It is a stat that has been met with celebration and protest, but it is a good one for the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans already have five pass plays 40 yards or longer in only four games this season. They only had five of those plays in all of 2018.
Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe lit up when I brought up the subject, “I think that was a big emphasis for us this off season. You know kind of being that explosive offense that we envision us having. With the guys who we’ve got on the offensive side of the ball we’ve got guys who can make plays, you know, down the field.”
“That is a big key” added receiver Corey Davis, “You know we’ve just got a lot of playmakers, honestly and Art does a good job of just scheming things up getting guys in different positions all over the field. You know, getting the ball in different guys hands.”
It shows a huge uptick in the explosiveness in the Titans passing game, but some fans and media want to make sure Marcus Mariota does not get the credit for them.
The ball did not travel 40 yards “in the air” on any of those plays. Two were deep balls to Tajae Sharpe and AJ Brown, two were throws to Brown about 10-15 yards down field and one was a screen to Derrick Henry.
I am here to say it does not matter. What matters is the Titans are making explosive plays in the passing game in multiple ways.
The quarterbacks job is to get the ball to the playmakers and when Mariota is doing that they are showing they can actually make some plays.
Does Patrick Mahomes have to apologize when Tyreek Hill is off to the races? Did Ben Roethlisberger ever get questioned when Antonio Brown was making ridiculous plays for him? The answer to both is “no”, so neither should Mariota.
That being said Mariota and the Titans need to do more down field passing. That is more passes that travel 10, 20, 30 yards in the air. Guess what? They are coming.
Taylor Lewan’s four game suspension ended Monday and he will start at left tackle for the Titans Sunday when they host the Buffalo Bills. The Titans are adding an elite left tackle to their pass protection. He can go 1 on 1 with the likes of Jerry Hughes and allow the Titans to focus helping elsewhere in pass protection.
Mariota should get more time to allow deeper routs to develop and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith should have more confidence to actually call them without getting his quarterback pummeled.
It will not be easy against a very strong Buffalo defense this weekend, but Davis and Brown both showed what they can do with the ball in their hands down field. Both are very big men and are more than a handful for defensive backs who are physically over-matched in that situation.
Both showed the ability to simply toss tacklers aside last week in Atlanta and that is something they have to to look to take advantage of against the Bills. Davis has 25 pounds on both Levi Wallace and Tredavious White, while Brown has 45 pounds on them.
If Arthur Smith can isolate them one on one with physically overmatched DB’s and Mariota can get them the ball, we could see that five 40 yard plays becoming six and seven pretty quickly.