Titans: Mariota, Passing Game, Have Issues All The Way Around

The Tennessee Titans started the season on a high note, knocking off the much-hyped Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. The offense looked lively and the defense looked ferocious. After that game, the Titans fell back down to Earth, as they didn’t look as good in a Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

So the question was there: which team is the real Titans squad? If Week 3 of the NFL season is any indication, they could be leaning more towards the team that showed up in Week 2, as the Titans lost on Thursday Night Football to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-7.

The defense played hard as they usually do and kept the Titans in the game as much as they could. Offensively, however, the Titans have some issues to work out and the main issue is their passing game.

Marcus Mariota ended the game with 304 yards passing but most of that was when the game had essentially got away from the Titans and the Jaguars were playing soft pass coverage. The guy catching the most flack for the passing game is Mariota, and deservedly so.

He missed Delanie Walker when he was open for a touchdown, underthrowing the football. He missed Adam Humphries on what could have been a big gain earlier in the game. And there were some plays on Thursday night where he just held on to the football too long or didn’t set his feet to make throws.

Those issues are something he has to deal with and should be better about at this point in his career. While Mariota does have to shoulder some blame in the passing game, the offensive line and wide receivers have to bear some blame as well.

The Titans have given up a 17 sacks this season (nine last night alone) and some of that blame needs to go to the offensive line. Mariota can throw the football but it’s hard to throw it when as soon as you finish your dropback you’re being swarmed. Sure, Mariota needs to improve but this offensive line definitely needs to be better than what they have been.

Calais Campbell was doing whatever he wanted with the interior of the Titans offensive line. When there are linemen being pushed back into the quarterback causing the quarterback to trip over him and when there are offensive linemen running towards Mariota instead of blocking someone, then there’s more of an issue there than just the quarterback.

The only suggestion at this point would be shorter routes and a quicker passing game. Even though offensive tackle Taylor Lewan will be back after the fourth game from suspension, the offensive line will still have issues with protection.

While the offensive line is getting some blame, the wide receivers need some as well. While everyone may think the quarterback is the only one reading the defensive coverages, so are the wide receivers and the tight ends. This was very evident in several instances on Thursday night.

Mariota threw a ball to Corey Davis and it looked like it was an errant pass. What really happened is Davis did not read the coverage. Davis stopped running and sat down on the right side of the field when Mariota read the coverage and expected him to keep running.

The play could have been a big gain for the Titans but unfortunately it was just another missed opportunity in the passing game. Another instance was when Tajae Sharpe was running a double move and went straight up the field. Mariota was expecting Sharpe to fade towards the sideline when he just kept running up the field, a little outside the left hashmark.

Instead of a big play, it was another incomplete pass. The receivers have to be aware of the coverages and pay attention to the little nuances and above all, be on the same page as the quarterback.

The Titans need to figure out their passing game and figure it out fast. Without it, they will have teams stacking the box against Derrick Henry the entire season like Jacksonville did on Thursday night (17 carries for 44 yards). The offensive issue may have to do with Mariota but he surely isn’t the only issue with this team in the passing game.

It will be interesting to see what adjustments Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith makes in ten days. Some are already calling for back up Ryan Tannehill but replacing the quarterback isn’t the only answer for their issues.

Mike Patton

Nashville, Tennessee

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