The Tennessee Titans were pummeled on Sunday. Playing against the 1-2 Jacksonville Jaguars, the Titan’s defense was torched for 305 yards through the air and 137 yards on the ground. Jeff Fisher’s offense was anemic, and the result was a 20 point loss, an 0-4 team, and a Tennessee franchise that is searching for answers.
It is pretty common for the blame to shift directly on the quarterback in situations like this. Especially when said QB is not the guy originally intended to be under center. The Vince Young experiment did not fail miserably, but he went off his rocker, and Kerry Collins has filled in quite admirably. Now the fans and media are looking for a change.
Since taking over for Young last year, Collins has been more of a “game manager” than the prototypical passer that he was in the past. Last season, en route to a 12-3 year, Collins averaged 167 yards per game passing. His career average is around 210 yds/g. This year the Titans have tried to throw the ball much more. In fact, Collins is on pace to throw 200 more passes than last season, and his stats have suffered along with the Titans.
Collins threw 7 picks all of last season. After 4 games he has thrown 6. His completition percentage is about the same, but his aforementioned yds/g have increased by 40 yds. This is pretty much the same offense the Titans had last year, yet they are trying to do it a different way.
Tennessee has the leading rusher in the NFL in Chris Johnson with 434 yards, but Johnson has only put the ball in the endzone twice this season (both in a 197 yd performance in a loss to the Texans). This was not an issue last year when Johnson got in nine times, but shared a redzone load with Lendale White who ended up with 15 TD’s in 200 rushing attempts. White is on pace for less than 100 carries this season.
Another factor to look at is the Titan’s defense. They are 24th in total defense through 4 games after being 7th last year. More glaring is the weakness in the pass defense, after giving up less than 200 yds/game through the air in 2008, they are giving up 282 this year. That is tied for last in the NFL. The rush defense has been quite good, but this is a team giving up 27 points per game, and that is hard to overcome.
Up until this week, the Titans seemed like a team that was just going to play to the level of it’s opponents all season and find ways to lose. An OT loss to Pittsburgh, a 3 point loss to the Texans, and a 7 point loss to the Jets followed that formula. The 20 point loss to the Jaguars did not.
Vince Young may be a good change of pace, but looking at his numbers they are pretty similar to Collins’ this season, and Collins is playing poorly. Young does add that athletic dimension that could spark the offense, but he also has 10 more picks in his career than TD’s and a career passer rating lower than Kerry Collins rating on the 2009 season.
Jeff Fisher has said he will stick by Kerry Collins and at this point, that is the right call. If the defense starts playing well, and the offense cannot win games, that is when the switch should be made.
The Titans have some work to do, but their defense is putting them in holes early. Fisher just has to remember that the Titans won when they were a team of run-first, Kerry later.