VOL. 132 | NO. 214 | Friday, October 27, 2017
The Good (Youth), Bad (Injuries) & Ugly (12-9 Win at Cleveland)
Terry McCormick, Nashville Sports Correspondent
As the Tennessee Titans head into their bye week, they use this time to self-evaluate the first seven games of the season.
So, we are here to help them delve into what went right, what went wrong and what was just plain awful through the first seven games of the 2017 season.
WHAT HAS GONE RIGHT
The record: The best thing that can be said for the Titans through seven games is they have a winning record and a two-game win streak heading into the bye week. At 4-3, the Titans are even tied for first place in the AFC South with Jacksonville, which they defeated in the second week of the season. The division looks to be a three-team fight, and the Titans are right in the thick of it without having played their best football.
Youthful contributions: On Sunday, second-year safety Kevin Byard snagged three interceptions against the Browns, showing off the type of ball-hawking ability he had at MTSU and how it is beginning to translate to the NFL level.
Titans free safety Kevin Byard, a second-year player from MTSU, celebrates one of his three interceptions during Sunday’s 12-9 overtime win at Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
And Byard is far from the only young player having a positive impact for the Titans this season. Rookie wide receiver Taywan Taylor has shown some big-play talents, as has rookie cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who has fixed the return position and is learning on the job as a starting cornerback.
Rookie linebacker Jayon Brown has already improved the nickel linebacker spot. And lest we forget, much of the offensive line is still quite young with second-year All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin and left guard and Quinton Spain, who is in just his third season.
Succop and Kern. The Titans special teams have long been a franchise weakness. But that was mostly the fault of coverage and return units.
Ryan Succop is close to perfect this season, accounting for all the Titans’ offense Sunday in Cleveland with four field goals. He has now made 55 consecutive kicks from inside 50 yards, extending his NFL record.
Brett Kern has been equally brilliant, averaging better than 50 yards per punt with 12 of his 33 punts being downed inside the 20.
WHAT HAS GONE WRONG
Injuries. The Titans have had their fair share of injuries, costing them the services of a couple of key players and limiting the effectiveness of others. The offense might get a jump start in the second half if rookie Corey Davis can recover from his hamstring injury and get back into the lineup.
Also, quarterback Marcus Mariota should benefit from the bye week to let his hamstring injury further heal. The same thing goes for DeMarco Murray.
Are you beginning to see a trend here with hamstrings? Coincidence or not, hamstrings have been the injury of the year for Tennessee this fall.
In addition, Delanie Walker might be on the shelf with an ankle injury suffered late in the win at Cleveland.
The bye week probably comes at a very good time for Mike Mularkey’s team.
Defensive inconsistency. The secondary is giving too much cushion, and the pass rush has been far less consistent than a year ago. But the defense has slowly improved after the 57-point shellacking in Houston in Week 4.
The unit will never be mistaken for the 1985 Bears. The most disappointing aspect of this defense – aside from the pounding by the Texans – is it gives up points and third-down conversions at the most inopportune times. There was the lone TD drive from Jay Cutler in Miami, and Sunday the Browns were allowed to move into range for the tying field goal in the final minutes of regulation.
Overall, the defense has improved, but there is still something missing.
WHAT HAS BEEN DOWNRIGHT UGLY
The offensive struggles. There are plenty of shortcomings. Some critics point to the play-calling of offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, whose schemes do seem predictable, at times. Then, there is the offensive line, which has not dominated consistently the way it did in the second half of last season when the Titans gained momentum and nearly made the postseason.
Others point to Mariota’s play, which has not been as crisp, especially when using his legs to make additional yardage or to buy extra time. In truth, all are partially to blame for the offensive inconsistency.
We’ve seen how good the offense can be, especially during the second halves against Seattle and Indianapolis. But the inconsistency is maddening.
A team that fancies itself as a contender should experience greater periods of high-level play and not crater like it did Sunday in Cleveland.
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com