AFC South: Dowell Loggains

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- So Mike Munchak’s choice boiled down to this: lose his job as head coach of the Tennessee Titans or fire a large contingent of assistant coaches in exchange for an extension and raise.

He chose Option A, and it’s understandable.

Munchak
Saturday, general manager Ruston Webster answered all the questions during a 20-minute news conference, but said he didn’t have a comment about whether an extension was discussed as things were sorted out with Munchak.

The extension would have helped Munchak hire replacements for the fired staff -- which was going to include defensive coordinator Jerry Gray (who wouldn’t have been fired, he just would not have been renewed), offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, offensive line coach Bruce Matthews and linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio.

“I think [Munchak] is a guy that people like to work for and I’m sure we would have been able to attract some coaches,” Webster said of a lame-duck scenario.

Assistants were more likely to join Munchak’s staff given two- or three-year contracts.

I initially presumed any extension would have amounted to an additional, papier-mache year.

But per Chris Mortensen, Munchak was offered “a multiyear extension at almost double his $3 million salary, conditional upon Munchak making more than a dozen staff firings and demotions.”

While Munchak’s loyalty was admirable, coaches who joined him last year on short-term deals -- receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and running back Sylvester Croom -- may now lose their jobs as a result of their boss' commitment to other assistants.

Yes, they’ll be in line to still collect their salaries if they don’t work elsewhere next year. But it’s not only about the money.

One example: Jefferson’s son, Van, is a rising senior receiver at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn. A receiver like his dad was, he’s a top college recruit. If his dad’s job is elsewhere next year, the family will face time apart or an awkward move. That's life-altering stuff.

The biggest thing is, if president and CEO Tommy Smith and Webster were telling Munchak which coaches he had to fire, they would have certainly expected to approve those he went on to hire.

That would have effectively neutered Munchak going forward no matter his salary or length of his deal.

A four-year coaching contract in the NFL is set up for a determination to be made after three years. After three years, the body of work should indicate the coach is deserving of a second contract or needs to be replaced.

Munchak did not deserve an extension based on his 22-26 record, a 6-12 AFC South record and a 3-20 record against teams that finished with a winning record.

The Titans may have dressed things up for him. I’m unimpressed that Smith and Webster saw a scenario in which a multiyear extension and a raise were good ideas.

Ultimately Munchak didn’t have much of a choice. He couldn’t have stayed and maintained the level of control an NFL coach should expect, so he told them to fire him and saved them from a bad situation.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Ryan Fitzpatrick got hit by a blitzer, he threw short for Michael Preston in overtime. The resulting interception by Antoine Cason set up the Arizona Cardinals' win over the Tennessee Titans.

Preston said on "The Wake Up Zone" in Nashville this week that his deep route didn’t come with an adjustment for a blitz.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains confirmed that Thursday.

Not only did Preston not have a sight adjustment for that situation, no receiver has one for any situation.

“We don’t sight, we don’t hot,” Loggains said.

That means Fitzpatrick or whoever is at quarterback is expected to make a protection adjustment to deal with the blitz and know who the best person in the progression is to turn to under pressure.

“That way you eliminate some of the gray area of, ‘Is that guy coming, is that guy not coming?’ Loggains said. “That way the receiver can go run his routes instead of staring at the safety and playing slow. …

“Instead of hot routes, we’ll put built-ins where Ryan has to recognize a coverage and go to Kendall [Wright] on an escape or Delanie [Walker] on a shallow cross instead of saying this receiver or tight end has to change his route after the snap and see the same thing the quarterback sees.”

Sounds smart to me.

Titans need run rhythm with hot hand

December, 13, 2013
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Running back rhythm has been an issue for the Titans all season.

Playing from behind has certainly been a factor, limiting carries at times.

Johnson
Greene
But two games ago Chris Johnson started to get going and disappeared. And last week Shonn Greene seemed to be heating up late in the second quarter, but offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was unable to stick with him.

There is always an explanation, and lots of factors go into it.

But this is a team that talked a great deal about running it and throwing it when they wanted to, not when they needed to.

That preseason plan has not panned out. The Titans, though, have run it plenty. Philadelphia is the NFL’s top rushing team, and they run it an average of 34.8 times a game. The Titans run it 30.3 times.

But the Eagles’ running backs are getting 4.7 yards a carry and Tennessee’s backs average 3.8. Philadelphia backs have run 31 more times than Titans’ backs, for 442 more yards.

Part of the problem was the knee injury suffered in the opener that cost Greene five games. He said when he returned he was “uncertain how stable it was” for a good while after he returned. Only now is he feeling back to himself.

Early in the second quarter in Denver, Green got three straight carries for 7, 6 and 1 yard. Six snaps later he got the ball again, and went for a 28-yard touchdown with 6:56 left in the first half.

Greene didn’t touch the ball again before halftime and got it four times for 3 yards after intermission.

“The stretch where he got hot and ran it, I think the next series was the 2-minute series, and we wanted to put CJ in there because of his explosiveness out of the backfield and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield to make someone miss,” Loggains said. “Then after the half we came back in and I think CJ started the half. At that point we got down after the interception and it’s a different ball game and the running back has gone away at that point.”

It has gone away too often. And I suspect it wouldn't go away as much if they found a way to ride a hot hand better.

Smith: Titans need to use CJ better

December, 10, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We posted earlier about Tommy Smith's conversation with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Mike Munchak's future is and should be the top subject of that conversation.

Johnson
Interesting too, was what Smith had to say about Chris Johnson, the running back who’s averaging 3.8 yards a carry this season and is slated for an $8 million salary in 2014.

“I think they need to figure out how to use him and his skill set better, but he has been a good teammate and a good player,” Smith said.

They, of course, is Munchak and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.

Munchak’s coached Johnson for 45 games. If he hasn't figured out how to use him yet, I am not sure I can find a reason to expect he will figure out a way.

More likely, Munchak will sacrifice Johnson at the meeting with Smith after the season.

"When we sit down with Mike at the end of the season I expect Mike to come in and tell me why he thinks we’re in the position we are, what he thinks needs to be done for us to improve,” Smith said.

I think Munchak will say one of the reasons things haven't worked is that Johnson isn't the right back for what they want to do and what they are trying to do.

The running back's big contract came from Mike Reinfeldt, the former general manager and then team vice president who was fired by Smith's father-in-law, the late Bud Adams, after the 2011 season.

Munchak can point to that contract as the reason he's had Johnson on the team the last two years. The coach can try to sell Smith on how things can be better with Shonn Greene and a cheap, mid-round draft pick instead of with the run game centered around a home-run hitter who no longer hits home runs.

He'll have a point. But odds are good he'll also have another losing record. He'll have achieved that with a pricey running back Smith seems to like, and that will make a bigger statement.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With the Tennessee Titans preparing to face the Denver Broncos for the first time since then-free agent Peyton Manning chose the Broncos over Tennessee, Manning's choice has been a big storyline this week.

John Glennon of The Tennessean recounts the pursuit and shows the Titans really thought they were going to get him.

I’ve heard from two reliable sources that one thing that worked against the Titans for Manning was the team's offensive coordinator at the time.

Chris Palmer’s offensive philosophy was to react, not to dictate. (Here’s a piece from Sept. 2012 I did about his options route scheme.)

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesPeyton Manning spent about eight hours with Titans executives on a plane and at the team's headquarters in March 2012.
I can see how that wouldn’t jibe with Manning. And Eli Manning worked with Palmer as quarterback coach with the Giants from 2007-09, so Peyton Manning had some extra insight into Mike Munchak’s chief offensive lieutenant.

When the Titans got their time with Manning, they met him in Knoxville for a workout, then he spent some time in Nashville. The Knoxville contingent was team president Mike Reinfeldt, general manager Ruston Webster, Munchak, Palmer, quarterback coach Dowell Loggains and strength coach Steve Watterson.

I don't want to over-interpret Manning's comments about that time, but he does tend to be very precise in what he says and does.

"I ended up working out for them in Knoxville," he said. "Like I said, I really enjoyed getting to know Dowell Loggains, really enjoyed spending some time with him. I played against Coach Munchak’s teams for many years when he was the offensive line coach. I enjoyed spending some time with him, really enjoyed that time. That was kind of a unique workout I guess, but like I said, I enjoyed the time with them."

His failure to mention Palmer is not super-telling. But after hearing from two places that Palmer was an issue, the fact that Manning left him out is open for at least a bit of interpretation.

Bear with me and trace this circular path that led to the Titans missing out on Manning, who I believe felt a pull from Munchak but a bigger pull from Broncos executive John Elway because of the obvious connection with a quarterback who won big late in a Hall of Fame career.

  1. Late Titans owner Bud Adams was late in sorting out his head-coaching search in 2011. When he parted ways with Jeff Fisher and hired Munchak after the Super Bowl, a lot of hiring had already happened around the league.
  2. As a new head coach without a large network of connections and a narrowed pool of candidates, Munchak had to turn to Palmer, an old friend, as his first coordinator.
  3. A year later, Adams told Titans brass he wanted Manning on the team.
  4. And one of the reasons Manning went elsewhere was because he didn’t feel like working with Palmer would have been the best scenario for him.

Palmer’s an innocent victim here. He’s a good man, though his philosophy is ineffective in the NFL circa 2013. Munchak fired him with five games left in 2012.

If Adams had moved more quickly in sorting things out with Fisher and getting Munchak in place, perhaps Munchak would have hired a different offensive coordinator.

If Manning was more comfortable with that coordinator, perhaps he'd be a Titan instead of a Bronco.

On Kendall Wright's unique route freedom

November, 29, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Anytime I’ve heard about how a receiver doesn’t run the same route the same way all the time, it’s been a knock on that receiver.

Until now.

When Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said that about second-year receiver Kendall Wright, he meant it as a compliment.

[+] EnlargeKendall Wright
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports"Kendall [Wright] is the type of receiver, you need to give him some freedom, that's when he's at his best this year," QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said.
“Kendall is kind of 'streetballerish,'” Fitzpatrick said. “When I was in Buffalo I always got questions about Stevie Johnson, who was the same way. They both have basketball player backgrounds. Just very quick. It’s been nice to get on the same page with him a little bit. He’s never going to run the same route twice the same way, and so sometimes he can be a difficult guy to throw to. But I’ve got a good chemistry with him right now. He’s a fun guy because he’s always going to be open…”

“He’s hard to cover. He kind of is freewheeling out there a little bit. That can screw you up a little bit as a quarterback. But the feel that I have for him, some of it is my background with Steve Johnson. Kendall is the type of receiver, you need to give him some freedom; that’s when he’s at his best this year.”

Intense wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson rarely talks to the media, so there wasn’t an opportunity this week to ask him about Wright’s freedom to freelance.

But Wright said he’s heard no criticism about it, and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains says it’s a rare freedom that Wright has been granted.

“I think it’s a little bit of the Wes Welker,” Loggains said. “Kendall, he needs to know where he needs to be and how deep it needs to be, and he knows at what point Ryan is expecting him to be there. How he gets there? You can’t put the kid in a box because you’d take away some of his creativity. I think as the season has gone on, he’s started to understand more the distribution and timing of it. It’s given us the opportunity to give him a little bit of leeway in how he gets there.”

Awarding a receiver that sort of latitude is a very rare thing.

“He’d be the only guy on this team that has that option,” Loggains said. “He’s the only guy I’ve ever been a part of on a football team, any coaching staff I’ve ever been on, that has had that freedom to get where he needs to get.”

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 12

November, 25, 2013
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 23-19 win over the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum:

Third down: Third down was key on both sides of the ball. The offense and defense were productive when it came time to stay on, or get off, the field. The offense converted 10 of 18 chances (7 of 9 in the second half). The conversions included two third-and-11s, two third-and-10s, three third-and-7s and a third-and-6. Defensively, the Titans allowed just three conversions by Oakland in 10 chances.

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
AP Photo/Beck DiefenbachRyan Fitzpatrick completed 30 passes for 320 yards against Oakland.
Perfect execution: Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick deserve credit for the way they engineered the final drive. They had 6:10 to use and they used 6:00 of it as the Titans moved 80 yards in 14 plays. If they didn’t score a touchdown to win it, leaving Oakland virtually no time, they were going to be in close field goal range to at least force overtime. They converted three third downs along the way. They didn’t even need to use their third timeout.

Clean up: Ten penalties for 100 yards were just killer, and I’ve noted in the past the Titans’ inability to account for the way a game is being officiated. Once you’re called for a couple of holds, shouldn’t coaches be telling guys how it’s being called and making them more conscious of it? Six holding penalties, four against the offensive line, demand better explanation than the Titans offered. First-and-20 is no way to live. One nice thing here: They committed just one defensive penalty. I know safety Michael Griffin was going low and tight end Mychal Rivera was going down at the same time. There was an element of bad luck, but it was still a hit against a defenseless receiver that isn’t allowed.

Contributing nothing: Kenny Britt had two balls thrown his way, and dropped both. He had to dive for the second, but it went right though his hands. I figured the Titans would eventually need Britt again and get something from him. But it’s probably past time to give up and start deactivating him. Michael Preston is on the practice squad and if Damian Williams needs another week to get healthy, the Titans probably should find a way to get Preston on the roster to be the fourth receiver. They can’t have a receiver on the field who offers little to no chance of making a catch when the ball comes in his direction.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As the Tennessee Titans told us about the revamped offense they'd run in 2013, they consistently mentioned play-action.

They'd be a run-first team that would build off it with play-action passing to keep defenses off kilter.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesJake Locker and the Titans have run very few play-action plays this season.
But the 4-6 Titans have run only 43 play-action snaps out of a 623 plays, according the ESPN Stats & Information. That works out to be not quite seven percent of the plays. By comparison, the NFL's top play-action quarterbacks, Washington's Robert Griffin III and Denver's Peyton Manning, have run 18.7 and 16.8 percent play-action snaps respectively.

Twenty-nine quarterbacks have dropped back for more play-action attempts than Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick combined.

On their play-action snaps, the Titans have completed 51 percent of their passes with one touchdown, two interceptions, five sacks and a 56.3 passer rating.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said the Titans have been close to 50-50 run-pass on first-and-10, and that of those passes, roughly half have been play-action.

"I don't know what's defined as play-action from the statistics that you guys have," Loggains said. "It's something we have done, I think it's something we will continue to do. The other things is, early on in a couple games when the running game's struggled, you get away from it a little more."

How about the quarterback perspective on it?

"I think part of it is you've got to go with what's working, what we're good at and what we've kind of had some success with," Fitzpatrick said of the league's No. 21 offense. "We worked on [play-action] a lot this offseason. That's still a big part of what we do in terms of going into games. Some of that is just feeling a game out. We've had some big plays, there were a couple big plays in the St. Louis game with the play-action and throwing some balls to Kendall [Wright] and things.

"As that run game goes, those play-action passes get even better."

Several players were surprised when I told them about the play-action numbers.

"If we're ranked 30th as far as play-action, it's a low number, yeah," tight end Craig Stevens said. "That stat speaks for itself, right? It seems like it would be good to try to get some more in there, just to diversify."

There is some conventional, and flawed, thinking that a team has to run well in order for play-action to work. Defenders read keys, and whether Chris Johnson is breaking off five yards a run or one, those keys don't change.

"Obviously a defense has to honor their keys," offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "They're reading the guard. Is he selling run? Is it play action? There is also the human element of, ‘Hey, we're getting gashed in the run game, we've got to sell out and stop the run game.'"

Mike Munchak circled back to the high number of 3-4 defenses the Titans have played against as part of the reason. Some of those teams did well to take it away.

But surely other teams run play-action against those defenses. The Titans have used the number of 3-4 defenses they've faced as an explanation for several offensive failures, but they did know through the offseason than many of their opponents would use it. So I wonder a bit about how they mapped things out, considering.

"In these next six weeks as far as play-action and things like that, we have to do a better job," Munchak said. "I'm surprised by [the low numbers]. We thought it'd be a lot different, we thought the season would play out differently that way. But again, this league is about making adjustments. I thought we did that the first part for the season when we ended up coming out 3-1, I thought Jake did a really good job with that.

"Now you start changing [with Fitzpatrick], you saw us last week go a little more empty, hurry up offense, no-huddle. When you do some of that it takes away from some of the play-action."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the Tennessee Titans' first four games, Chris Johnson caught four passes. And one of them was a freelance flick from Ryan Fitzpatrick when he was in a jam.

In the next four, Johnson’s caught 14 for an average of 12.5 yards.

The team has done better getting him the ball as a pass-game outlet.

Johnson
Still, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is reluctant to say the team intends to throw more screens to Johnson on a regular basis.

“It was really based on the front (against the Rams) because those guys rush so well, they’re going up the field and they are aggressive that way,” Loggains said. “We had some success with the screen, it gave us a chance to get the ball in 28’s hands.

Against the Rams, Johnson had a 20-yard catch, fullback Collin Mooney had a 22-yard catch, and running back Shonn Greene a 28-yarder.

Those three receptions accounted for 38 percent of the Titans’ passing yardage.

But the degree to which the Titans are going to screen is a game-to-game deal that Loggains said is “based on the opponent we’re playing.”

I think the Titans should go into every game intending to throw the ball to Johnson at least three times. It can’t hurt, and there is potential for things to open up for him when he gets the ball a different way and in space.

For the past two games there has been a giant new element in the screen game: 322-pound rookie center Brian Schwenke, a top heavy player who is quite nimble for a man of his size and has shown he’s very effective when he can move out of the tackle box and block people on the move.

“I love screens, screens are so fun,” Schwenke said. “I feel like it’s the kind of play where you can go out there and score immediately. So much can happen on a screen. You can be on your 5-yard line and get a 95-yarder. I think screens are fun, explosive plays. I don’t know what their plans are as far as that part of our game, but I’m always happy when they are called.”

Locker Room Buzz: Tennessee Titans

November, 3, 2013
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ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Tennessee Titans' 28-21 win over the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome:

Munchak
Drive by: The handshake between Titans coach Mike Munchak and Rams coach Jeff Fisher after the game was a very quick one with no extended conversation. There is no bad blood between the two. The game clearly meant a bunch to both. But Fisher didn’t linger as he swallowed a loss in a game he surely felt he could have -- and should have -- won. "He has things to do and so do I,” Munchak said.

Smart adjustment: Jake Locker’s 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter gave the Titans a 21-14 lead and came on a crucial third down. Coordinator Dowell Loggains said Locker checked from one pass to another, the Rams countered with exactly the right defense and Locker recognized there was no one to account for him, so he took off pretty quickly knowing he could get to the end zone.

Ended streak: Receiver Nate Washington said he was disappointed that his streak of 85 games with a catch ended, but he was satisfied because the Titans won. Loggains credited Washington with an RBI for a block on Cortland Finnegan during Chris Johnson's second touchdown run, a 19-yard burst that provided the winning margin.

Check pkuharsky at Instagram for a few postgame pictures.

Don't expect Titans to split out CJ

October, 18, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The effort to get running back Chris Johnson into space isn’t going to include splitting him out.

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People remember the Houston Texans failing to follow him to a split out position in 2009, and Kerry Collins hit him for a 69-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

I don’t know if I love Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ thinking there. I understand the rationale. (And I love the candor.)

“We feel like CJ’s strengths are probably coming out of the backfield, not necessarily splitting out and running routes,” Loggains said. “That’s not something that is his strength, [that’s] being in the backfield, being in on a stretch to run the football, run a screen or get out in a pass route from there.

Johnson said splitting out has never been a big part of what the Titans have done with him.

“It’s never been a situation where I had plays really designed for me out there on the outside,” he said. “It never has been like that for me. I know I had the one against Houston where they left me out there. Every time I go out there it’s really like a fly route or a hitch route.

“I have no problem with those. I don’t think I’ll miss them because it was never a big part of the game plan.”

I think the Titans should try to get Johnson in any position possible where he might have a better chance to get into space. It's hard for me to see how splitting him out occasionally wouldn't potentially create a chance at that.

How Titans will combat Seahawks' CBs

October, 11, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Seattle Seahawks extra-large cornerbacks get their hands on a receiver at the line of scrimmage, they hope to squash the chance the player becomes a viable target on that play.

“You want receivers trying to get away from you, doing things other than watching the football coming out,” said Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who was part of the Seahawks staff as they started adopting their current defensive philosophy.

This week, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains emphasized that his receivers need to have a plan and need to know how they will react to Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.

“If the receivers don’t have a plan and they get jammed up, (Ryan Fitzpatrick) is on to the next progression,” Loggains said. “It messes up the timing and the distribution of the passing concept. You have to come out with a plan, that’s one area where we have to make a huge improvement off of last week to this week.”

The plan is for how to get back in sync with the play and the quarterback. If the corner throws me inside, I’m going to do this to catch back up.

“Patience,” receiver Damian Williams said when I asked about the approach against the Seahawks. “You’ve got to be very detailed about what you do. A lot of times as a receiver we have a clock in our head. A lot of time when we run our routes, we feel like we got jammed up a little and the clock goes off, we try to get in and out of our breaks and sometimes we don’t get our depths and sometime we don’t give enough time to get the DB running…

“If by chance they do knock you off, that means when you get to the top of your break, you’ve got to come out faster. It’s compensation. The best way is the detail at the top of the route, making sure you get their hands off of you, making sure that you are coming back to the ball to cut the flight time off, making sure that you’re efficient with your feet in and out of your break, making sure that you are spend as little time in your break and coming out. You can’t rush your route.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- What should the Titans do with Kenny Britt?

He had a game off while he was hurt and the hope was it would help him refocus. But he was back to his dropping ways on Sunday and hurt the Titans in their loss to Kansas City.

I understand why it’s too extreme and not beneficial in the long term just to bury him.

But the team already reduced his work. He played far less against the Chiefs than he’s played in several games earlier this season -- just 35 of 69 snaps.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said after the game the team would reassess everything concerning Britt.

[+] EnlargeKenny Britt
AP Photo/Wade PayneLackluster play has led to a steep drop in playing time for Titans receiver Kenny Britt.
On Monday, Mike Munchak fielded questions about what that means.

“The only way someone can get out of a funk is to play,” Munchak said. “You can’t decide he’s never going to play again because he’s dropped some balls. It’s hard, it’s a double-edged sword. He’s dropped some balls. Does that mean he’s not going to get any opportunities the rest of the year? Where do you draw the line at, ‘OK, you’re not going to get a chance to catch any more footballs.’ That’s a tough little deal there."

“We still feel he’s a very good football player," Munchak said. "We still feel his attitude is very positive about trying to do the right thing. We know he wants to contribute. All those things are correct, so that’s why he continues to get an opportunity to play -- maybe not as much as he has when he was a starter at the beginning of the season -- but, he still had an opportunity yesterday to make a play or two. We have to look at that as a team, obviously. When you’re 3-2 and not scoring the points you want on offense, [you need to figure] out a way to do that.

“We’ll take all that under advisement as we go forward. No decisions have been made, and when the time comes, we’ll decide what’s best.”

I don’t think they are going to cut Britt loose, despite angry fans calling for his head. They can drop him to sixth out of six receivers, but they aren't finding a better guy on the street for that role.

Munchak said he watched Britt have another good week of practice last week. Munchak doesn't offer up the "good week of practice line nearly as often as his old boss, Jeff Fisher, did. But, as was typically the case with Fisher, I can’t remember Munchak ever saying someone had a bad week of practice. So we can't give the good week claim much import.

Until they get Britt in the stress of a game, they don’t know how he’s going to respond. And they can’t be the team they aspire to be if they are throwing the ball, even a little, to a guy they have that question about. They have enough other stuff to worry about.

Munchak said the franchise has an obligation to play the best guys.

When Britt is on the field, even as part of a rotation, they are failing to do so.

They can’t solve it on Sunday if they don’t come up with something new leading up to Sunday. Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson is getting good results out of others, but doesn’t appear to be getting through to Britt. To the degree Loggains and Munchak have tried, they haven't, either.

Meanwhile Britt looks like he’s “stabbing” at the ball, a good word chosen by former Titans quarterback Neil O’Donnell on Nashville radio.

“I don’t know if he’s pressing so hard because he wants to make a play that the easiest catches are becoming hard catches,” Munchak said. “I don’t know, it’s hard to explain exactly why. Obviously, his position is to catch footballs, and he’s having so much trouble in the games. He had some good opportunities. I mean, he didn’t play nearly as much as he normally does in games, but he still had opportunities to help us in this game. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do that.”

It’s on Britt, first and foremost.

But Munchak can’t just say it’s hard to explain what’s up with the receiver. His job is to figure out what’s going on and help correct it. Through five weeks of the season, that appears to rate as a fail right along with Britt's performance.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In late July, Mike Munchak wasn't talking about all the time the Tennessee Titans would need for their revamped offensive line to jell. He was not talking about the things the Titans needed to do to build Chris Johnson's yards per carry.

“If we're going to win,” Munchak said then, “it's going to be because our offensive line is a lot better than it was last year, and we're physical, and we're relentless, and we're going to move people around on both sides of the ball. And if we do that, which we're very capable of doing with the guys that we have, then we're going to win a lot of football games. If we don't do that, then it doesn't matter."

[+] EnlargeJackie Battle
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsJackie Battle was stopped twice on the Kansas City 1-yard line.
They did not do it Sunday at LP Field against the Kansas City Chiefs. The backbone of the team went jellyfish, and the Titans got 50 of their 105 rushing yards from scrambling quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Titans are a determined run team. But a determined run team with three new line starters and a couple new backs behind the starter should be better than this by Week 5.

And through Week 5 the Titans have a pricy running back who's average is down to a paltry 3.1 yards a carry.

The Titans are supposed to be a team that can get a tough yard. But facing first-and-1 from the Kansas City 1-yard line in the second quarter, this was the sequence:

  • First down: Jackie Battle up the middle, no gain, tackle by defensive end Anthony Toribio and inside linebacker Akeem Jordan
  • Second down: Fitzpatrick pass batted at line, caught by Fitpatrick, no gain
  • Third down: Fitzpatrick scrambles, sacked for no yards
  • Fourth down: Battle up the middle, no gain, tackle by defensive tackle Dontari Poe and Toribio

On the second down play Fitzpatrick got tripped up as he backed out, and had Delanie Walker open but could not deliver it.

“Once we see it on tape, there are probably a lot of reasons why that isn't in the end zone,” left tackle Michael Roos said. “It's terrible on our part, to start with. As an offensive line being revamped like that, we have to get that in. You can't make excuses. …I'm sure there were multiple guys that had issues in it. We've just got to get it in.”

Part of the Titans talk about their run game at this stage has been about the difficult fronts they have faced. But five games should be a pretty reasonable simply on defense in general, and five games should be more than enough time to figure out runs that can work.

“Third-and-1, fourth-and-1 from the 1, you've got to punch that in, that's unacceptable,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Right now my concern is fixing the problem. We've got to figure that out ASAP. We've played some good defenses, but that's no excuse. We have a lot of talent up front. We need to do a better job."

I've credited this staff for not being stubborn with game plans and determined to prove it was right in planning. But I think Loggains was guilty of some of that here.

The Titans ran it mostly inside, and Poe is an immovable force in there. They hardly tested the edge, though Battle had they team's big run to the outside late, a 37-yarder.

“We didn't have anything in the game plan going outside,” Roos said.

Said Loggains: “The strength of that defense is definitely the edge rushers and the linebackers are sideline to sideline players, (Derrick Johnson) can run, all those guys can run. The thing is we didn't do a good job inside getting those guys covered up. It's something we've got to continue to work on.”

Taking the ball inside to where center Rob Turner, the line's weakest link, was struggling with Poe even with help seems like an idea to work on as well.

Meanwhile the Chiefs had personnel issues with right tackle Eric Foster out.

Kansas City was, nevertheless, what the Titans talk of being: A reliably effective run team riding a top back. Jamaal Charles took 22 carries 108 yards and scored a touchdown from, you guessed it, a yard out.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Johnson is limiting the catch opportunities for Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson.

While Johnson is only averaging 3.3 yards a carry, the Tennessee Titans are still seeing eight-man fronts. Eight in the box dictates the shape of the secondary, and the shape of the secondary dictates where the Titans are throwing.

Sixty-one percent of the Titans' attempts, including Ryan Fitzpatrick's relief duty against the Jets, have been outside the numbers. Fifty-seven percent of the Titans' completions have been to the outside.

“The ball is going outside the numbers because we're seeing so much single-high (safety) defense,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “That's where the ball goes in single-high defense. When people play Cover 2, that's when you throw the ball to the middle of the field. And with Chris Johnson and our run game we're going to see a lot of single-high defense.

“I don't know if we've seen one snap of Tampa 2 in four games. …They're loading up the box and that means you have to throw the ball outside the numbers more than usual.

Here's a look at Jake Locker's work outside and inside the numbers this year.

Locker's out hurt now, and Fitzpatrick is taking over.

His biggest play in relief against the Jets was a deep ball to Nate Washington down the middle that turned into a 77-yard touchdown. But he doesn't sound like he will be an inside-out quarterback compared to Locker.

“I will probably fall into whatever Jake has done,” Fitzpatrick said.

The former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, who's now the team's radio analyst and a sports talk radio host, said he thinks Loggains answer accounts for the lack of deep balls down the middle.

But Wycheck said against single high coverage there is room to find guys like Wright and Walker in intermediate range in the middle of the field.

“It seems to me that the majority of the passes are from the numbers out,” Wycheck said. “That's lower percentage for completions. They've been doing a good job with it. But the middle of the field has to be accounted for.

“I think Dowell has to go more to the middle of the field, it give more players an opportunity to make plays, with crossing routes and a lot of man-beaters, run-away routes. I think they should go to the middle of the field more, a lot more.”

Fewer throws to the middle of the field have probably helped the Titans avoid an interception -- tipped balls that get picked are more common inside. It's also brought down the completions percentage. Tennessee is completing 67.4 percent on balls inside and 56.9 percent to the outside.

I'm not opposed to the Titans being receiver-centric and perimeter-heavy. Hey, it's worked well for them and Washington (19 catches) should be heavily targeted. Wright leads the Titans with 20 receptions, but it feels like he could have more chances at yards after the catch if there were more slants in the mix for him.

An occasional throw to Stevens could help mix things up and I'm hardly heartbroken that Thompson has not gotten chances. But Walker was signed to be much more of a pass-catcher than he has been -- he's averaging three catches a game.

Where Fitzpatrick is throwing will be one of the biggest things I'll be looking for starting Sunday.

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