The Titans are off to a 1-2 start in a young season that’s starting to feel uncomfortably familiar. The team has a nasty habit of losing at home and the passing game, once again, is walking with a limp.
Three games is enough for trends to develop so here’s how things are taking shape in Nashville.
The running game is explosive
Acquiring RB DeMarco Murray and drafting RB Derrick Henry have made the Titans one of the top running teams in the NFL. Murray has looked like the best player on the field the past two games, especially Sunday against the Raiders when he ran for 114 yards. For the season, Murray is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and he’s caught 17 passes – the most by any NFL running back.
Henry has been a powerful complement. He rushed for 45 yards against the Raiders and has shown he can make big plays as a receiver too.
The QB is struggling
This hasn’t been the start Marcus Mariota envisioned for his second NFL season. His passing accuracy wasn’t sharp against the Raiders and that lack of productivity was enhanced by his three turnovers.
Against Oakland, Mariota didn’t have a TD pass, threw two INTs, and lost a fumble. For an offense on its knees, those numbers don’t help.
This was expected to be a year for Mariota to take flight thanks to new offensive weapons and a revamped running game to take pressure off his arm. But after throwing for 19 TDs and 10 INTs last year, Mariota is locked at 4 TDs and 4 INTs this year. He’s averaging two turnovers a game.
The defense is stout
Through the first three games, the Titans defense is surrendering an average of just 14 points. That should be good enough to win in today’s NFL.
The front seven has been unpleasant on opposing running backs and the secondary has been feisty. The Titans have given up a few plays, but that’s going to happen with any defense.
One problem is the Titans offense has given up two TDs and a safety. The Vikings defense scored twice to completely turn around the season opener.
The Titans defense has played well enough to be 3-0. The offense has yet to score more than 16 points and is ranked dead last in the NFL.
The receivers aren’t helping
It’s not a promising sign when a 35-year-old receiver no other team wanted in the offseason is your go-to player at the end of games. Yet that’s the predicament the Titans are in with Andre Johnson.
Johnson produced the winning TD catch against Detroit and appeared on the verge of forcing OT against the Raiders before a pass interference call in the end zone nullified what would have been his second TD as a Titan.
The Titans are at this point out of necessity. Their starting WR tandem of Tajae Sharpe and Rishard Matthews combined for six catches against the Raiders, or just one more than RB Murray. The WRs aren’t getting separation and they aren’t competing for the ball in the air.
The offensive play calling isn’t helping matters. A few bombs might loosen up the defense and keep DBs more than 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage.
The Titans only threw one designed deep ball against the Raiders, an incompletion to Johnson. Opponents don’t respect the long pass because they know it’s not coming.