Five final thoughts on the Tennessee Titans offense before camp
By Will Lomas
3. “Running to win” is a skewed concept that Arthur Smith needs to keep his distance from
Earlier I talked about how “run-pass balance” was something you never want to hear from an offensive coordinator. If a team lines up their defense with four men in the box, does it matter if you have already run the ball three times in a row? No, keep running down their throat.
Likewise, if a defense is stacking the box with 8 guys on 2nd and 5, you have to find a way to throw the ball against that coverage. It doesn’t matter if you have passed it 40 times already and only run it 20 times.
I thought this was an outstanding example of why the “running the ball to win games” model doesn’t make any sense with context:
Call this a final thought or a concern or whatever, but the Tennessee Titans have to get away from the archaic idea that running the ball wins football games.
I’m not saying that Derrick Henry can’t have a career year in 2019 or that he should only touch the ball 10 times per game. What I am saying is that the best way to make him the most effective and to make the offense as efficient as you can is to skew towards the pass.
With how the NFL is structured right now, I truly believe that there are three things that dictate success in the running game:
1. Great offensive line play
2. Creating space through formations
3. Aggressive play calling that keeps defenses off balance
My hot take is that I actually think those three things are more important than the actual talent level of the running back himself.
There are exceptions, but these exceptions are most often a point in time and not a player. What I mean by that is, Saquon Barkley had an outstanding 2018 but I believe that he had success despite of his offensive line is because the Giants had those two other things and because of his talent.
However, if the Giants didn’t improve the OL then I think you would get diminishing returns on Barkley through no fault of his own.
Great offenses are pass focused, but can exploit defenses when they cheat to take away the pass. Right now the Tennessee Titans offense scariest player is Derrick Henry in the open field, so you know teams will try to take that away. If the Titans are going to make the playoffs then they are going to have to figure out how to make defenses pay for that adjustment.
TL;DR: Passing over running is almost always the correct choice, especially when the defense is clearly trying to stop someone like Derrick Henry. Figuring out how to counter this with great offensive line play, spacing and aggressive play calling is going to be huge.