NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Sunday’s loss to the Bills, and heading into this week’s game against the Ravens.
Shaky Run Defense
The Titans are ranked 7th in the NFL in total defense, which isn’t too shabby. The defense is tied for 3rd in the NFL in points allowed, which is good, too. But what’s up with the run defense? The Titans are allowing 123.2 yards per game on the ground, and the Bills racked up 144 yards on the ground. It has the Titans in the bottom third (26th overall) in the league in run defense. Mike Vrabel counted 14 missed tackles against the Bills, including four on one play. The Titans have to improve here with the Ravens headed to town. Getting linebacker Wesley Woodyard back would sure help.
Titans kicker Ryan Succop was money on Sunday, converting field goals of 25, 39, 50 and 54 yards. Against the Bills, Succop reached 100 successful field goals with the Titans. In doing so, he hit the minimum number to qualify in the team record books for career accuracy. Since joining the Titans, Succop has made 103 of 118 field goal attempts. His 87.3 percent success rate puts him in first place in franchise history, topping the previous record holder, Rob Bironas, who made 85.7 percent of his attempts with the Titans. Punter Brett Kern was solid once again as well, averaging 53.0 yards on his two punts.
Quiet at Tight End
The Titans have missed veteran tight end Delanie Walker more than I even thought they would. Five games into the season, the Titans have just seven catches combined from tight ends Luke Stocker (5 catches, 63 yards) and Jonnu Smith (2-21). They’ve rarely been targeted in games, and Smith had the bad drop against the Eagles. A tight end hasn't caught a pass since Week 3. The Titans promoted Anthony Firkser from the practice squad on Monday, and he’ll bring a pass catching threat to the position. If the Titans are going be more effective as a passing offense, they’re going to need to rely on all position groups.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel has been pretty even-keeled during his Monday pressers. He hasn’t been too glowing after wins, and he hasn’t been defensive or on a rampage after losses. I think it’s a good look for the first-year head coach, who sets a tone with his players by his approach during the week, and after games. Now that doesn’t mean Vrabel doesn’t get worked up. If you saw his reaction to the questionable roughness penalty called on linebacker Kamalei Correa in Buffalo, well, you know he’s not always PG-13 with his language.
The So-So Running Game
It’s a mix of good and bad here. For starters, I thought running back Derrick Henry looked better in Buffalo. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry on his 11 attempts, and he had a run of 14 yards. Dion Lewis added a 15-yard run himself. But take away those runs and the average per carry for both guys isn’t very impressive. If the Titans are going to have consistent success on offense, they’re going to need to run the ball better. The Titans are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry – compared to 4.4 for their opponents – and that’s aided by Marcus Mariota’s 5.5-yard average. Overall, the Titans are in the bottom third (26th) in the NFL in average per carry, and just 17th overall in rushing offense. Things won't get any easier this week -- the Ravens are ranked 5th vs. the run.
I’ve been writing about linebacker Jayon Brown among the standouts since May. Brown continues to play at a high level for the Titans, and he now leads the team in tackles with 38. He’s also recorded two sacks, eight quarterback pressures and four tackles for a loss. Against the Bills, Brown recorded 11 tackles for the second game in a row, and he's also recorded a sack in back-to-back weeks. While the Titans missed Woodyard, Brown certainly stepped up and performed well. Again.