Tennessee Titans secret weapon vs Las Vegas Raiders

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

The Tennessee Titans fan base is in a dark place after what happened in Week 2, and their game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3 could shape the rest of the season.

On Sunday, we will get to see how this Titans team bounces back after hard losses, which is something that Mike Vrabel-led teams have rarely had to deal with.

A win against the Raiders at home could springboard this team into a new outlook on life since their opponents from Weeks 4-6 have just one win combined.

On the flip side, a loss could send them into a tailspin and questions will only get louder for Todd Downing and his strongest defender Mike Vrabel, whose seat gets hotter every week that he vouches for his OC.

Fans have to be asking themselves why they should expect to win this game when they were just embarrassed on national television. Even if the Raiders aren’t as talented as the Buffalo Bills, they aren’t as bad as their 0-2 record indicates.

Luckily, I think they have a secret weapon that the Raiders could have trouble with.

Don’t forget about the Tennessee Titans’ most explosive RB

Over the first two weeks of the season, the Raiders have allowed the Arizona Cardinals and L.A. Chargers running backs to combine for 15 receptions, 105 yards (7 yards per reception), and a touchdown. Sure, that group includes Austin Ekeler, but even if you take him out of the equation the backs combined for 11 receptions for 69 yards (6.3 yards per reception) and a TD.

Derrick Henry isn’t a third-down back in the NFL. Aside from being a pretty terrible pass blocker, he also isn’t a natural receiver and he doesn’t change the way defenses play the pass. His best attribute on passing downs is as a decoy on play-action fakes, but even then we have seen him miss protections and allow sacks.

Instead of forcing him to do both, they should allow Henry to get back to his Hall of Fame pace as a runner and utilize Dontrell Hilliard in the passing game.

It feels like it has been months, but way back in Week 1 we actually saw exactly how the Tennessee Titans should use Dontrell Hilliard. During the scripted plays on offense, there was a beautifully designed pass play that took safety help away from the short side of the field while Hilliard ran a route out of the backfield.

Hilliard got behind the linebacker and Ryan Tannehill hit him with a perfect pass for a touchdown.

Later in the game, Tannehill hit him over the middle on a crossing route where he had room to run and it turned into one of the seven explosive passing plays that the Tennessee Titans offense had on the day.

His other key play was his second touchdown against the Giants where he caught it out of the backfield and burned the defenders to the pylon for the score.

Now, the Tennessee Titans coaches know that Hilliard should be their passing down back and that would have been even more clear if he had been healthy in Week 2. However, he shouldn’t just be a plan B if the Titans get into 3rd and long.

Hilliard should see entire drives this week where he is the only running back on the field. Hilliard has averaged 5.7 yards per rush in his NFL career, so putting him on the field doesn’t mean that running the ball is off the table.

With Treylon Burks, Robert Woods, and Kyle Philips putting strain on the defensive backs, linebackers are going to be forced to cover Hilliard by themselves on passing downs. If Todd Downing realizes this, this could be a great way to exploit a Raiders defense that hasn’t had the best luck shutting down passes to the running back so far this season.