For the first time in 2016, the Titans delivered an offensive performance to get excited about. It came against one of the worst defensive units in football, but it was something to build off of regardless. I dug into the all-22 and came away impressed with a handful of players, along with offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie. Below are a few thoughts from the film.
Murray continues to the the center point of this offensive attack. He does everything for the Titans and I'm not real sure where this offense would be without him. Murray was a complete steal by Jon Robinson this offseason, despite criticism from the national media. He's been worth every penny so far.
His craftiness, vision and wiggle stood out on Sunday. His ability to shed tacklers has been a huge upgrade over last season's backs. Murray totaled 12 broken tackles in 27 attempts on Sunday against the Dolphins, per PFF.
This offensive line is working well together, but Murray's elusiveness and tough running between the tackles has brought the rushing attack to another level.
This was my favorite run against Miami. Not to pick on anyone, but if this were any of the backs from last season this play is stopped in the backfield. Instead, Murray puts a nasty spin move on the first defender and breaks free. My favorite part of the run is how Murray finishes it off. He doesn't run out of bounds -- he drops his shoulders and runs through a defensive back for a few more yards.
For the first time all season, I thought the receivers stepped up for Marcus Mariota. Part of Mariota's early season struggles have a lot to do with the caliber of his receivers. They just weren't separating or making plays for their quarterback.
That changed against Miami. Delanie Walker was up first. He gets behind the linebackers in zone coverage and comes free. Mariota gets pressure right up the middle, but still is able to read Walker coming open. He gets what he can on the ball, but puts Walker in danger with the safety closing in. Walker makes the catch and absorbs the hit. From time to time, you just need your playmakers to step up for you as a quarterback.
The other example that I wanted to highlight came from Rishard Matthews. It was the touchdown that sealed the game for the Titans, but it didn't come easy. I thought Mariota panicked a bit here with pressure bearing down on him. He floats one up to Matthews, forcing him to go up and get it. Matthews high-points it just before the defender can knock it away.
The staff appears totally fine with rolling out Johnson, Sharpe and Matthews on a week to week basis. Kendall Wright isn't a part of this offense quite yet. I'm not sure if he's rusty or in Robiskie's dog house. He only played 28 percent of the snaps against Miami, actually down from the 37 percent he posted against Houston the week before. Keep an eye on this situation -- Mariota could really use a focused, full strength Kendall Wright coming out of the slot.
Mariota didn't light up the yardage column against the Dolphins, but he played an efficient and dynamic game. For the first time all season long, I didn't feel like he was pressing. He took what was in front of him and didn't force things that weren't there. There were some accuracy issues here and there, but overall it was easily his best game of the season.
Mariota didn't start hot, but he got there quickly. He took advantage of a poor Miami secondary, capitalizing with quick strikes. Later in the first half, Robiskie dialed up this "stick and nod" play to Delanie Walker. Walker runs a pretty good route and Mariota lays it on him in between two defenders.
We didn't see much happening down the field in this game because the Titans were gashing Miami up front. However, we did get this shot to Tajae Sharpe. It fell incomplete, but I thought it was a good ball from Mariota. This one falls on Sharpe, who doesn't locate the football in the air. He had room to work to the sideline and separate himself, but he wasn't able to find the ball. This is a little nuance that will come in time as Sharpe grows with Mariota.
I really enjoyed Robiskie's approach with Mariota this week. He ran a handful of plays that maximized Mariota's athletic ability. I thought the read options in particular were a nice contrast to the straight forward rushing attack with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. He used misdirection sparingly, but in good spots. The first Mariota touchdown run was a good example of that.
Here's a look at a read option from the first half. It came during a span of DeMarco Murray runs, so the defense was keying in on the inside run. Mariota sees the end crash and takes off.
There's no reason not to use his athletic ability more. Mariota is such a dynamic talent -- why not utilize him? I think the staff pushed for him to use his legs when he could after a couple of missed opportunities last week in Houston. When there was green in front of him, Mariota took of and didn't hesitate.
It led to his best offense performance of the season. He carried the ball 7 times for 60 yards, proving to be a problem for Miami to contain. A few were designed runs, but most were scrambles. I hope to see more of this going forward, if nothing else just to give defenses something else to worry about.
The game in Miami went as it should. Tennessee was the better team and it showed. Maybe Robiskie and Mariota can use it as a springboard going into another favorable matchup with Cleveland. If Robiskie can walk that fine line of getting Mariota in rhythm while still running the ball effectively, the Titans could turn out to have a formidable offense. This was just a step, but it was nice to see some progress after a tough first four weeks.