Surprising aggressiveness from the Tennessee Titans.
When I say Tennessee Titans, the first player that pops into your mind has to be Derrick Henry, right?
It would shock me if anyone disagreed because just look at his career arc:
-5 star running back out of high school.
-Chose to go to Alabama, which basically prints NFL running backs on the world’s largest 3D printer.
-3 years of playing time with Bama.
-Is one of only two players at Alabama to ever win the Heisman, and he literally dwarfed the other on national TV.
-Tested like an elite athlete at the combine.
-Had over 100+ rushes as a rookie on the AFC’s best rushing offense.
-Improved every single year in yards and touchdowns since being drafted.
-Finished the 2019 season as the league’s leading rusher.
-Made playoff history with his rushing efforts.
So, he is undoubtedly the face of the Tennessee Titans franchise. The only downside to having a running back as the face of your team is that…you usually don’t win many games.
A lot of this is because teams tend to become dependent on those running backs and asking a running back to carry you for years at a time leads to conservative play-calling, tight games, and losses.
That is why it is very surprising to see that Hayden Winks came out with an analytics backed ranking of the most aggressive teams in the NFL, and the Titans came in 16th:
"Vrabel is a better coach than this ranking because his players love him and his gameplans seem effective overall, but there’s still room for improvement on the analytics front. Even with Derrick Henry looking like the league’s best pure runner right now, the Titans were too run-heavy on early downs (29th) and while trailing (31st) last season because, well, Ryan Tannehill was actually very good! Regression is inevitable, but if Tannehill continues to play like a top-15 passer in 2020, there’d be no reason to be bottom-three in pass attempts. I worry that’s exactly what will happen. With that said, Tennessee at least uses play action (5th) and pre-snap motion (4th) at near league-high levels, and when they are running the ball, it’s pretty effective (5th in expected points added per rush). I can only ding Vrabel so much for his pass/rush splits."
It is very difficult to be a run-first team that still manages to be aggressive, but it looks like the combination of Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry is so potent that they manage to hold their own.
As the Titans grow and evolve, it is important to note that the development of A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith may push this team up the list. The more comfortable this team is with pushing the ball downfield and calling passes, the fresher they can keep Henry.
They seemed to find the secret formula at the end of last season, so if they can get a full year of Henry and Tannehill, they might be able to push into the top-10 and beyond. And at the end of the day, isn’t this exactly what Titans fans have been begging to have decades? An aggressive offense that puts up 30 points multiple times a year without any clear weaknesses?
That is the dream.