Is it time for the Titans to open up the passing game?


Everyone around the Tennessee Titans organization including coaches, players and fans knew that by drafting and starting a rookie quarterback would be a daunting task. Everyone also agreed that to keep their young signal caller safe, the Titans would need to run the football.

More at Titan Sized: Titans vs Dolphins the Week 6 Matchup

Running the football, combined with short passes and screens would go a long way in keeping the likes of Ndamukong Suh and J.J. Watt out of the backfield and off of their franchise quarterback.

Marcus Mariota has been sacked 14 times through four games which is by no means as many as Alex Smith in Kansas City or Russell Wilson in Seattle who have been on the ground 22 times, but they have played one game more than Mariota.

And Mariota has not yet faced Suh, or Watt. That will change this week when the Miami Dolphins come to town for a week six matchup.

The Ken Whisenhunt running game by committee which is supposed to keep Mariota out of third and long situations is currently ranked 21st in the league.

The Titans have run the ball 117 for 475 yards which is good for a 4.1 average and is surprisingly better than some pretty good football teams this year.

Example, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos are unbeaten so far in 2015 and ranked 29th and 30th respectfully.

The difference between being 5-0 and 1-3? The passing game!

Tom Brady and the Patriots are ranked 9th in passing statistics with the Broncos 21st. The Titans are ranked 27th.

Marcus Mariota is 82 for 128 with a 64.1% completion rate, but he only has 928 yards total which is a little skewed because of the 52 yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright during the early stages of the season opener in Tampa.

This is what is leading to a disgruntled Kendall Wright.

After the 14-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills last week, Wright told ESPN reporter Paul Kuharsky that in the Ken Whisenhunt read progression passing game, he had become irrelevant.

This was a strange complaint coming from the Titans leader in targets, catches and receiving yards.

The problem as I see it, is the Titans are not throwing the ball downfield enough.

Is Marcus Mariota turning into Alex Smith?

It appears that both Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are having trouble with the transition from Mike Munchak‘s system which made every receiver responsible for getting open and the Ken Whisenhunt read progression system.

Tight end Delanie Walker had this to say about the difference:

“In Munchak’s system, you had to get open, If a play was called for you, I mean the quarterback had no other options, right?

“This is giving our quarterback the best option to win the game, where if that one guy that the play is really meant for isn’t open, he can go through his progression and find another guy that should be open. If you see cover-2, we’ve got a cover-2 beater to the right. There is a cover-3 beater to the left.”

When Kuharsky asked Harry Douglas about the scenario, he had this to say:

“I’m not answering that one,” he said, which suggests to me he felt a comment on it might be taken as criticism.

It sounds like Titans fans are in for a season of doing it the Ken Whisenhunt way, which by the way has produced a 3-17 record so far in Music City.

The system worked with Kurt Warner in Arizona, why not with Marcus Mariota in Nashville?

As a long time Dallas Cowboy fan, I was always impressed how Tom Landry was able to bend and reform his system to take advantage of the talent his players had, not make them fit into a system where nobody wins.

Maybe it’s time to turn Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter loose and open up the passing game downfield.

Next: An early look at the Titans in the 2016 Mock Draft

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