The Tennessee Titans have to plenty to improve upon after being upset by the New York Jets on Sunday. At the top of the list is pass protection.
The Titans allowed Ryan Tannehill to be sacked seven times on Sunday, bringing the season total of sacks to an alarming 17 in just four games.
The book on how to stall out the Titans offense appears to be out, and challenging Tennessee’s porous pass protection is at the top of the to do list for opposing defenses.
“They brought pressure and we have to do a better job of picking up the pressure when somebody drops out and somebody comes,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “Staying inside, things we are always going to teach, being firm in the middle of the pocket and trying to get some certain width to it so the quarterback can operate. Those are all things we need to improve on.”
For much of the game, the Titans stuck with their seven-step drops and play-action, even as Tannehill was in harm’s way from the pass rush. When asked if things like shotgun formations and three-step drops could help, Vrabel said there are things that can help the situation.
“There are a lot of things we can do. We are confident in our passing game, we had some positive passes, we had some conversions third down. There are a lot of things we can do better, but it is not just about dropping back and throwing it in a second and a half, it doesn’t really work like that,” Vrabel said. “You have to be able to have some route distribution, guys have to be able to get open, there is a timing mechanism to it, and we have to protect better. It is not just about catching it, raising it up and throwing, and thinking somebody is going to be open for a positive gain.”
Vrabel said the passing game has three different aspects in order for it to be successful, things that go beyond just protection matters.
“There are three processes to a pass game. It is about getting open, recognizing man and zone, running the correct route, it is about protection holding up, and it is about the quarterback getting rid of the football and getting it to someone quickly,” Vrabel said. “I would say all three of those. When the quarterback starts to get hit, then he wants to start getting rid of the ball sooner and then maybe guys aren’t open as quickly. It is just this process, and we need everyone to come together like we do when we have successful plays.”
As for the receivers getting open and having time to run their routes, the absence of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones showed Sunday. Other receivers had trouble gaining early separation while Tannehill was in the pocket.
For his part, Tannehill said that when game plans are formulated that you never go in thinking about taking so many hits.
“You never anticipate that. You never go into a game thinking you’re going to take a bunch of hits,” Tannehill said.
In any event, Tannehill has been taking far too many hits in the pocket, and until that is corrected, the Titans are likely to continue to struggle.