Tennessee Titans passing offense was explosive in Week 1

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

The Tennessee Titans offense only scored 20 points on Sunday, but that was largely due to poor situational play calling and failures in execution.

While the Titans failed to execute in a few key areas, the one area that didn’t suffer was the passing game.

The most obvious reason for that is that the Tennessee Titans took control of the passing game away from “OC” Todd Downing whose days are seemingly numbered in Nashville. Instead, those duties went to Tim Kelly.

Just a quick reminder on Tim Kelly, who he is, and what his role is with the team. Kelly was on the radar of Tennessee Titans fans as soon as they found out he was the brother of former right tackle Dennis Kelly.

At the time he was a position coach with the Houston Texans, and once Arthur Smith was hired as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, the Titans were suddenly in the market for an OC. When the Titans called the Texans for permission to interview Tim Kelly, the Texans quickly elevated Kelly to their OC position so that he wasn’t allowed to leave.

Once the Houston Texans shuffled the deck with their coaching staff again in the early part of 2022, the Tennessee Titans hired Kelly as the Passing Game Coordinator.

Now that the stage is set, let’s look at Kelly’s work so far when it comes to one of the biggest concerns from last season: explosive passing.

Looking at the Tennessee Titans’ explosive offense

There is some debate about whether an “explosive” passing play has to go 15 yards or 20 yards, but I am going to use 20 yards as the filter because I think that is a better measurement.

After Week 1, the Tennessee Titans lead the NFL in explosive passes both in total passes (7) and percentage of passes (21%). Not only that but the New York Giants defense was also penalized twice for defensive holding and twice for pass interference (as well as a missed call on Treylon Burks).

While this is an impossible number to sustain, it is reasonable to think that this will be a staple of the Titans’ offense this season. Racey McMath is injured which limited the vertical threat of a deep pass on the offense, but even if he was on the field the bread and butter of the offense is these 20-yard passes.

In 2020 Tim Kelly was the play caller for the Houston Texans and that was a season where his QB Deshaun Watson led the NFL in passes for 20+ yards. If you combine what Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills did in 2021, they would have ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack ahead of Matt Ryan and Trevor Lawrence in total number (44) and near the top-10 in the percentage of passes (8.1%).

The early results in 2022 suggest that the Titans’ passing offense is being run by a coach that values those explosive pass plays and it is being run with an offense that has guys who can get the job done. History tells us that Derrick Henry will figure out where his running lanes are in a month or so, and if those two things can happen, this offense could be a strength of this team this season.

For that to happen though, Todd Downing must be kept as far away from the offense as possible and the Titans have to weather the storm coming up with their schedule getting very difficult, very quickly.