Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 17, 2023

Titans have gone from bad to boring and bad

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has fallen far off his pace of previous seasons, partly because of poor offensive line play. He also is losing carries to rookie running back Tajae Spears. - Photo by Peter Joneleit | AP

The Tennessee Titans have achieved the terrible combination of bad and boring.

Given now nine consecutive losses away from Nissan Stadium dating back to last season, the Titans have been the unluckiest group taking trips since the castaways on Gilligan’s Island. But at least the castaways provided some form of entertainment each week. The Titans? Next to nothing.

This team still has not hit the 30-point mark in any game since the next-to-last game of the 2021 season, and there doesn’t appear to be a breakout from that coming anytime soon. They have not won a road game in a year and are 3-13 in their last 16 games.

Sunday, in Tampa Bay, they scored a paltry six points and looked dull doing it. Just four other teams have fewer points per game (17.1) than the Titans.

Some of that can be blamed on trying to break in a rookie quarterback and living with mistakes while he figures NFL defenses out. But these problems are far deeper than Will Levis learning the ropes. In fact, despite two straight inconsistent performances on the road, the former Kentucky signal caller is one of the few encouraging signs that things might actually get better down the road.

Granted that is all contingent on Levis staying in one piece behind the sieve the Titans try to pass off as an NFL offensive line. Just a half season after virtually overhauling the entire unit with four new starters and the holdover Aaron Brewer switching from left guard to center, that experiment has failed – miserably.

How miserably? Tennessee’s O-line has already allowed 33 sacks just over halfway through the season. Last year, a terrible Titans offensive line allowed 49 sacks for the entire season. The new and not necessarily improved line is on pace to obliterate that total in 2023.

Levis has already been sacked 10 times in three games and pressured and hit dozens more. Ryan Tannehill was dumped 19 times in six games before the line got him hurt.

Another side effect of the ineffective front five is that the Titans aren’t running the ball as effectively. Last year, Tennessee relied heavily on the run, especially after Malik Willis was thrust into the quarterback role, totaling 2,131 yards.

As Mike Vrabel has pointed out many times, the Titans offense is predicated on an effective run game to bring play-action passes. This year, through nine games, Tennessee has just 958 yards on the ground, which would leave them 300-plus short of last year.

The only real way to fix a bad offensive line is through the draft, where Jon Robinson missed numerous times in his final three years as general manager. Now, Ran Carthon will have to address those issues. The best offensive linemen rarely get to the free agent market, so draft hits are a must.

Carthon looks to have found one solid piece in first-round pick Peter Skoronski, who has been put at left guard, but none of the others currently on the line look to be part of the long-term solution.

The Titans must find a way to fix this situation by next season or else their promising young, potential franchise quarterback is going to end up like Tim Couch or David Carr, beaten up and rendered ineffective due to a lack of protection and a lack of weapons.

Speaking of weapons, other than DeAndre Hopkins, brought in just before camp, the Titans don’t have many for Levis to throw to.

Treylon Burks has been injured much of the season and isn’t living up to the first-round talent the Titans needed in the aftermath of the A.J. Brown trade.

Tight end Chig Okonkwo, who showed promise the second half of his rookie season last year, has regressed and been plagued by drops.

All the others, save for Hopkins? Their reception numbers hardly jump off the stat sheet and scream “building block” for the future.

A few weeks ago, during a candid news conference moment, Vrabel admitted the Titans probably had more holes than they could fill in one offseason. That assessment has turned out to be spot on.

Now, the assessment for Vrabel, his staff and Carthon for the rest of the season is to try and determine what pieces can be salvaged and used as something to build around for 2024 and beyond.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com