A massive hole was left for the Tennessee Titans offensive output in the first quarter of the season.
Delanie Walker is an irreplaceable talent for many reasons and Rishard Matthews replacements were on the roster, but still aren’t where the team needs them to be.
Matthews played in 33 regular season games as a Titans receiver. He accumulated 1,751 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. That equates to an average of around 53 yards per game.
Walker has played in double the amount of games and is highly productive. He has amassed 4,208 yards, 26 touchdowns, averaged a little over 62 yards per game and was Marcus Mariota’s most dependable set of hands.
Outside of Corey Davis’ breakout game against the Philadelphia Eagles, this Titans team hasn’t come close to replacing the production of Matthews or Walker.
OC Matt LaFleur has done well in alleviating the production loss over the first month of the season. However, the lack of threatening weapons finally showed up against Buffalo.
LaFleur aimed to get the passing game going early - but a turnover in the Titans own territory set up a seven point Josh Allen touchdown that weighed heavily in determining the outcome.
A running game lacking rhythm and balance has proven to be a difficult wrinkle to iron. Without a semi-productive ground attack, defenses are showing little to no respect of Titans pass catchers outside of Davis - at least the Bills defense didn’t.
Jonnu Smith is seasons away from reaching the level of production Walker had - and had Walker still been available, the team could afford to be patient.
But - the Titans need Smith to produce now and it starts with repairing the trust with Mariota.
Whether or not Mariota avoided Smith in favor of Nick Williams on that game-defining play because he lacked trust is a mystery. Mariota explained it was the coverage he observed that influenced him to read through his progressions. LaFleur echoed the same in an interview conducted today regarding the play.
A report surfaced via social media of Smith staying after practice catching footballs, which at least show he’s making an extra effort. Bringing up Anthony Firkser to the active roster also served as a push.
Klutz to Clutch
Drops. Drops. Drops.
This has plagued this group of pass catches even dating back to last season. It’s also taken stats off the paper that would show the true level of production Mariota should have.
The Titans have yet to make a big splash sign or trade, but if lack of production from people outside of Davis continues it’s likely Jon Robinson tries to make a move if he hasn’t already.
Mariota has been putting the ball exactly where it needs to be. Yes, he’s made a few misreads and tossed a few errant passes he’d like to take back. However, he is still throwing catchable footballs. The receiveing weapons have to avoid butterfinger moments.
The group will have a chance at redemption, but the Baltimore Ravens defense won’t make it easy.
If Mariota drops dimes but the receivers can’t hold on to the football, looking around the league is something that has to happen.