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Music City Miracles - All Posts An SB Nation Blog for Tennessee Titans Fans

  • MCM Community Projections: Delanie Walker
    by Jimmy Morris on July 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports One thing that is always fun to do before the season starts is predicting how players will do in the upcoming season. Of course it is a dumb exercise because there are millions of variables in an NFL season that make it impossible to predict, but hey, it is mid-July. What else are we going to talk about? We continue our projections series with Delanie Walker. It seems like there are no easy predictions when it comes to the Titans. Marcus Mariota is up and down. Derrick Henry was really good but in a small sample. Now we get to Delanie who is coming off of a major injury. We know what he was before, but what will he be now? That’s the big question here. Predict Walker’s catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. Here is my prediction: 65/700/5 At the end of this series I will compile the averages. We will re-visit our numbers at the end of the year to see how close we were to the actual numbers. […]

  • Titans News: Forms of Intelligent Life
    by Robert Greenlaw on July 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns Not sure if any of you have heard, but there will be people (maybe) storming Area 51 on September 20th. If they try it, it’s going to go very poorly, and I think even if the government was nice enough to let them scour area 51, they would not find any aliens. We got rid of the aliens in 1996 thanks to the greatest basketball player of all time and Michael Jordan. Any way, NFL.com asks NFL athletes if aliens are indeed real or not. Roger Saffold was a huge addition to this offensive line, both literally and figuratively this offseason. He should make a big impact on this football team, as should Frogman. Orlovsky says no one knows anything about Marcus Mariota, which is true I guess, and also not completely true. […]

  • The Worst Titans Game You’ve Ever Seen?
    by John R. Kinsley on July 17, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Photo by Elsa/Getty Images Do I even need to say it? On this bleak, isolate offseason where very little in the way of news gets reported, we’ve shared some memories of some of the best times in Titans history, but now it’s time to recap the absolute worst. So, if you actually have a unique answer, post it in the comment section below. Otherwise, I think we all have the same answer. 2009, Week 6, at New England. The 59-0 blowout loss alone is atrocious enough, but just how it got that way makes this legendarily bad in Tennessee sports lore. This was during the dark ages when Kerry Collins was the starting QB, and it just so happens that this was his last start on the season. The Titans were 0-5 needing some kind of win to get back on track, but no resemblance of that came into play, just bloodshed. Collins completed two passes on 12 attempts for -7 yards (I am not making this up) while throwing an interception. Shockingly he did not have a 0.0 passer rating, actually earning a 4.9 rate by some miracle. Collins was later benched for Vince Young, who didn’t complete any passes on two attempts but threw an interception as well. Interestingly enough, this was a game where Chris Johnson actually rushed for 128 yards. Yes, despite not scoring a single point, the Titans had a 100-yard rusher in a game they lost 59-0. None of the Titans quarterbacks were sacked once, but Tom Brady—who threw six touchdowns on the day—was actually sacked twice, both times by Jason Jones. The Titans committed five turnovers on the day and put up a measly total of 186 yards of offense compared to New England’s 619. The Patriots put up 35 points alone in the second quarter, so the game was already wrapped up by then. I’m just still in shock that the Titans put up a total of -7 passing yards, and this is without any sacks so this is also the net yardage total! If this isn’t the biggest blowout in NFL history, it’s in the top five. Incredibly, the Titans won eight of their last ten games after this brutal beating, helped by a switch to Vince Young for the remainder of the season. While they missed the playoffs at 8-8, at least Jeff Fisher was happy. But aside from Chris Johnson going the distance and joining the 2,000 yard club, one of the memories of Tennessee’s 2009 is a painful migraine involving this headache, and there’s no medicine that can cure anyone of this disease. […]

  • Titans media approval ratings: Chad Withrow
    by Jimmy Morris on July 17, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Photo courtesy of Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom) We are in the final days of the NFL football desert. In just a couple of weeks the Titans will be in training camp and there will be plenty of stuff for us to talk about here. In the mean time, I am going to bring back an idea I stole from Deadspin a few years ago- Titans media approval ratings. Each post will present a media member that covers the Titans in some capacity. I will write somewhat of a bio for each person. You will then vote whether you approve or disapprove of that person’s coverage of the Titans. You will also hopefully provide some commentary for why you voted the way that you did in the comments. Simple enough, right? Chad Withrow is one of the hosts of the Midday 180. He is hated by old women and Vandy fans. He also does a ton of work on high school football in Tennessee, including running the website TNHighSchoolFootball.com. Vote in the poll and tell us why you voted the way you did in the comments. Results to date: Paul Kuharsky has a current approval rating of 67%. Jim Wyatt has a current approval rating of 91%. Mike Keith has a current approval rating of 97%. Dave McGinnnis has a current approval rating of 96%. […]

  • Can Adam Humphries help bring back the 2016 version of Marcus Mariota?
    by Mike B. Herndon on July 17, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports The Titans addition of Humphries should turn a major weakness into a strength. Do the Titans miss Kendall Wright? I know, it’s a weird question to ask as we patiently anxiously await the start of training camp next week. Wright is widely remembered among Titans fans as the team’s failed first round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft. A guy who flashed briefly in 2013, but then came crashing back to earth like so many Tennessee receivers have before him. To be honest, I’ve barely thought about Wright since he left the team following the 2016 season. He spent one forgettable season with the Bears in 2017 and then failed to find his way onto an NFL field last season. Wright currently isn’t on a 90-man roster and appears to be done with professional football at this point, at least at the top level. So how could the Titans possibly miss a guy who’s not even in the league anymore? Well, let’s start with the tweet and article from Pro Football Focus that got me started down this strange, dark rabbit hole. Check out which Quarterbacks are the best at targeting which positions ⬇️#TitanUp : https://t.co/JokMGeO30c pic.twitter.com/eOoL6Ortc2— PFF TEN Titans (@PFF_Titans) July 16, 2019 Within the linked article, you can find a chart that ranks 22 current quarterbacks who are projected to be starters in 2019 and have at least 800 pass attempts in the past decade. Marcus Mariota’s numbers overall fall about where you’d think they would — a little below the middle of the pack — but his rating when targeting two specific positions standout. When passing to running backs Mariota is among the best in the NFL, boasting a passer rating of 104.5, good for 4th among this group of quarterbacks. However, when targeting slot receivers the Titans quarterback ranks dead last with a passer rating of 81.7. There are some inherent flaws with passer rating as a statistic — it overvalues completion percentage, touchdowns, and interceptions while undervaluing passing yards — so let’s take a look at the raw numbers compiled by slot receivers by season in the Mariota era as charted by PFF and with DVOA stats from Football Outsiders. 2015: 30 of 51 (58.8%) for 420 yards (8.2 YPA) and 1 touchdown 2016: 50 of 79 (63.3%) for 775 yards (9.8 YPA) and 6 touchdowns 2017: 58 of 91 (63.7%) for 614 yards (6.7 YPA) and 2 touchdowns 2018: 47 of 74 (63.5%) for 574 yards (7.8 YPA) and 4 touchdowns One of those seasons should clearly jump out to you and it just so happens to coincide with Mariota’s best year as a professional quarterback: 2016. Of course there is a bit of a chicken-or-egg argument to be made here. Did the Titans passing offense perform well because the slot receivers performed well or was the performance of the slot receivers a reflection of the overall success of the offense? There are also some other factors that include Mariota’s health and the effectiveness of the running game, but I believe the yards per attempt (YPA) numbers suggest that the success Mariota found in the slot played a significant role in driving the overall performance of the offense. The quarterback’s overall YPA checked in at 7.6 during that season — just 0.1 above his career average and the exact same number he produced in 2015 and 2018 — but his YPA when targeting slot receivers (9.8) was much better than it has been in any of his other seasons. His second most efficient season when targeting the slot came in his rookie year in 2015. The common thread between those two seasons? Kendall Wright serving a defined role as the primary slot receiver. Part of what made the 2016 season so effective in the slot was the combination of Wright and Rishard Matthews. Matthews saw far fewer snaps inside than Wright did, but he was extraordinarily effective when he was in there, with Mariota averaging a blistering 11.6 YPA when targeting Matthews in the slot. Wright was no slouch himself with the quarterback checking in at 9.3 YPA when looking his way. Mariota’s DVOA when targeting slot receivers was +15.9 in 2016, third best in the NFL. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images Kendall Wright and Rishard Matthews were dynamic options in the slot in 2016.Matthews remained somewhat effective inside in 2017, but Eric Decker was brought in to pick up the majority share of slot snaps and failed to match Wright’s productivity. Mariota averaged just 6.8 YPA when targeting Decker in the slot and his overall DVOA when targeting slot receivers plummeted to +2.1, good for just 22nd among NFL QBs. That brings us to last season. The front office and coaching staff had planned on giving the slot role to Matthews and given his prior success there, that made sense. However, an offseason injury that lingered through training camp led to a slow start to the season and very little production from Matthews despite him dominating the early reps in the slot. Through the first three weeks, Matthews had seen 43 snaps in the slot on passing plays and Corey Davis (20) was the only other receiver who had reached double figures. Matthews’ sudden departure after Week 3 forced the Titans to scramble. They had lost Michael Campanaro to a training camp injury which forced them to keep Nick Williams as a backup slot receiver — we all know how that worked out. The team eventually settled on trying to jam Tajae Sharpe into the role, giving him 149 snaps in the slot from Week 4 through Week 16 (Mariota’s final game of the season). Davis had the next highest snap count inside at 119, followed by Darius Jennings with 55. The result was disastrous. Sharpe managed just 10 catches for 75 yards on 21 targets in the slot between Week 4 and Week 16, yielding an anemic 3.6 YPA for Mariota when he was targeted. By comparison, Davis went 20 of 29 for 241 yards — and 3 touchdowns to boot — when he was targeted in the slot over that same time period, good for a solid 8.3 YPA. Other receivers that saw some time in the slot after Matthews quit — including Darius Jennings, Taywan Taylor, and Cameron Batson — combined for a YPA of 9.9 when Mariota targeted them. Simply put, Tajae Sharpe was a terrible fit in the slot in 2018. This is where Adam Humphries comes in. The Titans clearly made him a priority target this offseason, winning a fierce bidding war with the Patriots that included a last ditch effort from Bill Belichick before the former Clemson Tiger inked a four-year, $36M contract with $19M guaranteed. Despite going undrafted in 2015, Humphries rose to become one of the most coveted free agents on the market thanks to his dominance in the slot. He ranked 5th in the NFL in receiving yards in the slot last season, pulling in 59 of his 81 targets for 666 yards from that alignment. No wide receiver converted more first downs from the slot than Humphries’ 42. Jameis Winston had a passer rating of 111.3 when targeting Humphries last season, a pretty big leap from his overall passer rating of 90.2. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports Humphries has become one of the league’s best slot receivers.On paper, Humphries is the best slot receiver that Marcus Mariota has ever played with and I’d say that his tape from Tampa Bay backs that up as well. However, the Titans didn’t stop there. After failing to have another palatable alternative at this critical position in 2018 when Matthews self-ejected, Jon Robinson went out and drafted one of the best slot receivers in college football in A.J. Brown with the 51st overall pick. Brown proved that he could win as an outside receiver down the stretch of his final year at Ole Miss when he filled in for an injured D.K. Metcalf, averaging 134 receiving yards per game over the final five games of his career. However, his ability and experience in the slot is important as well. It gives the Titans insurance at that critical spot and guarantees that they won’t be left trying to square-peg-round-hole the position like they did in 2018 anytime soon. Besides, it’s not as if the team will just use one slot receiver for the entire year. In the hyper-productive 2016 season Kendall Wright led the way with 201 passing play snaps in the slot, but Rishard Matthews (110) and Harry Douglas (112) both got quite a bit of work in there as well. I would suspect that we will see something similar in 2019 with Humphries leading the way, but Brown and Davis — who has already proven to be very productive in that spot — getting some work inside as well. Will that be enough to put Marcus Mariota’s career back on the path many thought he was heading down after the 2016 season? That remains to be seen — and certainly his own health will be the biggest piece of that puzzle — but Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown give him the best combination in the slot that he’s had since that year and the numbers suggest that’s a big deal. […]

 

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