A Week One Statement
The Titans were fresh off the heels of another 9-7 season in 2018 that was supposed to be different. Derrick Henry was finally going to have full reign in the backfield, not having to split carries with Demarco Murray, Marcus Mariota was coming off an offseason where he could practice rather than rehab. And finally, finally, Tennessee was going to have a young, forward-thinking offensive coordinator running the show in Matt LaFleur.
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Things were supposed to be different, but what we got was more of the same. It took 12 weeks before Henry looked like a star, Mariota could never get comfortable in the offense after a Week One injury, and Tennessee sputtered to the finish line, missing the playoffs and ranking towards the bottom of the league in points and yards per game. So going into Week One of 2019, the only thing Titans knew what to expect was that we didn’t want more of the same under Arthur Smith.
Two quarters into his debut though, Smith’s 2019 Titans offense looked like a “cover band” version of 2018. Two scoring drives on the team’s first three possessions was nice and showed glimmers of what Smith’s offense would become with some big chunk plays and a heavy reliance on play-action, but in large part, the team stalled out in the first half with their final three possessions ending in three punts and a combined 39 yards.
Things looked and felt frustratingly similar to the way they were in 2018 until the third quarter began, and the Tennessee offense started to take shape under Smith’s vision. The team relied heavily on the running game, but the second half is where that reliance started to pay off. Runs and nice play-action passes were traded for massive plays like AJ Brown’s 50-yard reception and a Derrick Henry catch and run off a screen pass that went 75-yards for a touchdown.
Tennessee got a huge boost from their defense against Cleveland, but signs of the offense Smith would eventually build started to show themselves. In the second half, the team was seemingly scoring at will, ending with 43 points– their highest scoring total since Week 10 of 2016.
But the bad parts of the Titans offense showed up more often through the first half of the season than the good ones. For as explosive as Tennessee offense showed the potential to be in Week One, they were consumed by their fair share of growing pains early on.