NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the first of two bye week reports, we review the good and the bad of the offense through seven games:
MVP: Jake Locker. He showed steady progress in the first four games and then got hurt, missing two games with a sprained hip and knee. The Titans were terrible offensively when he was out. He wasn’t great in his return against San Francisco, but there is reason to expect good things going forward.
Most disappointing: The run game. We can’t just say Chris Johnson, though he’s got a good share of responsibility for his 3.2-yard average. The offensive line had underperformed, and a group that was supposed to be physical and able to help the Titans get the tough yard has not lived up to expectations. The play calling of Dowell Loggains doesn’t looked to have maximized chances.
Best play: Locker threw a 34-yard TD pass to Justin Hunter with 15 seconds left to provide the winning margin in a 20-17 victory over San Diego at LP Field on Sept. 22. It could be the play we look back on as the moment when Locker graduated into an NFL starting quarterback.
Worst play: Running Jackie Battle up the middle for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line against the Chiefs at LP Field on Oct. 6. There are a lot of plays that show how the Titans aren’t the team they are determined to be, but this one -- a fourth try from the 1 that didn’t get in -- is the biggest symbol.
I applaud: The team’s willingness to demote underperformers. Kenny Britt's poor play has resulted in a dramatic reduction of his playing time. Rob Turner’s poor play got Brian Schwenke into the lineup as the starting center. And while Darius Reynaud is a special teamer, his drop as a receiver contributed to him getting cut.
Biggest beef: The idea that “we want to throw it when we want to throw it, not when we need to throw it.” It’s archaic thinking and when the team struggles to run, as it has, the team is going to need to throw it, and needs to be more prepared to do so and better at it.
Looking forward to: Shonn Greene playing. Greene got hurt in the first game and didn’t make it back until the seventh, when the shape of the game didn’t allow the Titans to use him. Greene is not a great running back. But in tandem with CJ and with the way the Titans run block, he should have some effective rushes. They’ve got to dictate some games where they can run the ball with Johnson and Greene.
Give us more: Justin Hunter. I understand the rookie receiver isn’t ready for a full load and I wouldn’t want him blocking on a lot of run plays. But he’s shown an ability to go up and get it with touchdowns on his first two catches. With Britt in the doghouse, the Titans should continue to look for more opportunity to use Hunter.
They under-thought: Their offensive tackles. The Titans got three new starters for the interior offensive line and presumed that Michael Roos and David Stewart would return to their previous levels with better guys next to them. But Roos hasn’t run-blocked well and Stewart’s mobility is limited because of nagging leg injuries.
Coming of age: Kendall Wright is the team’s leading receiver with 40 catches. He’s dangerous, and I think he’ll be even better after the bye. The Titans need to continue to feed him, and when he gets in a bit of a rhythm, they shouldn’t hesitate to force feed him until a defense proves it can slow him.