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On Titans trying to throw more to the middle

10/4/2013

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.