The Titans offense is still figuring things out. We all expected that side of the ball to lag behind the defense early on as Matt LaFleur’s new offense got broken in. Injuries to the Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, Dennis Kelly, Marcus Mariota, and Delanie Walker have exaggerated that learning curve.
Through three weeks, we have really only seen snippets of the “real” Titans offense. Credit is due to the coaching staff for devising game plans that have resulted in wins despite having limited personnel at key spots, but it’s safe to say that 35 to 21 run to pass ratios like we saw in Jacksonville will be relatively rare when the team is healthier behind center.
So while it’s hard to take too much away from what we’ve seen to this point, there are some trends with the wide receivers that are worth considering. Totaling the numbers for each receiver through three weeks, this is what you get:
Corey Davis: 163 snaps, 24 targets, 13 catches, 151 yards, and 0 touchdowns
Taywan Taylor: 65 snaps, 10 targets, 8 catches, 62 yards, and 1 touchdown
Tajae Sharpe: 110 snaps, 6 targets, 2 catches, 31 yards, and 0 touchdowns
Rishard Matthews: 95 snaps, 6 targets, 3 catches, 11 yards, and 0 touchdowns
Davis is the clear WR1, but that’s not really a surprise. That’s what you would expect from him in his second season after being the No. 5 overall pick in 2017. He’s playing very well in all aspects of the game and I would expect the production to start to match as the offense gets more aggressive attacking down field.
However, the WR2 spot seems to be up for grabs. Tajae Sharpe started the season with a 84% snap share in Miami, but dropped to 47% in Week 2 and 39% in Week 3. Matthews has seen his snaps staying pretty steady at 52% in Week 1, 47% in Week 2, and 50% in Week 3.
Matthews figured to be a virtual lock for that role heading in to the season, but his lack of production has been pretty shocking. He had easily been the Titans best receiver the last two seasons, posting a 65 catch, 945 yard, 9 TD stat line in 2016 and then a 53 catch, 795 yard, 4 TD line in 2017. Obviously, missing valuable time during training camp while rehabbing a torn meniscus has hurt him to some degree and this could certainly be a case of a guy playing his way in to shape, but Matthews just doesn’t look like himself out there. Speed was never his game, but to my eyes he just looks a step slow right now.
Meanwhile, the player who has seen his opportunities rising is also the player that has been most productive. Taywan Taylor’s snaps have jumped from 13% in Week 1 to 41% in Week 2 to 52% in Week 3. Part of that could be game plan related as the Titans have leaned heavy on the short passing game against Houston and Jacksonville which plays to Taylor’s skill set, but there is no doubt that he is making the most of his opportunities.
Taylor could have had a really big play early against Jacksonville, but Gabbert sailed the pass high. Taylor was wide open and could have had a chance to score if the throw is catchable.
This was a really bad miss by Gabbert. Taylor is wide open and might score here if he hits him. This was also the only throw of the game to Taylor that wasn’t complete. He seems to be earning more opportunities. pic.twitter.com/Vwcya8ZWan— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) September 24, 2018
Outside of that misfire, Titans QBs were 4 for 4 for 30 yards when throwing to Taylor on Sunday, including two big 3rd down conversions.
Taylor’s speed and playmaking ability are dynamic and bring a big play threat to the field on any given snap. He was the WR2 with Davis for the majority of training camp before Sharpe suddenly passed him in the pecking order before preseason game No. 2. When Matthews returned, he slotted in above Taylor as well, but now momentum seems to have flipped. I would be surprised if we don’t see Taylor earn the second most receiver snaps for a second straight week this weekend.
With Walker out, it is going to be crucial that the Titans find some production from at least one or two receivers not named Corey Davis. Taylor has clearly been the best of the group through three weeks and I would expect his playing time to continue to trend up in the weeks ahead. Tennessee will need more from Matthews and Sharpe than what it has gotten from them to this point, but Taylor’s play early in the season is very promising.