The fan base for the Titans has a serious case of sore toes. Their dance partner is still learning their moves, and has stepped all over the feet of their fans. This season has felt like the team has a serious case of two steps forward and one step back. The team was coming off the high of back-to-back wins for the first time since 2013 and facing a struggling Colts team. Then the Titans took a step back when they should have continued forward, and proceeded to lay an egg against a division opponent.
People are beginning to question whether Marcus Mariota is the long-term solution for the team, but his numbers continue to show otherwise. According to NFL Research (@NFLResearch on Twitter), he has the highest career passer rating of any active QB in the red zone (min. 50 att.) with a 115.2 rating and 24 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. This is significant! However, it cannot be ignored that he is still struggling with turnovers, specifically fumbles. Yes, we don’t want interceptions, but interceptions happen for every QB. He just needs to ensure that the touchdown-to-interception ratio is at the very least 2-to-1. Currently, he is right at this ratio with 12 TDs and 6 INTs. The fumble problem looks worse because of the 3 fumbles he has lost, 2 have been returned for touchdowns (Vikings and Colts). He also has a growing problem of overthrowing his receivers. If you will look at 2 of the touchdowns against the Browns, he forced both of the receivers to stretch to the full length of their reach in order to make the catch. In the past we might have been able to blame the offensive line, but according to Pro Football Focus our offensive line has graded out as one of the best in the league. Another thing we shouldn’t forget, this is the first season that Marcus has with Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie, and usually the first season in any QB-OC relationship starts slow. So, this comes down to the maturation of Mariota as a QB at the highest level.
On the defensive side of the ball, the true weaknesses were exposed by the Colts. The linebacking corps cannot seem to cover any running backs or tight ends, and the defensive backs are a mess all the way around. Perrish Cox was already the goat of many fans, but he was the best we had at that position. Then he left the game under concussion protocol and we saw just how bad the backups were. Both Valentino Blake and Brice McCain are seriously struggling to keep up with receivers, and this could be partially forgiven if they didn’t struggle on special teams too. Neither can seem to cover the receiver they are assigned, but seem confused about the play on several instances. Also, neither seem to have the ability to tackle anyone at any time. It has gotten to the point where I wonder why they are even on the roster. They seem slow, confused, and immune to contact. Even Jason McCourty struggled in this game. I’m not sure he would be the number one corner if the team were to sign someone with any skills whatsoever. Going back to the linebackers, both Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson struggled against the pass, but Williamson is the one that really concerns me. This issue showed itself in the preseason, but now when it really counts he cannot be counted on to be in the right spot or to be fast enough to keep his assignment from catching the ball.
Fear not fellow Titans faithful! The season is far from over and the AFC South title is well within reach. The Titans are still only one game out of first with very winnable games coming up on the schedule. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” so don’t expect this team to be dominant just yet. All we can hope for right now is improvement, and if we get one more win we have already improved over the last two seasons.