Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

Ben Arthur

AFC South Reporter

One of many Tennessee Titans’ largest points was clear as day of their Sunday Evening Soccer loss to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. 

Begin with the second quarter, a Titans’ third-and-9 from their very own 40 with 2:09 left earlier than halftime. Rookie quarterback Malik Willis threw an ideal cross down the sideline into the lap of veteran receiver Chris Conley, dealing with single-man protection. Conley dropped the cross. The ball bounced off his arm. 

Then take a look at the fourth quarter. The Titans once more with the ball, dealing with second-and-9 from the Chiefs 38. Willis gave one other receiver, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, an opportunity down the sideline, this time for a first-and-goal. However Westbrook-Ikhine, dealing with tight protection however with a clear alternative at a catch, bobbled the cross as he leaped for the seize. Incomplete.  

“I do know (Willis) made some very nice balls that received up and down that hopefully we are able to determine a solution to catch and are available down with,” coach Mike Vrabel mentioned postgame. 

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs defeat Titans in OT, KC 1st place in AFC West | First Issues First

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs wanted additional time to defeat the Derrick Henry led Tennessee Titans in Week 9.

However these had been two examples, amongst many others this season, of why the Titans (5-3) have missed A.J. Brown this season. Why they have been haunted by buying and selling him away to the Philadelphia Eagles through the offseason. 

Tennessee’s personnel have not confirmed they’ll persistently make performs on the surface. With a powerful Derrick Henry-led run sport and an elite protection, the large receiver issues are shaping into an Achilles’ Heel for the Titans’ hopes of a deep playoff run. 

Titans large receivers had zero catches on 5 targets in opposition to the Chiefs, making Tennessee simply the fourth workforce within the final six seasons to not have a large receiver report a catch in a sport, based on Subsequent Gen Stats.

“We simply return to work,” Westbrook-Ikhine mentioned postgame of the receivers’ struggles. 

However the points go far past the Kansas Metropolis sport. Coming into Week 10, Titans large receivers this season have a mixed 658 receiving yards — fewer than seven NFL cross catchers, together with six large receivers: the Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill (1,104), Vikings’ Justin Jefferson (867), Payments’ Stefon Diggs (857), Rams’ Cooper Kupp (813), Dolphins’ Jaylen Waddle (812), Brown (718) and the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce (659).  

Positive, the Titans boast a run-first offense — they’ve known as a run play or scrambled on 58.5% of their performs this season (249-of-425) — however their receivers have not been nice at capitalizing on their alternatives both. Mixed, they’ve a catch price of simply 58%, fifth-worst amongst NFL receiver rooms (solely above the Panthers, Bears, Broncos and Cowboys), per Subsequent Gen Stats. 

A serious concern? Titans cross catchers battle to create separation, making it tough to capitalize on the one-on-one alternatives which have come — and can proceed to come back – with Henry getting a lot consideration within the field. Tennessee large receivers and tight ends this season common simply 2.8 yards of separation from the closest defender on the time of a catch or completion, tied with Cleveland for worst within the NFL, based on Subsequent Gen Stats. 

Actually, Titans cross catchers (WRs, TEs, RBs mixed) maintain three of the 4 worst video games in 2022 league-wide in regard to common separation, per NGS: Week 5 vs. the Commanders (2.2 yards), Week 7 vs. the Colts (2.3) and Week 9 vs. the Chiefs (2.3).

RELATED: TALENT IS THERE FOR TITANS QB MALIK WILLIS

Accidents have not helped the Brown-less Titans receiver room. They’ve three of their high seven wideouts on injured reserve: rookies Treylon Burks (toe) and Kyle Philips (hamstring), and second-year professional Racey McMath. Burks, nevertheless, was designated to return to apply Wednesday and will return as quickly as Sunday vs. the Broncos. That is excellent news.  

Tennessee’s first-round choose, Burks has 10 catches for 129 yards in 4 video games.

“That is the plan,” Burks mentioned Wednesday of taking part in in opposition to Denver. “We’ll see how this week goes.” 

However how a lot of a distinction can Burks realistically make within the final 9 video games of the common season? Whereas the previous Arkansas participant was actually ascending earlier than his damage, he is averaged simply 32.3 receiving yards per sport in 4 appearances. Philips (hamstring) cannot return till Week 12. Coach Mike Vrabel indicated earlier within the season that McMath might have an opportunity to come back again later this season. 

Banking on these three, together with a fifth-round choose (Philips) and a second-year professional who had two receptions final season (McMath), to carry the NFL’s second-worst passing assault (136.3 passing yards/sport) virtually accentuates the unhappy state of the large receiver room. 

Even when the Titans deliberate to commerce for one by the deadline earlier this month, it isn’t clear how they might’ve made the numbers work. That they had simply $1.5 million in cap house within the days forward of the deadline. 

It wasn’t speculated to be like this for the Titans. After buying and selling for veteran Robert Woods in March, on paper that they had a No. 2 receiver and seemingly good complement to Brown. And it nonetheless felt like there was a very good likelihood Tennessee would draft a receiver early, too. 

Then the stunning commerce of Brown, who was getting into the final 12 months of his rookie deal, got here through the first day of the draft. There was no public expectation he’d be dealt till it occurred. Tennessee despatched the star receiver to Philadelphia for the 18th – which grew to become Burks – and the one hundred and first general choose within the 2022 draft. 

Extension negotiations had gone awry. There was a niche between the edges. Brown later advised ESPN the Titans gave him a “low supply.” In the meantime, Tennessee felt that Brown’s camp performed hardball in negotiations. He stopped speaking with the workforce for weeks and vowed to remain off the sector till a brand new contract was reached.

Because the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver, Brown is prospering. He has 43 receptions for 718 yards and 6 touchdowns in eight video games. He is on tempo for profession highs throughout the board. 

In keeping with basic supervisor Jon Robinson, the choice to commerce Brown was a “powerful one.” 

“We received to a spot the place it was going to be exhausting to get a deal executed and the commerce factor type of manifested itself from (there),” Robinson mentioned in April. 

For the Titans this season, what’s manifesting within the receiving sport is missed alternatives.

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand labored for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Community, the place he was the Titans beat author for a 12 months and a half. He coated the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for 3 seasons (2018-20) previous to transferring to Tennessee. You’ll be able to observe Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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