NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As the Tennessee Titans put together a new offense in the offseason, they felt they had a quality group of threatening weapons. Get the ball in the hands of Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Justin Hunter, Nate Washington and Chris Johnson -- in space – and those guys would be able to do some serious damage.
Nowhere in the conversation was talk of quirky changeups to far less dangerous players.
Yet early in the Titans’ loss to the 49ers, the Titans called plays for Darius Reynaud, a struggling return man who somehow got on the field as a receiver, and third-string running back Jackie Battle.
Third-and-4 near midfield on the Titans’ first possession, Jake Locker threw to Reynaud, who dropped the pass. Also in the first quarter, facing a third-and-15, Locker threw to Battle for a 6-yard gain.
On those two plays, the Titans showed far too much faith in marginal players who rank low on their roster. Reynaud failed to convert a third-and-1 in a recent game in a snap at running back. His drop last Sunday went along with another poor return day that finally got him cut on Monday.
No matter the coverage, throwing on third down to a guy you’re about to cut instead of to Johnson or Wright or Walker doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not that coach Mike Munchak didn’t have a convoluted rationale.
“As far as Darius, he was in there early because he’s a mismatch problem because they’re going to double Kendall and cover Delanie,” Munchak said in an attempt to explain. “That gives us another guy who can get open in a short area for a quick 3- or 4-yard pass. That’s what that was for there -- to take advantage of something we thought was there, which was, and he dropped the ball.
“I think we’re trying to use the guys the best we can. Jackie caught a screen. He was in there and we called the play. It’s not like Jackie can’t run a screen. Jackie ran a screen against Pittsburgh and got a first down. So he’s very capable of getting a first down. It’s not always going to be, ‘Is he better than him?’ You always want your best guys … [Chris Johnson] took a screen to the house in the third quarter. So, of course, you want him in there as much as possible, especially when you get a chance to call a screen.”
The Titans are giving charity chances to bad skill players, not only at the expense of their best guys, but skipping right by a capable guy like tight end Craig Stevens, who doesn’t have a catch this season. I’m OK with the way they’ve steered clear of tight end Taylor Thompson because I don’t have a lot of faith in him. But he’s a guy they traded up to draft a couple years ago because they were so in love with his potential.