What’s wrong with the Tennessee Titans offense?
That could certainly be a very loaded and debatable question at this point and time, and while the team did score 24 points in their loss to Atlanta in the preseason opener on Friday night, the starting offense managed just one touchdown in their three series of game action.
That in and of itself might not be overly concerning, especially considering quarterback Marcs Mariota suffered his first rookie moments on back to back possession by throwing his first interception in a Titans jersey and then losing his first fumble on the next.
Mariota showed he has a very short memory and mental toughness following those gaffs. He returned for his next series and engineered a scoring drive by completing 5 of 5 pass attempts to drive the team to the Atlanta six-yard line where running back Dexter McCluster capped the drive with his six-yard run around left end for the Titans first touchdown of the evening.
All that is great, but there were some takeaways from the first team offense that are concerning.
The Titans struggled to run the football last season and did so again on Friday. For the game the Titans averaged just 3.0 yards per rushing attempt. That’s not great, but not the worst possible scenario.
However, when you look at the starting offensive line and take their efforts away from the team average, there is a major concern afoot.
The starting offensive line and running back Bishop Sankey managed to average just 1.9 yards per carry. That would not be winning football on X-Box, much less in the NFL.
While one game could certainly be an anomaly, it can also be taken as an area of concern considering developments during Sunday’s first practice following the Atlanta loss.
The Titans have moved people around some on the offensive line during OTA’s and mini-camp, looking to see who has the versatility to play different positions if the need arose. On Sunday however, we saw some new looks that have not been seen regularly so far in any portion of the teams work.
Right tackle Byron Bell saw time at left guard while Fernando Velasco saw work at center and utility lineman Jamon Meridith worked at right tackle.
Any of these move in and of themselves would not garner much attention, but when the happen in conjunction with each other, some eyebrows were raised and attention redirected.
Let’s be clear that center Brian Schwenke stepped on a teamamtes foot and missed a few plays to recover, and Velasco being in with the first unit has occurred, the entirety of these moves lead myself and my fellow media members to collectively agree (something that doesn’t always happen on most any subject) that the Titans coaching staff were considering changes on the offensive line.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has talked repeatedly since his arrival about creating competition, and to his credit, he and his staff along with general manager Ruston Webster have redesigned the roster to do just that. There is competition at multiple positions, but it was a forgone conclusion that the offensive line was not one of those areas.
That was until now, where it seems that there could indeed be some competition at possibly three of the five spots.
I’m no coach, and I’m not going to sit behind my keyboard and claim to be one, or to have the answers to fix what ailed the running game on Friday in the Georgia Dome, but it is clear that the starting unit as it was constructed struggled last season when healthy and together, and it did so again Friday.
I also do not intend this article to be a shot at any of the offensive linemen who are not named Lewan or Warmack. All these guys are working hard and busting their tails in practice to become the best players they can be, but something is still amiss.
The original five could well be the team’s best unit and there together on opening day, but between now and then they must find a way to fix whatever problems they are having if this team is to avoid another long, losing season.
While Whisenhunt downplayed any potential for the moves on Sunday, it is worth noting and watching as practice continues this week leading up to Sunday night’s preseason home opener with the St. Louis Rams.
Former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has a formidable front seven on defense and the Titans offensive line will be tested to run the football against them. The Rams could make them look bad, that is certainly a very good possibility, but let’s home that the Titans do not contribute to the Rams cause, at least with the first unit, otherwise change might be a necessity.