This season has been a depressing one for Tennessee Titans fans and it looks like the team is going to be closer to the bottom of the AFC South than the top of it. However, there is one very important positive that fans can hold on to, and that is Tim Kelly.
Even though it isn't always showing up consistently in the box score, new Tennessee Titans OC Tim Kelly has done a great job this season. Through five games he has stitched together drives with a mix of passes and runs that look similar before the snap which helps keep the defense honest.
That is crucial because where this offense has always thrived is with play-action passes. For the past two seasons under Todd Downing play-action passes weren't used enough to really help the offense because it clashed with Downing's preferred method of offense, which was bashing his head against the wall.
This offseason Kelly did a great job identifying the strengths of the offense and creating a playbook highlighting those strengths. At times that has meant ignoring pleas from some fans who aren't ready to accept a hard truth. While Derrick Henry may show flashes of his old self, teams aren't afraid of an offense built around Henry.
Right now Henry is 5th in the NFL in rushing attempts, but he is tied with six other running back for 13th in runs of 20+ yards. He just isn't the same big play threat that he used to be and more often than not someone in the secondary is able to bring him down in the open field one-on-one. In fact, handing the ball to Derrick Henry has been the least effective way to move the ball down the field this season.
If teams are stacking the box against Tennessee, it probably has more to do with Mike Vrabel's insistence on the importance of the run game and the Titans' reputation as a run-first team.
How is Tim Kelly helping the Tennessee Titans offense
Despite the Titans being in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing efficiency, Ryan Tannehill has once again been one of the best QBs in the NFL when using play action. That makes sense because on those throws he second in yards per attempt (11.0) behind Josh Allen and he has the highest ADOT (14.5) .
While Tannehill has always been good on play-action, the reason why Tim Kelly is getting credit here is because he is calling play-action passes on over 30% of the dropbacks (5th most in the NFL). Instead of waiting for the running game to make plays before calling play-action passes, he is calling play-action passes to open up opportunities for the running game.
Being able to adapt to your QB's strengths is going to be crucial for the future of this franchise. It is still (sort of) early in the season, but the 12 months of Tennessee Titans football makes it hard to imagine this team stringing together two wins, much less getting hot enough to come back in a division that will have someone at 4-2 after this weekend.
Tim Kelly is going to have to dig into the 2021 Kentucky film and figure out exactly what makes Will Levis tick so that the Tennessee Titans can spend the next offseason trying to build a replica of that offense at the NFL level.
Again it is early, but the Tennessee Titans look like they are destined for another top-12 pick this season and they are going to have a difficult choice at the top. The good news is that there are going to be plenty of offensive linemen and receivers worth drafting in the top 12, but they have to nail this pick.
With Vegas believing that this is a 6 or 7-win team, that could mean that the Titans would enter the offseason with only 6 wins in their last 24 games. No matter how much you like Mike Vrabel, I don't think he is going to able to sell Amy Adams Strunk on drafting a QB for the third year in a row, and after trading up for Will Levis and calling him a first-round talent, those two are going to be attached at the hip.