The Tennessee Titans have been talked about a lot this preseason. There are plenty that have them making the playoffs and there are even some people that have them making some noise in the playoffs. While all that may still be true, it seemed like the hype train was running out of control heading into the first game. The opponent the Titans were facing in the season opener had the same if not more preseason hype. The Oakland Raiders made the playoffs last season and this season returned a lot of their same pieces along with adding tight end Jared Cook and running back Marshawn Lynch. They were so built up that people even had them in the Super Bowl. Both potential playoffs contenders met in Nashville at Nissan Stadium in what plenty looked at as one of the best games of Opening Weekend. The game was close throughout but eventually the Raiders would pull away from the Titans, winning the game 26-16 in front of a raucous crowd. The win was a solid one for the Raiders, but it was definitely a game that Tennessee definitely will lament. The Titans could have won this game but some unexpected issues reared their ugly heads in this one.
Being physical up front and running the football has been a part of the DNA of the Titans under head coach Mike Mularkey. With DeMarco Murray and the physical offensive line, the Titans became a team you had to get the cold tub ready for the next day because of how sore you were after facing them. The running game they produced was one of the best in the NFL in 2016, ranking third in the entire league. So heading into this season, the Titans were expected to pick up right where they left off against the Raiders, who ranked 23rd against the run last season. Well, things did not go as well as the Titans expected them to when it came to running the football. DeMarco Murray was not able to really get on track, as he only got 12 carries for the game and was only able to accumulate 44 yards rushing. This is a far cry from what he did last season versus the Raiders, as he ran for 114 yards and averaged over seven yards per carry. The Raiders were aggressive in stopping what the Titans do best and made them a passing team. The Titans did make some plays in the passing game, but they usually make the plays in the passing game off of the running game. In this one, the Raiders were able to make the Titans one-dimensional, which made them easier to defend.
The offense looked a little off for the Titans and so did the defense. Just like the Titans offense was physical up front last season, so was the Titans defense. The Titans finished last season second in the NFL in rushing defense, right behind the Dallas Cowboys. This offseason they spent money in the secondary thinking they would still be solid up front against the run. Well, the thing the Titans defense was banking on working for them did not work as well as they thought. The Titans did have some stops that they made when Oakland was running the football, but they surely did not stop the football with the veracity they did last season. The Raiders combination of Jalen Richard and Marshawn Lynch combined to average over 4 yards per carry in the game and got timely first downs when they needed them. The play that stood out the most is when Marshawn Lynch ran through Jurrell Casey late in the game, throwing Casey aside like he was some straggler hanging on. That type of effort in stopping the run is not what the Titans expected at all and is something that will more than likely stick with them this week in preparation.
Other than the unusual issues that no one expected to see, there is one that the Titans still have yet to figure out defensively. The Titans pass defense was not very good last season and they thought they went out and remedied that with the additions of former Jaguars safety Jonathan Cyprien and former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan. Well, the Raiders are a high-powered offense and thrive with their passing game, but you would have thought the Titans would at least be able to slow them down. Honestly, the Titans did not even phase David Carr and crew as they he pretty much did what he wanted when throwing the football all game long. The Raiders were hitting Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Jared Cook whenever they wanted to it seemed. As a result of that, it made things harder for the Titans defense and it also kept them on the field longer than they wanted to be out there probably.
Overall, the Titans still gave themselves a chance to win the game on Sunday, but some issues the Titans were just not able to overcome. The interesting part about the issues the Titans had on Sunday is that we don’t know if this is a continuous pattern or not. What we do know if their next opponent is the Jacksonville Jaguars and from their first game, they love to run the football at people. As far the Jacksonville defense, you can expect the Titans to use them to try and establish their run game like it was well-established last season. In the end, this is only one loss for the Titans and they could very well reel off a few wins after this one. The season is not over for them yet.
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