If fans would have been told the Titans 2018 offense would be without Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews, what would the reaction have been?
Some may have balked. Some might have rolled their eyes and scoffed. Some may have curled up in the fetal position and looked onward towards the 2019 season.
But not this Titans team.
HC Mike Vrabel, OC Matt LaFleur and DC Dean Pees have gained the trust of the fan base after earning back to back division wins against the Texans and Jaguars. The coaching staff adjusted to the personnel available and secured an early lead in the race for the AFC South Crown.
How can this team continue to improve if players - injury or otherwise - continue to have an impact on what the roster looks like week to week? What they’ve already done - adapt and react.
Marcus Mariota entered the game following the Malik Jackson K.O. of Blaine Gabbert and performed better than many expected. Maybe the better answer is he performed better than we were led on to believe he would.
Mariota’s leaned on his legs and savvy to pick up yards and keep the Jaguars defense off balance. He also made a few plays with his arm.
Taking the reins of a new offense with second year weapons at his disposal, Mariota made it work. He didn’t set the world on fire - but he did make plays when he needed to and was efficient in establishing clock-chewing drives that helped win a football game on the road against a tough division opponent.
The Titans host Philly Sunday, and Mariota no longer has Matthews on the roster. However, Matthews was essentially a non-factor outside of filling in as a returner up until this point of the season.
Mariota has already praised and given respect to his receiving group. He has also expressed confidence in the young pass catchers to get the job done. The trust building will really be set into motion Sunday.
Davis the Leader of the Pack
Corey Davis has shown flashes of what he can do in this offense. His counterpart, Taywan Taylor has also shown what he is capable of doing if he can get on the field in some capacity.
Davis and Taylor have combined for 20 receptions and 213 yards with the only touchdown belonging to the latter. That figure is something one would expect one receiver to have three games into the season - not two.
However, it’s important to understand the context. The quarterback situation has been streaky over the first three weeks. Factor in the difference in personnel across the offensive line and you have some offensive hiccups that are difficult to work through.
The receivers will head into the game against the Eagles hungrier than ever before because they now know with Matthews gone, their time is now.
Both Davis and Taylor should benefit from the offensive line stabilizing with the likely return of Jack Conklin. It should provide Mariota with a little more time in the pocket to feed the receivers the targets they need to advance their game.
Catching the ball is critical. Taylor could already be at two touchdowns for the season as he dropped a dime from Mariota. Davis could’ve had a touchdown in the opener had Mariota seen him in time. But that’s the past, this team is zeroed in on the future.
With laser focus in knocking off the defending Super Bowl Champions, the future is now.
The future is Davis and Taylor.