Much has been said and written about the Titans runing game and how effective they have been on offense despite Ryan Tannehill not throwing the ball nearly as much as other QBs across the league. The Titans and Raiders share some similarities on offense — big offensive lines with bruising running backs who want to control the clock and punish defenses.
The biggest contrast between the Raiders and the Titans, however, is the yards per attempt that each of respective QBs put up this season. Derek Carr managed 7.9 yards per attempt this season, good for the best of his career. Meanwhile, Tannehill threw a whopping 9.6 yards per attempt, good for best in the league in 2019 and fourth best all-time since the merger.
You could point to the Titans’ stable of pass catchers probably being better than the Raiders, but not by too wide of a margin. The difference comes from the way the Titans scheme play action passes into their attack, allowing for Tannehill to have lots of time to hurl one deep OR pass short and let his receiver do the rest of the work.
What makes them so hard to defend is two-fold:
- Defenses must account for Derrick Henry and add an extra safety in the box
- The Titans will target ANYONE out of play action
How about when the Titans victimized the Raiders linebackers back in Week 14 using tight-ends and even the fullback to take shots down the field? The type of scheme you have to run against the Titans means linebackers need to key these players to get in the right run fit. But if they get sucked up by the play action, they run the risk of giving up one deep.
How about this pass play from last weekend. The WR at the bottom of the screen has only caught nine passes all season. When I said they use anyone, I meant it. Watch how both safeties step forward against the run action, leaving the outside CB 1v1 when the QB has plenty of time to throw. This is how you scheme downfield shots from a conservative ball-control offense.
Then there’s this play against the Patriots. Play action isn’t only about deep passes, it’s about putting defenders in conflict, understanding their rules, and using those rules against them. This time, it’s play action, and the linebackers bail deep when they see Tannehill hold onto the ball. When everyone is selling out to stop the deep pass, the Titans call an RB screen out of play action. Raiders fans have been clamoring for Josh Jacobs to get more targets in the passing game, and this is one way it could happen.