Entries in DeMarco Murray (5)

Tuesday
Sep122017

Mid-Week Take: Titans vs. Raiders

I've now had a few days to process the 2017 season opener, read fan thoughts and complaints, and heard all the "talking heads" theorize over what happened. Now, I guess it's my turn to chime in and give my analysis.

The Titans' fan base came into this game with the hopes of improvement and dreams of a playoff run, and many of what I heard from the hopefuls was that these were the same old Titans. However, this is not what I saw in the game. Yes, there were mistakes by players and the coaching staff, but if we look past the over inflated expectations and get real with ourselves, we will see that there are plenty of positive take-aways from this game (and therefore hope still exists for this season).

Season Opening Onside Kick

I'm not totally against this choice by the coaching staff. Historically, the Titans don't play well from behind, and against a high powered offense like the Raiders it would be better to have the first crack at taking the lead. Unfortunately, the special teams unit misfired on many levels in this play alone. Succop didn't get the ball to bounce in any meaningful way. The lead gunner didn't "blow up" the rookie returner like most onside kicks are designed. Finally, the coaching staff didn't educate the special teams unit thoroughly enough on the execution of this play. I don't care how many times you say "lack of execution" on the part of the players, it boils down to the coaching staff and preparation.

Titans Response/Opening Drive

The Titans' offense responded on a 12 play, 75 yard TD drive. They converted 3 - 3rd and longs, with passes of 19 yards (Matthews), 9 yards (Matthews), and 23 yards (Davis). Murray had 5 carries for 14 yards. Not impressive, but it was enough to keep the Raiders' defense respecting the Titans' run game. Finally, we saw that Mariota still has his legs and raced around the left side, with a sweet block by Delanie Walker, for 10 yards and the touchdown.

Marcus Mariota

Speaking of Mariota, some people looked at his day as "okay", but with many of what people are calling misfires were simply the lack of chemistry with his receiving corps and a few incorrectly run routes. Mariota had 24 completions on 41 attempts for 256 yards. The key number that wasn't in the stat line (other than TDs) is that he didn't turn the ball over. I venture to say that he may have never had a game where he threw the ball at least 40 times without any turnovers.

Running Game

There was a considerable drop-off in the "Exotic Smashmouth". The Titans only had a total of 95 yards rushing on 21 attempts. However, there were bright spots in a 21 yard gain from Murray, the Mariota TD run, and a nice little 8 yard carry from Henry. The problem in the game is that the Titans continued to get themselves in difficult 3rd down situations where the run game became less and less of an option. There was also a few poor choices in play calls by the coaching staff (like the call on 3rd and 2 from the 7 yard line). There was plenty of blame to go around in the failure of the running game. I still believe that this is something that can be more easily worked out before the Jaguars game.

Some Positives

  • Rishard Matthews came through with some timely catches. He had 5 catches for 71 yards, several to convert 3rd downs. He looks like he has picked back up from last season.
  • Although Corey Davis never took a snap in preseason, he showed us all that he is the real deal. He had 6 catches for 69 yards. His best catch of the day was for 23 yards, high-pointing the ball along the sideline and staying in bounds.
  • Delanie Walker is still a stud. He continues to show us all that he can play this game as long as he wants to play it. With 7 catches for 76 yards (and one killer block), he lead the team in catches and yards.
  • Adoree Jackson was picked on from the first play to the last, but the rookie hung in there. He had one pass interference call go against him, but two nice breakups with one of those taking away a TD. If that weren't enough for a rookie, a kick return that looked like an Olympic event was a beautiful thing to behold and tells us all that he will definitely break one for the distance at some point this season.

 One Final Negative

The Red Zone offense had trouble scoring touchdowns. Again, this appeared to be a combination of poor play calling combined with poor execution. Three times the Titans got into the Red Zone, but came away with only 1 TD and 2 FGs. With the much reported efficiency of Mariota in the Red Zone, he needs to be given more freedom to put the team on his shoulders and make a play.

Conclusion

No loss is a good loss, but this one came very close. We all have to admit to ourselves that this game was going to be a tough one to start the season. We also need to realize that this was only one loss in a 16 game season, and our next few games could catapult us to the top of our division. So, for all you fair-weathered Titans fans, stay tuned for the fireworks instead of falling asleep before it even gets dark.

 

Tuesday
Nov082016

Titans Fans, Take A Deep Breath 

During the game against the Chargers I was reading the comments from Titans fans on Twitter, and after each Titans' mistake person after person threw up their collective hands and gave up on the entire season. I have to admit, it was extremely difficult to watch the team go from a 2 point lead to being down by 15. On top of that, Mariota cost the team by throwing 2 interceptions (resulting in 10 points) and a fumble (resulting in 7 points). These 17 points certainly cost the team the win. 

However, Mariota is making huge strides. He threw for 3 TDs and was 27-of-43 for 313 yards. He is showing real leadership skills and a deeper understanding on how to run Terry Robiskie's offense. Also, if you look back on the quarterbacks this team has endured over the last 5 years (Mettenberger, Locker, Fitzpatrick, Whitehurst, Hasselbeck), he is by far the best of the bunch. He also has a huge upside. As much as I hate interceptions, we are finding out that one of the two interceptions was an poorly run route by Kendall Wright, and the other was just a spectacular read by the defensive back. The real problem with Mariota is his fumbles. This is lesson that can be taught.

There are other positives that came out of the game against the Chargers. Rookie Kevin Byard is showing that he coming into mid-season stride and has improved his understanding of what the team needs from him. He had 9 tackles (5 solo 4 assists). He was consistently a disruption, and played a good game. Also, DaQuan Jones came through with 8 tackles (7 solo 1 assist), Jurrell Casey had 8 tackles (5 solo 3 assists), and Wesley Woodyard had 5 solo tackles and 1 sack.

On the offensive side of the ball, Rishard Matthews is continuing to prove that he is bucking the trend of failed wide receiver free agents. He had 6 catches for 63 yards and 2 TDs. Kendall Wright is still making nice catches (2 for 64 yards), and even though DeMarco Murray didn't have over 100 yards rushing, he did have 51 yards on 14 carries (3.64 yds/carry) and 1 TD. His touchdown run was what we need to see from a determine back.

The big unspoken news in this game, which is also a piece of good news, is that the special teams unit didn't have any huge failures. There were no missed extra points, no allowed touchdown returns, and no special teams turnovers. This is a breath of fresh air in itself, and deserves some kudos for this unit.

So, in conclusion, Titans fans please take a step back, a deep breath, and realize that this season was building on the positives and not a Super Bowl run. All that is required is that we should all show up, cheer loudly, and keep the faith.

Saturday
Oct292016

Finally, What We Have All Been Waiting For...

Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans came into Thursday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars reeling from a recent disappointing home loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and show the home fans what they've been waiting to see for more than a season. The offense ran up 27 first half points and 354 yards (more than any other team this season for a half of football). The defense held the Jags to zero points and only 60 yards in the first half. Even the special teams didn't make any first half mistakes.

In the last 4 games, the offense has been scoring the number of points this team needs to win (30, 28, 34, and 36). Mariota has thrown 10 TDs with only 1 interception and 949 yards, Murray has rushed for 406 yards and 3 TDs, Walker has 146 yards receiving and 2 TDs, Matthews has 177 yards receiving and 3 TDs, and Wright has 229 yards and 2 TDs. In the game against the Jaguars, Mariota was particularly sharp and now seems to be in complete sync with Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie. The offensive line has been especially strong in their part of the "Exotic Smashmouth" scheme. Although both Murray and Derrick Henry are slow starters in each game, they finish with a kick, and in most cases have had strong performances. Although there isn't a huge stand out in our receiving corps, there are a cohesive unit without huge egos to get in the way.

The defense has been cranking up the pressure on the QB too. Although the secondary has shown some definite cracks and the linebackers have had trouble covering the running backs and tight ends, the defense as a whole has kept the team close enough to win every game. Derrick Morgan has 5 1/2 sacks, and Brian Orakpo and Jurrell Casey have 3 sacks each in the last 4 games. They have only allowed 220 total rushing yards as well, with Avery Williamson getting 28 tackles alone.

The only piece of this team that seems to be seriously lagging behind is the Special Teams unit. They have allowed returns for touchdowns, missed extra points, failed to recover onside kicks, and received critical penalties. All of this has actually cost the team points and very likely cost the team at least one win. In all likelihood, this team could be sitting in first place if this unit were to stop making so many mistakes. It has already cost one job on the team. It might cost more before the end of the season if things don't get better.

Even with one of these units not pulling their weight, this team looks poised to take over the AFC South. 

Monday
Sep122016

Titans vs. Vikings Post-Game Thoughts

I was lucky enough to attend the game on Sunday and although I was extremely disappointed in the outcome there are some real positives to take away. 

Offense

This offense had me scratching my head. Calling yourself "exotic smashmouth" doesn't make it so. With only 22 rushing attempt, 64 rushing yards, and 0 touchdowns, there wasn't any smashmouth, and with stupid little "cute-sy" 3rd and 1 calls that fail miserably, there isn't any exotic. I believe this was a real instance of the coaching staff over thinking the situation.

Pros

We saw brief flashes from both Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. I have got to believe that there are good things just waiting to happen when the plan is there. Both contributed in the passing game too with a huge run after the catch from Henry and 2 TDs from Murray. 

Tajae Sharpe also had a nice debut. It wasn't flashy, but it was making the tough catches when we needed them. He didn't have any touchdowns, but with 7 receptions for 76 yards he had the best day of any of the Titans receivers.

Also, Jack Conklin had a nice quiet day. With offensive linemen that is the best that can happen. 

Cons

As I already mentioned, the offensive play calling was over-thought. One of the things we felt as fans is that the Titans would show raw aggression and punch the other team right in the mouth. However, the coaching staff was trying to do some sort of cheap slight of hand that didn't fool anyone. The best teams use the talents of their players to their advantage. I'm not sure this plan had that in mind.

Taylor Lewan knows he needs to clean up the mental mistakes, but for some reason they keep happening. He is a very good player, but if he wants to be this generation's Bruce Matthews or Mike Munchack then he will definitely need to grow mentally stronger.

Finally, and maybe the most disappointing, Marus Mariota had two critical mistakes that literally cost the team the game. He played well otherwise, but these mistakes must stop to ensure he is the quarterback we so desperately need. I truly believe he will snap back this week. I just hope we don't see any more relapses this season.

Defense

The defense had a much more steady game. There isn't enough there to lay out true "pros" and "cons", but there are some things that can be addressed here nonetheless.

The defensive backs are getting better, but there has to be a moment when the close plays need to go the Titans' way. Too many times the Vikings' receivers were closely covered, but were able to come down with the pass. The DBs need to figure out how to tip some of those passes away. 

The front seven did a great job of stopping Adrian Peterson. They held him to only 31 yards on 19 carries. That is outstanding! They showed time and time again gang-tackling at it's best. The one glaring thing this group failed to do was put real pressure on Shaun Hill.

Finally

This is just the first game, but it was a crucial home game. The team really needs to win the "hearts and minds" of the local fan base again, and if they can't win the ones they are clearly winning at the half then they will never again be anything except the basement of the AFC South.

Sunday
Aug282016

Titans Cut Roster Plus Titans @ Chargers Postgame Thoughts

Roster Cuts

The Titans have made their first round of cuts. The following players will be seeking other teams (or even other jobs). Here are the initial cuts:

 

  • S Lamarcus Brutus - 2016 rookie undrafted free agent from Florida State
  • OL Will Campbell
  • WR Donte Foster - signed with Titans in August 2016 after spending the last 2 years bouncing from team to team
  • LB Amarlo Herrera
  • WR Reece Horn - 2016 rookie undrafted free agent from University of Indianapolis 
  • LB Deiontrez Mount - 2nd year player, drafted by the Titans in 2015 (6th round)
  • CB Tyler Patmon - 3rd year player that has spent time with the Dolphins and Cowboys
  • OT Nick Ritcher - 2016 rookie undrafted free agent from the University of Richmond
  • DE Mike Smith - 2016 rookie undrafted free agent from Southern Mississippi
  • CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson - 2013 3rd round draft pick for the Titans
  • C Andy Galick - injured 2015 6th round draft pick for the Titans
  • DL Ropati Pitoitua - 6 seasons in the NFL, 3 with the Titans

None of these players were a real surprise, but in the case of Wreh-Wilson all I have to say is "It's about time!" He, along with already-gone Coty Sensabaugh were among the biggest disappointments the Titans have drafted recently memory. He consistently missed assignments, missed tackles, and missed expectations.

Deiontrez Mount was a nice fill-in for our injury depleted team, but he clearly didn't have a spot on this "new" roster.

The only player I really wish could have made the transition to this new team is Andy Galick. Unfortunately, he has spent too much time injured and didn't quite have the range of skills this team really needs. I wish him well and hope that he can recover in time to make another team.

As a side note, I will miss saying "Ropati Pitoitua". Great NFL Name!

Titans @ Chargers Report

After watching this game I can only say this was a great game and a horrible game. I know it seems like you can't have both, but this game showed that this offensive squad, although unpolished, is ready for the regular season. There were flashes of greatness in Mariota. He actually looked like Steve Young at times. The combination of Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry are downright scary for opposing defenses. This offensive line is bashing their counterparts to open gaping holes that even someone like Bishop Sankey can run through. The receiving corps is actually catching passes and running the correct routes. Tajae Sharpe has been a complete stud and given every Titans fan true hope where there hasn't been since the departure of Derrick Mason.

On the horrible side, this defense is having some real difficulties stopping the pass, especially when it is a running back out of the backfield. In each of these first 3 pre-season games, there has been a running back for that catches a pass without a Titan within 15 or 20 yards. Our LB's seem to be confused about their responsibility. Also, we are rarely getting pressure on the QB. This may be a result of the vanilla defense we are showing, so I'll hold off on the bitch fest about that until the regular season. Finally, we can't seem to keep our starting CBs healthy, and our backups are horrible. Antwon Blake has shown that he is no where near a starting CB. Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty have only played a series or two on the field at the same time. Our problems at DB can be handled with a good pass rush, so again, I will hold off on the whining until we are playing for real. I did like Kevin Dodd finally making an appearance on the field. However, I have to say that I'm a little confused as to his position. He is listed on the depth chart for linebackers, but he played with his hand in the dirt as DE in the game. I'm not sure how to take that. Also the two rookie DBs (Kalin Reed and LeShaun Sims) played decent with Reed getting a tackle and an interception, and Sims getting a tackle. Neither are ready to gain a starting role, but it's a start.

Another area that is of a little concern is the return game. We have yet to solidify that position. None of the people we have tried have had much of a "wow factor", but at least they haven't turned over the ball yet. If they can at least get the team a starting point beyond the 20 yard line (maybe the 25 with the new rules this year), then I will be satisfied.

The game showed the faithful that the offense can score, although the first team needs to be able to finish more drives with a TD instead of a FG. However, again, the defense has yet to stop an opening drive... very disturbing. I'm beginning to think that our middle linebackers might be a weak point on this team. Williamson and Woodyard can't seem to cover in open space, and the middle of the field is where the running game has been the most successful against them. 

I will say that this pre-season has shown that this team has much more depth than in the last few years. That's what happens when you bring in a GM that has all the appearances of knowing what he is doing.

Right now I see this team as a high scoring team, but can they score as much as the defense allows is the real question. I can only hope that Dick LaBeau has some tricks up his sleeve that will give Titans' fans something to cheer about.