Scouting the Titans: Offense

Will the Colts be able to slow down Chris Johnson after getting gashed by the Cowboys in Week 13? Brad Keller takes a look.

Offensive Line:

Although they have a reputation for having a tough, physical offensive line, the Titans are not as big up front as the Chargers or Cowboys and prefer to rely on their speed and guile to get them by.  Former Colt Jake Scott tips the scales at a "lean" 292 pounds, center Eugene Amano is listed at 300, and left tackle Michael Roos is a largest player on the front five at 320 pounds.

The past few games, teams have been able to lean on a still undersized Indianapolis front seven with bigger, stronger offensive linemen and wear them down.  Tennessee relies more on speed and sealing the edges, so discipline and technique will be more important for the four down linemen for the Colts than brawn and endurance.

The problem is that speedster tailback Chris Johnson — who has barely amassed 1,000 yards rushing this season and has struggled the past few games — has been most effective where Indianapolis has been least effective on run defense.  The Titans are averaging 7.68 yards per carry around left end and 7.28 yards per attempt off left guard — both number one in the NFL — and the Colts have allowed an average of 6.21 yards per carry around left end and 5.84 yards per carry off left guard. 

Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson were pushed off the line of scrimmage by the beefy, powerful Dallas offensive line, but they should be able to anchor against the run in this contest and keep Amano, Scott, and left guard Leroy Harris from blowing them off the ball.  If they can hold their position and maintain their gaps, the linebackers should be able to shoot those gaps and contain Johnson with pursuit.

Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis each recorded a sack in Week 13, but seemed to disappear for large portions of the game.  Mathis has a tough matchup against Dave Stewart, but should be able to shoot past Stewart and get to the quarterback, provided the Colts make the Titans one dimensional by taking away Johnson.

Freeney and Mathis are no longer elite pass rushers in that they are now unable to generate pressure at will, but they will take advantage of down and distance and known passing situations if given the opportunity.

Wide Receivers:

Kenny Britt has missed the last six weeks with a hamstring injury, but should be able to go against the Colts on Thursday night.  His presence in the deep passing game has been missed the past few weeks and has no doubt affected the effectiveness of Randy Moss, who has only five receptions for 62 yards since he joined Tennessee.

The Titans have had their fair share of issues at the quarterback position, switching between Vince Young, Kerry Collins, and rookie Rusty Smith, but any team whose leading receiver has 544 yards has deeper issues than just who is throwing the ball and who has been hurt.

Britt is a very talented athlete that has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but has been mostly average thus far in his short career.  Moss has talent that cannot be overlooked, but appears to lack drive and focus if there's nothing in it for him.  Washington has size and speed, but has inconsistent hands.

Heading into Week 4, the Jacksonville Jaguars had their own litany of issues in the passing game, coupled with an extremely talented running back.  They were able to overcome those issues and put 31 points up on the Colts defense, due partly to the fact that they knew they had to execute flawlessly on offense and maintain focus in order to have a chance to win.

Tennessee comes into this game on the heels of a five game losing streak.  They have scored six points in their last two games and one of those games was a shutout at the hands of the Houston Texans, who have the league's last-ranked defense.

With a banged up Indianapolis secondary, it is possible that the Titans could have a breakout game in which they dispel the demons of the recent past and overcome adversity.  The Colts need to make sure that doesn't happen by turning up the heat on Collins and making sure they keep the Tennessee receivers in front of them.  A big play in the passing game will give this squad hope, which is a bigger threat to the Indianapolis defense than Chris Johnson.

Running Backs:

Johnson is — and has been — the most explosive, dangerous player in this offense.  It could be argued that he's been the most explosive, dangerous offensive player in the league since the start of the 2008 season.

But, the Colts have been able to contain Johnson through their speed on defense, discipline, and the fact that they tend to not overcommit to the run, usually leaving Antoine Bethea trailing the play.  Johnson has averaged five yards per carry throughout the course of his young career, but has averaged only 4.07 yards per attempt against the Colts.

If Freeney and Mathis can stay at home — and this would be a good opportunity to give Eric Foster some snaps at end on running downs now that he has shown some pass rushing ability as well — then Philip Wheeler, Gary Brackett, and Pat Angerer or Tyjuan Hagler will be able to chase the ball and clean up in pursuit.

Stopping Johnson has been and will be the key to stopping this offense — particularly given their current struggles in the passing game — but it is not an insurmountable task and is certainly something the Indianapolis defense is up for.  If they can stay in their gaps, open up pursuit lanes, and bring Johnson to the turf, then the Titans will play right into their hands and the game will be put in the hands of Collins.

Quarterback:

Kerry Collins still looks the part of an NFL quarterback when he suits up.  He has the size and presence that gives the appearance of full capability.  But, he can still be pressured, he can still be rattled, and he still has a tendency to make more mistakes than big plays.  Collins has always had an impressive arm and still puts the proper amount of zip on the 15 yard out and the deep post. 

His timing just seems to be off and he is starting to process his decisions slower.  That would ordinarily be the mark of an older, more experienced, more patient quarterback, but Collins often waits too long before pulling the trigger.  It is in those moments when the Indianapolis defense needs to strike.

They may not be able to sack Collins — he has been sacked half as much as Vince Young in almost as many attempts and has not been a sack magnet in recent years — but they can certainly hit him within the bounds of the rules.  Any hesitation or pause that Collins shows will be a victory for the Colts. 

Collins has thrown five touchdown passes but also has five interceptions.  He is averaging only 5.8 yards per attempt and completing only 54.7 percent of his passes.  Unlike many quarterbacks of a certain age, Collins can be forced into incompletions, poor throws, and bad decisions.  The Indianapolis defense just needs to push him to that point. 

They have been unable to create turnovers on defense the past few weeks, which has helped to contribute to their three game losing streak.  Both teams enter this game on a down swing.  Seizing the opportunities that Collins will give the defense will help to push the Colts defense into an up swing.  Hopefully, they still have the fight left in them to take advantage of those chances when they see them.


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Although they have a reputation for having a tough, physical offensive line, the Titans are not as big up front as the Chargers or Cowboys and prefer to rely on their speed and guile to get them by.  Former Colt Jake Scott tips the scales at a \"lean\" 292 pounds, center Eugene Amano is listed at 300, and left tackle Michael Roos is a largest player on the front five at 320 pounds.

The past few games, teams have been able to lean on a still undersized Indianapolis front seven with bigger, stronger offensive linemen and wear them down.  Tennessee relies more on speed and sealing the edges, so discipline and technique will be more important for the four down linemen for the Colts than brawn and endurance.

The problem is that speedster tailback Chris Johnson — who has barely amassed 1,000 yards rushing this season and has struggled the past few games — has been most effective where Indianapolis has been least effective on run defense.  The Titans are averaging 7.68 yards per carry around left end and 7.28 yards per attempt off left guard — both number one in the NFL — and the Colts have allowed an average of 6.21 yards per carry around left end and 5.84 yards per carry off left guard. 

Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson were pushed off the line of scrimmage by the beefy, powerful Dallas offensive line, but they should be able to anchor against the run in this contest and keep Amano, Scott, and left guard Leroy Harris from blowing them off the ball.  If they can hold their position and maintain their gaps, the linebackers should be able to shoot those gaps and contain Johnson with pursuit.

Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis each recorded a sack in Week 13, but seemed to disappear for large portions of the game.  Mathis has a tough matchup against Dave Stewart, but should be able to shoot past Stewart and get to the quarterback, provided the Colts make the Titans one dimensional by taking away Johnson.

Freeney and Mathis are no longer elite pass rushers in that they are now unable to generate pressure at will, but they will take advantage of down and distance and known passing situations if given the opportunity.

Kenny Britt has missed the last six weeks with a hamstring injury, but should be able to go against the Colts on Thursday night.  His presence in the deep passing game has been missed the past few weeks and has no doubt affected the effectiveness of Randy Moss, who has only five receptions for 62 yards since he joined Tennessee.

The Titans have had their fair share of issues at the quarterback position, switching between Vince Young, Kerry Collins, and rookie Rusty Smith, but any team whose leading receiver has 544 yards has deeper issues than just who is throwing the ball and who has been hurt.

Britt is a very talented athlete that has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but has been mostly average thus far in his short career.  Moss has talent that cannot be overlooked, but appears to lack drive and focus if there's nothing in it for him.  Washington has size and speed, but has inconsistent hands.

Heading into Week 4, the Jacksonville Jaguars had their own litany of issues in the passing game, coupled with an extremely talented running back.  They were able to overcome those issues and put 31 points up on the Colts defense, due partly to the fact that they knew they had to execute flawlessly on offense and maintain focus in order to have a chance to win.

Tennessee comes into this game on the heels of a five game losing streak.  They have scored six points in their last two games and one of those games was a shutout at the hands of the Houston Texans, who have the league's last-ranked defense.

With a banged up Indianapolis secondary, it is possible that the Titans could have a breakout game in which they dispel the demons of the recent past and overcome adversity.  The Colts need to make sure that doesn't happen by turning up the heat on Collins and making sure they keep the Tennessee receivers in front of them.  A big play in the passing game will give this squad hope, which is a bigger threat to the Indianapolis defense than Chris Johnson.

Johnson is — and has been — the most explosive, dangerous player in this offense.  It could be argued that he's been the most explosive, dangerous offensive player in the league since the start of the 2008 season.

But, the Colts have been able to contain Johnson through their speed on defense, discipline, and the fact that they tend to not overcommit to the run, usually leaving Antoine Bethea trailing the play.  Johnson has averaged five yards per carry throughout the course of his young career, but has averaged only 4.07 yards per attempt against the Colts.

If Freeney and Mathis can stay at home — and this would be a good opportunity to give Eric Foster some snaps at end on running downs now that he has shown some pass rushing ability as well — then Philip Wheeler, Gary Brackett, and Pat Angerer or Tyjuan Hagler will be able to chase the ball and clean up in pursuit.

Stopping Johnson has been and will be the key to stopping this offense — particularly given their current struggles in the passing game — but it is not an insurmountable task and is certainly something the Indianapolis defense is up for.  If they can stay in their gaps, open up pursuit lanes, and bring Johnson to the turf, then the Titans will play right into their hands and the game will be put in the hands of Collins.

Kerry Collins still looks the part of an NFL quarterback when he suits up.  He has the size and presence that gives the appearance of full capability.  But, he can still be pressured, he can still be rattled, and he still has a tendency to make more mistakes than big plays.  Collins has always had an impressive arm and still puts the proper amount of zip on the 15 yard out and the deep post. 

His timing just seems to be off and he is starting to process his decisions slower.  That would ordinarily be the mark of an older, more experienced, more patient quarterback, but Collins often waits too long before pulling the trigger.  It is in those moments when the Indianapolis defense needs to strike.

They may not be able to sack Collins — he has been sacked half as much as Vince Young in almost as many attempts and has not been a sack magnet in recent years — but they can certainly hit him within the bounds of the rules.  Any hesitation or pause that Collins shows will be a victory for the Colts. 

Collins has thrown five touchdown passes but also has five interceptions.  He is averaging only 5.8 yards per attempt and completing only 54.7 percent of his passes.  Unlike many quarterbacks of a certain age, Collins can be forced into incompletions, poor throws, and bad decisions.  The Indianapolis defense just needs to push him to that point. 

They have been unable to create turnovers on defense the past few weeks, which has helped to contribute to their three game losing streak.  Both teams enter this game on a down swing.  Seizing the opportunities that Collins will give the defense will help to push the Colts defense into an up swing.  Hopefully, they still have the fight left in them to take advantage of those chances when they see them.

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