Tennessee Titans midseason report card

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21: Wesley Woodyard #59 of the Tennessee Titans looks on prior to the NFL International Series game between Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers at Wembley Stadium on October 21, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21: Wesley Woodyard #59 of the Tennessee Titans looks on prior to the NFL International Series game between Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers at Wembley Stadium on October 21, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images) /

The Tennessee Titans need to improve quickly.

The Tennessee Titans were doing so well, winning three in a row and atop the AFC South heading into October.

And then…well, October happened. It feels like every year October comes in and crushes my dreams of a Tennessee Titans playoff appearance. Often this just involves losing one or two crucial games, but this year the Titans decided to lose all of them…because of course they did.

So heading into a bye week after a loss (I support the 2 point conversion), what does the team look like over the first half of their season?

Here is how I would grade each position.

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Quarterback: B-

Blaine Gabbert helped contribute to a crucial win over the Houston Texans and Marcus Mariota led the team to victories over the Jaguars (back when that meant something) and the Eagles (again, back when that meant something).

Close matchups between the Bills and Chargers loom large in my memory as missed opportunities, but I don’t really fault Mariota for any of those.

In every game this season outside of Miami (where he got hurt) and Baltimore (where the offensive line protected like wet cardboard) Mariota made at least one play that I believe very few QBs in the NFL could make.

However, time and time again his supporting cast let him down.

Do I think he is a top-5 QB right now? No absolutely not, but I think everything from play calling, drops, fumbles, the run game, and the inability to catch a ball is killing him on paper right now.

You can win 10 games a year with Mariota and a competent coaching staff, but early in the year that isn’t what they got from this team.

Running back: C-

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  • Before this past week it would have probably been a solid “D” but finally we are seeing signs of life from the running backs.

    Starting with Dion Lewis, every week it feels like he makes a play where he makes several people miss and takes it for a chunk but those plays aren’t coming consistently enough. Lewis has to continue to develop in his new role as a real starter in this offense and he needs to be able to have nice runs and catches without going quiet for entire quarters or halves.

    Derrick Henry is a guy who I would imagine Jon Robinson is talking to every GM about in trade talks. I like what Henry can be if used correctly, but right now neither this offense nor the offensive line is putting him in a position to really make a big impact.

    I think we are getting about what I expected stylistically from both backs, but neither is playing with the consistency or explosion that I wanted to see.

    Wide Receiver: C-

    We all knew that this position was going to be thin and would need to be bolstered in 2019, but this was rough.

    Let me give credit where it is due, the Titans lost their most productive receivers from last year (Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews) in the first three weeks of the season so a difficult task was made even harder.

    The reason this is a passing grade is because Corey Davis is really good. Aside from one drop yesterday in London, he has stepped up to the plate in a big way and he is doing a little bit over everything.

    I firmly believe that Davis will be a very good receiver in the NFL, which is something I didn’t expect to say about Tajae Sharpe heading into this season. However to this point I have been very wrong, Sharpe has been nothing but reliable and he looks like the possession receiver that I wanted Deontay Burnett to be.

    The big disappointment is Taywan Taylor who just looked so close to being a real threat only to have some big drops in critical situations this year. I still believe that he can be good, but a few weeks ago I was calling him the clear WR2 in this offense and right now he is well behind Sharpe.

    This team needs help here down the road and it will be interesting to see if the Titans make a BYE week trade.

    Tight End: D

    Luke Stocker and Anthony Firkser should be the Titans TE1 and TE2. They are the only guys at that position who have soft enough hands to catch passes, but who can also be on the field and block someone in a pinch.

    They aren’t dynamic or spectacular, but they are probably around what Anthony Fasano gave the Titans when he was with the team. The big problem is obviously that Delanie Walker should be healthy to allow these guys to beat easy matchups, they aren’t at a high enough level to be starting TEs in the NFL.

    Jonnu Smith is fine at times, but as a receiver he isn’t giving you anything special and he certainly isn’t as a blocker. If that is the case then isn’t having him on the field at all hurting the team when you could put someone who can do both things on the field?

    Offensive line: D

    Let’s go down the list quickly:

    Jack Conklin: Probably the team’s best OL at this point. Conklin has done well all year and that is great to see as he seemingly recovered well from the ACL surgery.

    Taylor Lewan: Still a very good LT, probably top 5ish right now. There are either some mental lapses or communication issues between he and Spain at times.

    Quinton Spain: Probably above average still, but mental lapses are hurting him too.

    Josh Kline/Ben Jones: Really struggling on film and I don’t know if either is going to be the starter long term if they keep their level of play up. I think when you go back and look there are a lot of plays that could have been made if they had only gotten/sustained their block.

    This was supposed to be the best unit on the field and return to 2016 glory, but instead they are a lot closer to 2017.

    Defensive line: B-

    Jurrell Casey is playing at a really high level and he make this an above average group. He is playing at a Pro Bowl level even if some players have better stats right now.

    Daquan Jones is slowly getting better and may end up being an impact player before the season is over.

    Bennie Logan needs to stay healthy, but when he is on the field he has done a good job as a pure run defender.

    Austin Johnson doesn’t even register to me right now. I really thought he was going to be a guy who could rush the passer a little and be a factor against the run, but right now he isn’t doing either.

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    EDGE: C-

    Harold Landry has flashed and looks good for a rookie. He has a really refined speed rush and has a great sense for when teams are trying to throw screens around him. If I were going to bet on someone having the Adoree Jackson/Kevin Byard breakout season next year it would be him.

    Brian Orakpo has been good as a run defender, but it looks like the time may have come where he just can’t rip and explode through OTs anymore in his pass rush which breaks my heart a little bit.

    Other than that the best EDGE has probably been Sharif Finch? He has been able to anchor vs the run and has a sack, but Derrick Morgan and Kamalei Correa both disappear for weeks at a time.

    LB: B-

    This unit hurt the Titans and ultimately cost them the game against Buffalo, but other than that they have been pretty solid. In a limited role I think Rashaan Evans has gotten better with time.

    Wesley Woodyard looks alright when he is healthy, though if he doesn’t have a big game vs Dallas in two weeks I will start to be concerned about whether he is an impact player or just a good, steady LB.

    The guy we have to talk about is Jayon Brown. The kid is a star, he is flying around in coverage locking down RBs and TEs which is what we all expected. What we didn’t expect was that he would be such a great pass rusher and that he would be playing sideline to sideline in the run game at such a high level.

    Next. Tennessee Titans BYE Week starts here. dark

    DB: B-

    This is a really good group of DBs…on paper…when they are healthy.

    Starting with the good, Adoree Jackson and Logan Ryan have been very good this year even factoring in that long TD that Ryan just stopped on vs the Chargers. Both have made a lot of plays and forced opposing QBs to look away from the receivers they are guarding.

    Kenny Vaccaro was having a really nice season until he hurt his elbow and his absence has been felt. Vaccaro was a good run stopper and had an interception, but an even more important aspect of his game was that he really never looked confused by the defense.

    Kevin Byard is great, but too often it feels like he is a non factor simply because it is so easy to avoid him and target the other safety deep. I hope Dean Pees finds a way to make him more visable on Sundays.

    We all know what Malcolm Butler is going through right now. Having said that, I think he has had a few good weeks (Chargers, Buffalo) and maybe a week off could prove useful for him as he tries to get back to his aggressive ways.