yards per carry. When new head coach Doug Marrone was hired he expressed a desire to run a no-huddle offense in Buffalo and he's done that frequently in two games.

This post isn't meant to delve deep into Chip Kelly's or Doug Marrone's offense with their new teams. The no-huddle helps out their offenses, but there are a variety of reasons why their rushing numbers are so good. Rather, what those stats from the Tweet above indicate is that you can be a running team and still be an up-tempo team.

This is important because the Titans should be attempting to harness the offensive potential they flashed on that long touchdown drive in Houston. The offense was stalling all day. The run game was struggling to break through and the passing game couldn't get in sync. Then the offense got aggressive, ran a no-huddle offense and suddenly the Titans were picking up yards in chunks.

To be clear, not all of that success is a result of the no-huddle (the playcalling opened up, Locker operated out of shotgun, etc. ). Still, the offensive flash we saw Sunday needs to be evaluated a little more closely. If something worked, and worked well, it needs to be tested for long-term success. The drive itself doesn't give us a lot of information on the run game. The Titans ran only once on that series, a 15 yard pickup by Chris Johnson. Most of the yards were in the air, as Jake Locker was 6/7 for 68 yards and capped it off with a touchdown strike.

That success shouldn't be much of a surprise if you consider the advantages a no-huddle offense provides. They've been discussed frequently on the site. Here is an important quote from an old SmartFootball article:

Modern defenses want to match offenses in terms of strength and speed via personnel substitutions. They also want to confuse offenses with movement and disguise. The up-tempo no-huddle stymies those defensive options. The defense doesn't have time to substitute, and it's also forced to show its hand: It can't disguise or shift because the quarterback can snap the ball and take advantage of some obvious, structural weakness. And when the defense is forced to reveal itself, Tom Brady can change into a better play. The upshot of this tactic: Brady, of all people, sees defenses that are simpler than those most other NFL quarterbacks go up against.

The offense Munchak and Loggains have put in place is designed to help protect and shield Locker from having to do too much early on his career. The counterpoint to this is that we could have him face easier defenses with one simple change. This gives him easier reads and allows him to execute quicker.

So, we know that the Titans can run the ball. We also know that it's easier to pass the ball when running a no-huddle offense. It would be a tremendous advantage to combine those two and make a balanced yet explosive offense. This doesn't even have to a complete change either. Plenty of teams use a no-huddle offense to attack the defense at various times throughout the game, rather than running it all the time.

This one change could very well have a huge impact offensively going forward if the Titans implement it more frequently.