Finally. A match-up that actually favors the San Diego Chargers defense. Or should I say, they face an offense where they're not completely overmatched. Unlike the Eagles offense, there's nothing fancy or gimmicky about the Tennessee Titans offense. Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains hasn't exactly opened the playbook up throughout the first two games.
So what should we expect to see? Well, through the 1st two games, what they do on 1st down has become somewhat predictable.
|1st down runs||29|
|1st down play action||7|
|1st down pass||8|
|1st down deep pass||3|
Two of these passes were screens, so it's clear that Loggains is trying to protect quarterback Jake Locker as much as possible. Locker played well against the Steelers, but wasn't very good against the Texans last week. Through two games, Locker has completed 56% of his passes, good for 28th in the NFL. That number might lead you to believe he's throwing the ball downfield a lot, much like Andrew Luck last year, but he's not. Locker has thrown the ball over 20 yards only 8 times this season. He's thrown the ball behind the line of scrimmage 7 times. His 5.6 yards per attempt is good for 31st in the NFL.
I'm not so sure that Loggains trusts Locker, at least it didn't seem so in the second half of the Texans game. Up 10-7 at halftime, the Titans went three-and-out on 7/8 drives in the second half. There was a lot of conservative play calling going on.
This is a very basic offense. They like to run the ball, and run it often. From there, like any predominant run team, they try to win off of play-action pass. They also like to throw quick screens to pick up easy yards. As highlighted in the chart above, when they throw it deep, it's on first down and it's usually a quick three-step-drop for Locker. Other than that, I'd describe the passing game as a "dink & dunk" type.
Let's get to some of the bread and butter plays in this Titans offense.
The Titans haven't had great success running the ball this year(3.2 ypc on 75 attempts) but when they have, it's been behind the left tackle, Michael Roos, who's been a great player the last few years, and has continued that this year.
Formation: King Right Y-Y
Personnel: 22 (2 TE/2 RB)
Play: Weak Counter-Trap
What the intention is here, is for the defense to over load to the strong-side of the formation. Much like Houston did here, we should see see a lot of 8 men in the box by the Chargers defense.
71 down blocks the defensive end, he's double teamed. They leave the OLB unblocked for the pulling guard on a "trap" block or a kick out block. The LB behind him takes a poor angle to the ball, getting caught up in the trash. Manti Te'o (or Reggie Walker) will have to keep his outside arm free for the defense to be successful here.
Chris Johnson will bounce it outside any chance he gets, but when he does turn the corner, it doesn't end up well. This went for a 9 yard gain. The San Diego linebackers will have to be disciplined this game. Poor angles lead to big plays. With a guy with Johnson's speed, the Chargers can ill afford any mental mistakes.
Formation: Gun right Split Offset Cowboy (Cowboy tells the TE to line up in the backfield)
Personnel: 11 (1 TE/1 RB/3 WR)
Play: 25 power
The tight end motions to the back field. This is very similar to the first play I highlighted, it's simply being run out of a different formation. The Titans ran plenty out of shotgun, but still kept to their power running game. If it wasn't a power play, it was a draw. So they essentially do the same plays, out of different formations, like most offenses. But I want to give you the look against a nickel defense, too.
The difference being, against the defense that's in nickel personnel, the left tackle climbs to the 2nd level, and seals off the play-side LB, still leaves the defensive end unblocked for the pulling guard to kick out. Then, the tight end serves as a lead blocker through the hole, picking up the first man he sees.
The massive arrow is 36 in the previous screenshot. That will likely be Weddle come Sunday. Because 36 doesn't scrape down the line, Johnson isn't touched for 15 yards. It's a good play call if executed, and the Titans have the line to do so.
Outside of the center, who has struggled so far, the Titans have been solid up front. Much like San Diego, JJ Watt and Brian Cushing gave this team fits. So I can't really fault them for that.
I did notice that this team is susceptible to pressure up the middle. Which happens to be the type of blitzes Pagano likes to call. I think this'll be a great match up for Kendall Reyes. I expect him to have a big game Sunday.
This next play the Titans ran four times against the Texans, and once against the Steelers. Out of the exact same formation. So when you see them lineup in this Sunday, scream "SCREEN, SCREEN, SCREEN." Perhaps they're setting up a pump and go type, because they haven't run any other action off of it yet.
Formation: Gun Left Double Flex (Tells the slot WR he's on the LOS)
Play: WR Screen
The Titans lineman are athletic enough to get out and block. Each WR screen that Tennessee ran went to Kendall Wright, who is a very agile player that can make you miss. He's off the line of scrimmage at the top of the image.
Once the WR has the ball in his hands, the Titans have numbers here, essentially it's 3-on-2. This is a good play call and when they execute, which they have, is usually good for an easy first down. They send out 3 OL, so the potential is there for a bigger play. To stop it, you need one of your DL to sniff the play out, or LBs/S to beat one of the OL to a spot and make a play.
Wright is good with the ball in his hands, this play ended up going for 14 yards. The other times it was called it went for for 7 yds, 13 yds, an incomplete and 7 yds.
There's really no special way to stop this offense. Most teams usually load up the box to stop the run and force Locker to beat them. Expect to see the same Sunday. Like I said, Locker tends to dump it off more often than not. He hasn't done much to scare opposing coordinators and isn't a very accurate passer, especially when pressured.
When Locker sees pressure, he short arms his throws and his mechanics go out the window. Expect to see Pagano dial up pressure. The Titans receivers are solid, but not great. In my opinion, Wright is the best of the bunch and Locker's favorite target out of the slot, but he could miss this week due to a concussion. Kenny Britt was recently benched for a "lackadaisical approach to blocking" as well as a couple holding calls. He's never really lived up to his hype, and has been in the news lately after a certain tweet. Nate Washington is a solid veteran, but someone that you don't have to game plan for.
The line is good, but they've given up pressure in consecutive weeks. Chris Johnson isn't the back he was when he ran for 2,000 yards. I'm not seeing the same player making defenders miss or out running angles. At this point, he's a product of a strong line.
When the Titans bring in a second tight end(60% of their plays) it's a run play 75% of the time. That's incredibly high, and almost painfully predictable. That'll be something to look out for.
The Titans averaged 3.6 yards per play against the Texans defense. In comparison, the Chargers averaged 5.2.
This might sound like the Titans won't cross the field, that's not going to happen. It's a good match-up for the defense, but they've struggled mightily in the first few weeks. It'll be interesting to see how they attack this offense. As vanilla as Loggains play-calling been, there are still potential play-makers out there on the field.
In two games, the Chargers defense lead the league in yards against per play and it's really not close. They've also given up the third most "big plays" which constitutes as running plays over 10 yards and passing plays over 25 yards. So, while the Titans offense might not be nearly as explosive as the previous two offenses San Diego has faced, this defense has been quite generous to start the year.
"As long as they have Chris over there, he's a guy that at any point can take it to the house" - Dwight Freeney, on Titans running back Chris Johnson
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