The Titans offense and free agent wideouts
The Titans base offense is a two tight end set. Coach Mike Mularkey seems to prefer a three tight end set next. Third offensive set would probably a common pro set and fourth would be a three wide receiver set. It’s possible there is a goalline set that is more common than the three wide receiver set.
Every NFL team utilized a three wide receiver set more often than the Titans did.
Kendall Wright was the Titans slot wide receiver in 2016. He had roughly 20% of the teams snaps. Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe seemed to switch roles about midseason. “In a perfect world,” for the sake of discussion, Sharpe was in on 66% of snaps while Matthews was in on 100%. I have a stat issue to work out Please bear with me for guessing on the data. Rolling forward with the stats as this- WR1 was 100%, WR2 was 66% and WR3(slot) was 20%.
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If the Titans sign Alshon Jeffrey(a top WR for example), that would mean Matthews is on the field 33% less and Sharpe is on the field 46% less.
If the Titans sign Kamar Aiken(a secondary WR for example), that would mean Sharpe plays just 20% of the plays in 2017.
All of these stats are right in line with Coach Mularkey’s offenses throughout his career. There’s a definitive pattern.
Where to plug the new guy in is a real key point to consider.
By email, Craig, had a very interesting point. It goes as this- Anthony Fasano and Phillip Supernaw are free agents. What if the Titans can’t run the three tight end offense anymore? Then switch to using the common three wide receiver set more often?
Again, thanks for the email Craig. I like this thinking. It’s logical and a real hmmmm let’s think on that.
Jace Amaro seems to be one dimensional as a receiving tight end. He spent 2016 largely inactive, yet when the Titans needed to replace Delanie Walker, he stepped in. He does not seem to be a Fasano replacement.
Jerome Cunningham was their fifth tight end. By definition, a fifth tight end is below average. He could develop, but it’s also likely he is replaced next year as well.
To make their three tight end offense work(in this scenario), Delanie Walker would have to become the Fasano role while Amaro takes over his role. This is not a move in the best interest of the team or Walker.
I think this is simply indicative of a strong need to re-sign Fasano. Supernaw is relatively cheap, so why not him also? The free agent tight end market is rather weak right now, but it will improve with roster cuts in the spring. There are usually a handful of veteran tight ends available at reasonable salaries. One way or another, the Titans are likely to sign or re-sign a couple tight ends.
Playing along though- Yes, then a switch to either the proset or the three wide receiver set would seem likely. The team must have the personnel to run the offense.
I did write of the Titans using DeMarco Murray very well in the slot early in 2016. This is third down though. In no way will he convert to a slot wide receiver. He is simply an optional slot target in 3rd and long situations, when running the ball doesn’t seem like the best idea.
Again, it’s a great point about not having the personnel for this to continue. I don’t however, foresee the Titans changing their offense. Mularkey’s slot wide receivers have averaged 364 yards per season. This includes his stints at Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Jacksonville.
When it seemed (or I hoped) the Titans would be using Justin Hunter, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Kendall Wright as their three starting wide receivers, I wrote this. Besides being oh so very wrong about Hunter and DGB, the numbers are still quite relevant.
Notice Tony G impacts the stats of the third wide receiver in a similar fashion to Walker. There were also injuries to starters inflating the third wide receiver stats at times. I believe Josh Reed, Wes Welker, and Harry Douglas were the beneficiaries.
2016 played out about as expected statistically. It’s imperfect, but it’s not a bad guide at all. The articles I wrote were all named “force feeding Titans stats into Mularkey’s….” Jaguars or Bills or Steelers. The quarterback and running back stats worked out quite similarly as well.
Looking back at these offenses, the Steelers are my favorite. That’s what I would like the Titans to aspire to be. Right off the top, the duo of 1000 yard wide receivers jumps out and that’s special.
Mark Breuner getting 98 yards is absurdly low. I’d be quite upset about Walker’s play if he only had 98 yards for a season. Again, drop down to TonyG. Both he and Walker were one of the best tight ends in the league. When Tony G does well, the second and third wide receiver stats suffer as a result.
What you’re seeing is that there is some sort of limit or ceiling to the production. Walker, Matthews, and some free agent wide receiver, will not each have 1000 yards. That doesn’t happen. There’s only so many yards to go around.
Sharpe is not capable of being Hines Ward. Who is? I consider Sharpe an up n’ coming young player, but he’s no Hines Ward.
For me, I am stuck on those Atlanta years. I think Sharpe is plenty capable of matching Michael Jenkins’ stats. Young Julio(not the player he is now) could be matched as well; a goal for Sharpe to try and match, maybe.
I don’t see the need to add a big name wide receiver.
Harry Douglas can fill in in the slot. The Titans do not have veteran depth. That is what I could see them adding in the free agency.
In this blog post, I have them adding a veteran wide receiver and re-signing their own tight ends. In time I’ll add the 2016 Titans to that chart, but please understand I will be using it often since it proved to be such an effective predictor of 2016.
I realize this was a round about way to come to a conclusion, thanks for bearing with me. Sometimes I think it’s necessary to do this.