Even after an impressive comeback win, there are a lot of concerns surrounding the Tennessee Titans.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Tennessee Titans got the job done on Sunday, defeating the New York Jets. Despite the positive end-result, the game was not an entirely positive effort for Tennessee.
In sinking to an early deficit and staying behind for most of the game, the Titans highlighted a number of the weaknesses that they’ve shown throughout the season.
The game itself was rather reminiscent of the Titans’ season as a whole. It was full of ups and downs, with said ups ultimately reigning supreme over the downs.
Only one time all day did the Titans convert a third down, and the defense allowed plenty of easy throws to Jets backup quarterback Josh McCown.
Of course, though, a win is better than a loss. The Titans still face a steep hill to climb when it comes to earning a spot in the postseason, but winning out would almost certainly allow them to continue playing games in January.
If the Titans hope to overcome the odds and earn a playoff berth, there are a lot of things that need to be cleaned up. They didn’t get themselves into this tough spot without making mistakes along the way, and many of those mistakes almost cost the team a game against the Jets, who fell to 3-9 with the loss.
Mariota discusses what he saw when he threw an ugly interception in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/FLOL04IXhR
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) December 3, 2018
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the undeniable leader of the Titans’ locker room. He may be quiet, but the few words he speaks pack a punch.
His volume comes on the field, where he can be deadly in clutch situations. Against the Jets, he turned on his jets (pun absolutely intended) to lead the Titans offense down the field for a go-ahead and ultimately game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
During that drive, Mariota ran for 25 yards and threw for 39, ultimately finding receiver Corey Davis near the end zone for the score.
But, as with almost everything for the Titans, Mariota’s day featured plenty of negatives to go along with the positives. Early in the game, he threw a pick six on an ugly pass intended for receiver Cameron Batson.
“I was high in protection, and it was just a mistake,” said Mariota of the interception. “I can’t be throwing a hot route blind, you know? You’ve got to see what’s going on in front of it.”
Throughout the game, Mariota’s technique caused a lot of problems. He threw a bevy of passes off of his back foot, leading to many inaccurate throws. He also missed a wide-open Taywan Taylor in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter for what would have been a 50-yard touchdown.
Mariota has had a nice season overall in 2018. He’s really bounced back from his turnover-filled campaign last year, and he has guided the Titans to some key wins.
The next step for him, though, is mastering the art of consistency. Inconsistency has plagued Mariota throughout his entire career, and the Titans will continue to be volatile as long as his personal play remains so.
Poor play up front
Vrabel on the decision to shakeup the offensive line. pic.twitter.com/hvIWWF6M7I
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) December 3, 2018
Perhaps contributing to Mariota’s inconsistency is the poor protection he is receiving from his offensive line. Unfortunately for the Titans, allowing Mariota to get pressured is one thing that they are very consistent at.
Things in that regard got so bad against the Eagles that head coach Mike Vrabel decided to shake things up. He removed left guard Quinton Spain from the game, moved center Ben Jones over to his spot, and replaced Jones in the middle with second-year player Corey Levin.
Asked why he made that change, Vrabel didn’t say much. “I’m just trying to make decisions that are best for the football team where I see fit. Whether that be in any position, plays, or schedule, I try to do my best just to make the decision with the team’s best interest in mind.”
That change didn’t do much of anything, as Mariota continued to constantly have pressure in his face for pretty much the entire second half. The right side of the Titans offensive line, featuring guard Josh Kline and tackle Jack Conklin, continued to be a major weakness for the team.
Obviously, the Titans will not be able to execute any major personnel shakeups at the point in the season, and they will have to address this position once March and April roll around. That means that the guys currently in there will have to turn things around.
Even if the Titans do squeak into the playoffs, they will not go very far if the offensive line continues to play the way that it has over the last month or so.
Making it too easy
Derrick Morgan is not one of the two best OLBs on this team.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) December 2, 2018
Defensively, the Titans’ glaring weakness is up front. Their defensive linemen have continually struggled to get penetration in the run game, and their aging edge rushers are starting to look like father time has caught up.
Brian Orakpo, formerly a Pro Bowler, has not made any impact on the Titans this season. Derrick Morgan, who lines up on the other side, has made an impact, but it’s been a negative one. Against the Jets, he was constantly pushed and shoved around in the running game.
Inside, DaQuan Jones and Jurrell Casey have been performing an impressive disappearing act over the last couple of months. While Casey did register a sack against the Jets, that pair has ultimately been invisible as of late.
As a result, teams have begun to run the ball and utilize te short passing game at will against the Titans. QB Josh McCown averaged just 7.52 yards per pass completion in the game, and RB Isaiah Crowell nearly broke the 100-yard mark on 21 carries.
Because of the lack of penetration and pressure, Titans’ opponents have had easy paths to success over the last couple of weeks. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees may have to resort to more blitzing to counteract these issues.
Winning is always a positive, but the Titans win against the Jets should be taken with a grain of salt. As things stand right now, this is not a team ready to make any sort of significant playoff push.
They’ll have their first opportunity to get things turned around in just four days against their most bitter rival, the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars. A lot of things will need to be cleaned up for the Titans if they hope to build off of this win.
Cover image via Christopher Hanewinckel.