Let’s not sugarcoat things, the Tennessee Titans have had one of the worst passing attacks in the league over the past two seasons.
Between the disastrous A.J. Brown trade, missing on other receiver acquisitions like Julio Jones, the injuries to guys like A.J. Brown and Julio Jones when they were here, and horrible offensive coaching, the team has scared absolutely nobody through the air.
But as mentioned, it is not as if the Titans have not tried to aid their receiving core, as the additions of Julio Jones and Robert Woods greatly excited the team and fanbase when they happened. Unfortunately, they did not pan out anywhere near as expected, and you cannot just use the injury excuse since the recently cut Woods did not miss a single game for the team.
In both 2021 and 2022, the Tennessee Titans failed to emulate what was great about their passing game in 2019 and 2020. Two straight years of underwhelming play at the receiver position should convince them to go back to what made them successful.
Tennessee Titans must get younger and cheaper wideouts this offseason
The 2020 Titans offense will rightfully be remembered because that was the season when Derrick Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards. He was obviously the x-factor, but that season does not happen if the Titans are not as effective passing the ball as they were.
Opposing defenses were kept guessing most of the time because they had to account for the receiving threats of Brown, Corey Davis, and Jonnu Smith. One thing that all three had in common was that they were on their rookie contracts.
They also had Adam Humphries, whose contract was a bit expensive for someone who was the third option on his team. Regardless, having the two young and athletic receivers along with the young and athletic tight end opened up so much, and it allowed Humphries to be a great fit as a pure slot receiver.
Ever since Davis left town, the Titans have failed to fill his void, and they have figured out next to nothing at the position.
The move for Julio Jones looked good at the time, and a duo of him and Brown looked like it would be extremely problematic for defenses. But Jones was way past his prime, and the combination of declining athletic qualities and injuries resulted in his release the following offseason.
And who would have not taken Robert Woods for a sixth-round pick last offseason? Anyone would have done that deal, but the Tennessee Titans were still taking a risk considering he was coming off of an ACL tear and would be 30 when the 2022 season started.
Who knows if the injury was hampering him because his rehab looked like it was going incredibly, but he could not create separation in his routes, and there were times when he just looked bad out there. The aforementioned trade of Brown also did not help matters because it put more pressure on Woods to be the headliner of the receiving game, and he just was never built for that.
Now, you can’t mention the Titans passing “attack” without putting a good bit of the blame on Todd Downing, and he really failed to take advantage of the things Woods showed to be good at while on the L.A. Rams.
But the reality is that great and even promising players will show it no matter who is calling plays, and Brown did that in 2021, and so did Treylon Burks and Chig Okonkwo in 2022. Jones and Woods showed next to nothing when they played, thus exposing the flaws in the Titans’ approach to building their receiving core.
Burks and Okonkwo are strong pieces for the future, and although he was injured for pretty much all of 2022, Kyle Philips is someone the Titans should be excited about moving forward. They are actually in a decent position as far as threats in the passing game, and instead of another swing for a veteran, they need to focus mostly on the draft.
And it is not like they need one of the very top guys in this draft, day 2 is one of the best times to take a receiver, as evidenced by getting Brown with the 51st pick. Even if they wait until the third round to take a guy, they very well may get another threat on the opposite side of Burks, and if they still want more at the position, a smaller addition in free agency would be the way to go.
Someone like Brandin Cooks would make sense, as he will be on the cheaper side and mainly be a depth addition for a team that needs it. But if they are going for an older guy like DeAndre Hopkins who is expensive, slower, and not long removed from a PED suspension, then they will likely have the same problems as the past two years.
The good news is that the Tennessee Titans seem to be aware of the issues that have plagued them recently, as Vrabel has been on record saying that they need more speed in the passing game. Based on that, it is doubtful that they add any more past-their-prime receivers to their depth chart.
The Tim Kelly hire also shows that they want to more closely align their offense’s philosophies with what worked in 2020. We have to see more of the offseason unfold before we come to definite conclusions, but there is a chance that smart personnel decisions this offseason could make this offense pretty lethal again.