Tennessee Titans playoff success depends on OC Todd Downing

Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

For the most part, the Tennessee Titans fan base agrees that Todd Downing hasn’t been very good in his first year with the team. However, there is an obvious reason for that in the form of some key injuries.

This offseason the Titans had to sacrifice some players on offense (not re-signing Corey Davis or Jonnu Smith, cutting Adam Humphries, letting Dennis Kelly go, etc.) in order to load up the defense for Shane Bowen’s “prove-it” year.

Well, surprisingly Shane Bowen did prove it and the Tennessee Titans defense has been a force this season. However, that lack of depth and familiarity left the offense in some pretty dark places at times.

Ryan Tannehill piloted the ship as well as he could have, but the trio of Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, and A.J. Brown played fewer than 50% of the snaps this year. Without their three most talented skill players, the offense was tough to watch at times.

With all of these injuries, you can’t blame Downing right?… Right?

Why more Tennessee Titans fans should blame Todd Downing

There are two things that every good OC should be able to do.

First, you have to have a good understanding of your players’ strengths and weaknesses. Find ways to emphasize what they do well while putting them in positions to mask where they struggle.

For example, if your offensive line is one of the worst pass-blocking lines in the NFL on passes without play-action, maybe utilize play-action frequently or at least don’t run so many plays out of empty formation.

Or if it is a downpour and you are missing your top-5 receivers, don’t call 50+ pass plays.

Secondly, you should be able to find some weakness in the opposing defense that you are trying to exploit and you should spend a big part of your week figuring out play calls to open the game with that exploit those weaknesses.

Instead of that, Tennessee Titans fans have gotten “Downing time” and for those that don’t know, that is what the opening two drives of the game are called. That isn’t getting better despite the team getting healthier.

Here are exhibit A and exhibit B from the last two weeks…

You are reading that right, in the last two games, the Titans have scored 0 points on their two opening drives and then followed that up by punting 0 times on the remaining drives in the first half. Instead of punting, they scored 38 points on those drives and the only time they didn’t score was when they missed a field goal.

Having said all of that, Todd Downing has something that coaches rarely get. He has the opportunity to completely re-write the narrative about him in just three games.

A.J. Brown has been excellent since returning and Julio Jones just had his best game of the season that included a game-winning touchdown. Derrick Henry is practicing fully and he looks exactly like a Hall of Fame running back in his prime ready to prove the world wrong after they tried to give his crown to Jonathan Taylor.

(In case you didn’t know, Jonathan Taylor is a running back for the Indianapolis Colts. He was being propped up as sort of a poor man’s version of Derrick Henry, but since the Colts are out of the playoffs after losing their last two games you probably don’t need to remember his name.)

With all of that firepower, if Todd Downing can improve on his opening drives and do a better job of getting his playmakers in space, the Tennessee Titans will be lethal.

Bowen’s defense looks like an elite group right now, and before Henry’s injury, the Titans were averaging 26.8 points per game in games where Julio, Brown, and Henry played. If he can just pull that up by a field goal then the Titans would be the best offense in the AFC.

Downing will tell us a lot in the next few weeks.