Can Tennessee Titans new OC figure out Dion Lewis?
By Will Lomas
Why is Tennessee Titans new OC Arthur Smith the right guy to help Dion Lewis take a step forward?
Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson don’t believe in just trusting the general consensus. Look no further than the internal promotion of Arthur Smith to OC.
Every season we learn a little bit more about Jon Robinson and what he wants to do with his team. He wants the Titans to be built around certainty and not around gambles, that often means doing business with people you know and bringing in players you have connections to.
So, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that he promoted Arthur Smith from TE coach to OC after being with the franchise since 2011, longer than nearly anyone else.
While I was in the camp of people who wanted bigger names with a proven track record, but being comfortable and having familiarity within the organization is just as important.
Vrabel and Robinson have seen a huge body of work with Smith and were impressed enough to give him all of this responsibility in a crucial year. One way he can prove worthy of that trust, is to help reclaim Dion Lewis.
The Tennessee Titans gave Lewis a 4 year deal worth nearly $20 million just a year ago. As far as RB deals go, that is pretty large but there is no guaranteed money after this years, so if he is going to make an argument to stay on the roster then he needs a big season.
With motivation from Lewis to thrive, the question isn’t the “want to” it is the “how” that needs to be answered.
The best comparison I can find that Smith has worked with is actually Chris Johnson from 2011-2013.
At that point, CJ was past his prime but was still a serviceable runner. He needed things blocked up better and was boom or bust on his cutback runs. While Lewis is a more physical runner with less long speed, they generally have the same strengths and weaknesses.
Now, the volume obviously won’t be the same as it was with Chris Johnson, but let’s look at the production. Over that three year stretch Johnson averaged 4.6 yards per touch and had 45 receptions per season.
Smith is going to target the running back whether that is by shifting him out to receiver, throwing screens or just dump offs. As fun as it is to see Henry with the ball in space, the best way to do that is probably on the ground and not through the air.
So if Smith can use Lewis as that receiver and combine that with the running style that the Titans used with Chris Johnson in 2011-2013, he could have a really nice season in this offense.
Is that enough to warrant his contract? Probably not. But, the question shouldn’t be about the money it should be about making him an effective piece of the offense. From that standpoint, I think Smith could make Lewis a weapon for the Titans.
Going forward it will be interesting to see if the Titans use bigger formations for Lewis and smaller formations for Henry, which is probably the right choice. Give Henry space to work and let him run over DBs by forcing defenses to play nickel.
With Lewis, you should go heavy with two tight ends and force defenses to go bigger and then work on play actions, zone runs and screen passes taking advantage of their aggressiveness.
Sometimes you will hear coordinators talk about wanting one playbook and a seamless transition between backs, sorry but you aren’t going to have that between your 6’3, 250 lb. bulldozer with long speed and your 5’8, 195 lb. shifty running back.
You need two separate playbooks and you need to be able to do multiple things out of those formations. You can’t just run with one and pass to the other, but hopefully after a year of incorrect usage Arthur Smith knows better.