Life was good following the improbable come from behind victory against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Then, Buffalo happened.
The Titans lost a winnable road game due the offensive system over-reliance on roster bubble talent at the receiver position accompanied by a failure to have a concrete identity.
It’s fixable, but will take some reshaping of the current roster.
Counting on Practice Squad Players
I’ll admit it - I was sold on Nick Williams during the preseason and had hoped the team kept in on the final 53 heading into week one. Had it not been for an injury, it’s likely Williams would have made the team.
When Williams was brought back into the fold following Rishard Matthews unexpected divorce, I was in the camp that believed he could be a valuable asset in the right situations.
Williams had a few nice returns, but his memory with the team will be centered around running incomplete routes and THE drop that lost the game against the Bills.
However, the Titans relying on Williams in a critical situation is the real problem - and is a problem the team must correct sooner than later.
Williams and Darius Jennings both had moments where they flashed, but the body of work is reflective of players lucky to make an NFL roster.
The Titans - after losing Matthews and Delanie Walker - are now in the position where they HAVE to make a move. Patience is not a virtue in this situation.
All of the “Big Name” Free Agent receivers have found a home - with the exception of Dez Bryant. The Titans are likely not in on Bryant - as are most teams - but if Jon Robinson can’t facilitate a trade for a proven receiver, Bryant has to at least be brought in to test the fit.
There are some third or fourth round receivers on other teams that are buried under depth charts with more talent at the position. The Titans must explore those avenues.
Mariota and Davis
Chalk it up as a bad game, but the truth of the matter is that defenses will now aim to eliminate Corey Davis from the offensive game plan. Without another true threat at either the tight end or receiver position, Marcus Mariota will be forced to rely on some talent that has been unreliable.
Yes, Taywan Taylor has made a few flashy plays - but he has also dropped some big plays and has at times looked confused as to which route he should/shouldn’t run. Jonnu Smith hasn’t come close to filling in some of the void left by Walker and the fact that Mariota chose to throw to Williams as opposed to Smith speaks volumes of where their trust level is.
Mariota and Davis showed the ability to thrive on downfield connections. However, those will be minimal moving forward with teams focused on shutting Davis down.
With the running game stagnant, the Titans offense isn’t striking fear into any defense. The Bills showed other teams how to stop the Titans offense.
The Titans need to figure out how to become a feared offense. Part of that means having players that can win one-on-one match ups. Another part is having an effective ground game.
The biggest part is finding out what the identity of the team truly is.
Who Are the Titans?
OC Matt LaFleur has an idea of what he wants this team to be. However, overcoming the personnel available has reared it’s ugly head time and time again.
So many points have been left of the field week to week. This can’t happen.
Juggling the workload between Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis has created an offense that fails to find a rhythm. If the running backs can’t get it going on the ground, the one dimensional passing offense won’t work - especially if the receivers continue to drop catchable balls.
Henry looked better in Buffalo. He remains a volume back that gets better the more he touches the ball. The problem is the offense isn’t explosive enough through the air to make it easier to give Henry more carries.
LaFleur has overcome personnel issues over the last five weeks - but it’s slowly hindering the development of his offensive system - thus preventing any kind of identity from being establish.
The Titans have to fix this. I’m not pounding the table for Bryant to be signed - but having Bryant lined up in the red zone offense could create opportunity for Davis, Taylor and the other wide outs.
Either way - the Titans needs somebody.
The “somebody” this team needs isn’t a practice squad player on our team or another. It’s somebody that has been in big time games, been apart of big time moments and whose body of work doesn’t include a laundry list of teams they’ve been cut from before the season starts.
A proven pass catcher (or two) will help right the ship.