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Can the Titans replicate their 2019 offensive success?

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A lot of things went right after quarterback Ryan Tannehill took over for Marcus Mariota as the starter in Week 7 of the 2019 season.

Despite a slow start, the Tennessee Titans offense finished with its highest points-per-game average (25.1 PPG) in the past five years.

The challenge in 2020: Can the Titans’ offense pick up where it left off?

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith believes the first step is a stronger start. The Titans scored 16.3 points per game (ranked 28th) in the six games Mariota started last season. In the other 10 under Tannehill, the Titans scored 30.4 PPG (ranked third).

This season, Tannehill will be under center from the beginning. The familiarity that Smith and Tannehill developed last season should bode well for 2020.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

“The hardest thing to do in this business is sustain success,” Smith said. “Ryan did a good job last year. I feel very confident in Ryan. He and I have a great relationship; I enjoy working with him. We see the game very similarly. It’s fun talking football when we go in there and meet. I’m excited about the leadership Ryan will bring, too.”

Added former NFL general manager and current ESPN NFL analyst Mike Tannenbaum: “With the same coordinator and quarterback coming back, it should give them a chance to have continued success. Having Arthur Smith and Ryan Tannehill together for a second year will only serve them well, having continuity at those two key positions.”3

There are layers to the success the Titans experienced last season. A lot of things fell into place, mostly the performances by Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry and wide receiver A.J. Brown. Tennessee finished with a 7-3 record after Tannehill took over as the starter in a 23-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 20.cheap nike nfl jersey

It will be tough for Tannehill to duplicate a season in which he completed 70.3% of his passes and averaged 9.6 yards per completion. In NFL history, only Hall of Fame quarterbacks Sammy Baugh (Washington, 1945) and Joe Montana (49ers, 1989) were able to finish a season with an average of more than 9 yards per completion and a completion percentage of 70 or better.

There weren’t many situations where Tannehill was more dangerous than with play-action passes. He completed 76.5% and had an average of 13.6 yards per attempt on play-action passes last year, with both stats the highest among any quarterbacks with at least 75 play-action pass attempts. His average play-action completion gained 17.8 yards, also best in the NFL.

The success of the Titans’ play-action passing game hinges on Henry’s effectiveness as a runner. The threat of Henry running the ball forces linebackers or safeties to take false steps, leading to them getting caught out of position to effectively defend pass attempts.

“It is about Derrick Henry. … It’s what [coach Mike] Vrabel wants to do: Run the ball with Henry and play solid defense,” said Doug Kezirian, host of ESPN’s Daily Wager. “He’s only missed one game in the last three years. That was last year, Week 16 … They didn’t really need it, and in Week 17 he came back and had over 30 carries for over 200 yards.”

Keeping Henry healthy is critical to Tennessee’s offensive success since he takes on such a heavy workload. He carried the ball 303 times during the regular season and still managed to average 5.1 yards per carry. He had an additional 83 carries in the playoffs and averaged 5.4 YPC.

Teams focused on stopping Henry by stacking eight defenders in the box. It didn’t matter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, when facing with eight defenders in the box last season, Henry accounted for 572 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns and 235 yards after contact, all of which were league highs.

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