The Tennessee Titans have completed the first quarter of the NFL season, and while 2-2 is not a bad spot to be in, the team has been inconsistent.
Just like in any business (or high school) we’re giving the Titans quarterly reports all season. We will go position by position giving grades that we feel fit the performance. Austin will take the offense and Zach will take the defense.
Quarterly Titans grades brought to you by Kona Ice Music City!
Offense – 2017 First Quarter
2017 was a highly anticipated season for third year QB Marcus Mariota because he drastically improved in his second year and was coming of a broken leg that he spent most of the offseason rehabbing from.
In 2016, Mariota started slow and the Titans started slow to a 1-3 record. While one win better than a year ago, Mariota has again started slow and is dealing with a hamstring strain. His numbers are “down” from last season’s first quarter: 792 passing yards compared to 925, three passing touchdowns compared to four. His three interceptions this year are down from five last year.
Mariota’s team-leading three rushing TDs are surprising, however, that’s how the hamstring injury occurred. The hamstring should get better, and Mariota might even play against the Dolphins this week.
But, the main thing that MUST get better is Mariota and the offense’s start to games. The offense has gone 3-and-out ELEVEN times in the first QUARTER of the first four games this season (including Mariota’s INT against Houston). That’s clearly unacceptable.
— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) September 26, 2017
Even with the slow start, the Titans are 9th in the NFL with 25 points per game. Against the Texans last week, the slow start burned the Titans.
(I’m not gonna grade Matt Cassel’s second half against Houston. We all know how that went.)
This was a tough grade to give.
On one hand, the offensive line has done a great job of protecting Mariota, who has only been sacked twice. On that same hand, the Titans rush offense is ranked 6th in the NFL, averaging 138 yards per game.
On the other hand, it’s really been feast or famine for the running game. In the two wins the Titans averaged 187 yards on the ground. In the two loses, they’ve averaged just 97 yards.
The big O-Line has a good bit to do with the slow starts, as well. Three-and-outs have followed the script of an incomplete pass or short run on first down, a short run on second down, and a failed conversion on third and long… punt. Even in both big rushing performances, it wasn’t until the third quarter before the running game got into a rhythm.
In what is a surprise to most, DeMarco Murray (42) only has three more carries than Derrick Henry (39) through the first four games. Yes, Murray dealt with a hamstring issue the first couple of games, but I don’t think many expected the carries split to be this tight.
Both guys have been effective in different games. Both backs are averaging over 4.5 yards per carry, with Murray over 5ypc. Murray busted the big 75 yard TD against the Seahawks that was a winning-moment in a statement game.
— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) September 24, 2017
The main issue again is the consistency – feast or famine. Overall, I like how both backs are being used. And the Titans are getting creative in the run game having five different players with rushing scores, thus far – Murray, Henry, Jalston Fowler, Delanie Walker and Mariota (3).
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Man, if only Corey Davis was healthy…
The Titans obviously have the best groups of outside weapons in a long time, maybe since the team moved to Tennessee.
Rishard Matthews is on pace to hit the 1,000 yard mark. Delanie Walker has been huge, converting first downs on 77-percent of his catches. In fact, Walker needs to have more than the team-leading 18 catches he has. While Eric Decker isn’t putting put big numbers (12 catches, 8.7 yds per catch) you can see that he could become a reliable target down the road.
The two rookies who are playing have show flashes of stud-like ability. WR Taywan Taylor has lined up all over the field and has five catches for 72 yards and four rushing attempts for 21. Fans continue to be excited about the ways Taylor will be used in the future. TE Jonnu Smith has three career catches and two touchdowns. Not a bad ratio. He’s showed off speed in the open field, but his blocking has been impressive, too.
— Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) September 17, 2017
Grade: WRs – B / TEs – A
Overall Offensive Grade: B+
Defense – 2017 First Quarter
Interior Defensive Line
The interior line has been average through four games this season. An ego check came Jurrell Casey’s way in week 1 when Marshawn Lynch trucked #99 in what was essentially a live Oklahoma drill.
Casey has since battled back from that moment, tallying one sack and helping out in run stops.
Sylvester Williams signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract in the offseason and has only played 30% of the defensive snaps through the Titans first four games. The majority of burden falls on the interior defense when it comes to stoping the run and Tennessee is 21st in that category.
This has been a highlight through four games even though the sack numbers are down, the pressures have been up. Derrek Morgan is following up his career year in 2016 with three sacks already. His counterpart, Brian Orakpo, has one sack and is doing a good job of making opposing tackles work from when the ball is snapped. I’ve also been impressed with the addition of Erik Walden, coming in from Indy on such short notice.
It’s been a tall task the last two weeks containing the scrambling abilities of Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. Both had success statistically but that wasn’t due to the pass rush not doing their job.
One of the best players on defense through the first part of the season has been linebacker Wesley Woodyard. He leads the team with 36 total tackles and doesn’t run or tackle like an aging 31 year old veteran. Woodyard has given a spark to the middle of the defense and is waiting for his counterpart, Avery Williamson, to get back to form. It’s been a slow start to the year for Williamson who is in his contract year. It hasn’t been a bad start to 2017 for Williamson, it’s just not what the Titans are use to.
Jayon Brown has come in and done exactly what he was drafted to do. The speedy inside backer is good in pass coverage and has been used quite a bit due to the amount of times opposing offenses have passed on the Titans. He will continue to improve as the season progresses.
By far the worst part of this football team. It didn’t help that newly acquired veteran safety Jonathan Cyprien went down in week one with a hamstring injury. Logan Ryan has been late in coverage that has resulted into points. Week one, he arrived late and let Seth Roberts score a touchdown to extend the lead to two scores.
It’s not what you expected from the $30 million he was promised this offseason.
Leshaun Sims has been about what we expected from a second year player. Adoree Jackson has shown flashes of shutdown corner ability but has also made mistakes, like the 42 yard pass interference penalty against Houston that resulted into seven points.
But the reason the secondary has struggled so much is the scheme. Putting Brice McCain on DeAndre Hopkins is an absolute joke. Hopkins wins that matchup every day of the week. The adjustments should come in the matchups. If those improve, the defense will improve as a whole.
Overall Defensive Grade: C-
Featured Image – Don Jones, TitansOnline