We are now three weeks into the NFL season, and the Tennessee Titans sit atop the AFC South with a 2-1 record. While there are areas that say the direction this team and its quarterback Ryan Tannehill are headed in are positive, there are also areas of concern. Defensively, they have shown progress from the bottom-ranked unit that was on display in 2020 to one that is now getting off the field more frequently on third down.
The other encouraging sign is that the AFC South division seemingly appears to be gift-wrapped for the Titans considering all the injuries for the Indianapolis Colts. Fans should be cautious when getting into overall expectations for this team though.
While injuries to both AJ Brown and Julio Jones certainly play into this team’s concerns, one person can be looked at as to why the Titans could fall short of lofty expectations. That person is none other than Tannehill.
Is Ryan Tannehill on the verge of a forgettable season?
Through three games, Ryan Tannehill hasn’t looked like the efficient QB that has led the team for two seasons. His 2021 stats consist of under 800 yards passing with a 4-3 touchdown to interception ratio and a 56 QBR rating. Through three games in 2020, he threw for just over 800 yards, with a 6:1 ratio.
Mistakes have clearly been the issue for Tannehill this early into the season, and there are a few reasons as to why that could continue. First and most importantly, the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith was an underrated aspect of the Titans offseason.
Not only did Smith help rejuvenate Tannehill’s career, but he was a masterful play-caller, especially in the red zone. In red-zone scoring percentages by touchdowns only, the Titans were at 74.24%. In 20. That number this season has dropped to 53.85%.
Time will tell if red-zone efficiency improves as the season goes on, but up to this point, it doesn’t look too encouraging. It is clear to see that Arthur Smith had a positive effect on Tannehill, and it could take some time for new Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing to gain traction as a successful replacement for Smith.
In addition to the loss of Smith, Tennessee also had a good amount of roster turnover on the offense, which may have impacted Tannehill as well. While the Titans made headlines when trading for star WR Julio Jones from Atlanta, the subtractions in the offseason have outweighed the addition of Jones on offense.
In a sport where team continuity is vital, losing players like Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, and to a lesser extent Adam Humphries, can easily be looked at as to why Tannehill has struggled in the passing game this early into the season. Simply looking to Julio Jones to replace those players is much easier said than done, especially when Tannehill and Julio haven’t worked together much in terms of practice.
While things can certainly change, it could be a challenge for Tannehill and this offense to replicate how they performed in 2020. Because of all the offensive turnover, Titans fans should be realistic when looking at how this team performs, especially early on. So temper expectations for this Titans offense, and in time perhaps they can be reminiscent of what they were in 2020.