Titans must get their offense moving without TE Delanie Walker

The Tennessee Titans suffered more than just a 27-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins in the season opener. Three of the most vital players on the offense were injured in the game.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota (elbow), left tackle Taylor Lewan (concussion), and tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) all went down on Sunday. Walker (broken ankle) is expected to miss the 2018 season, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Titans have to find a way to move forward without Mariota's most trusted pass-catcher.

"I hope he gets back as fast as he can," Mariota said. "That guy's a stud. He's been Mr. Reliable throughout his entire career, and whatever happens we got to have the next guy step up."

Fortunately, general manager Jon Robinson elected to keep four tight ends this season. Luke Stocker is primarily a blocking tight end, but his 31-yard reception Sunday was the longest completion by Mariota against Miami. Fellow tight end Anthony Firkser was one of Sunday's inactive players.

Second-year tight end Jonnu Smith is the next man up and has a skill set similar to Walker's.

Replacing Walker, a three-time Pro Bowler, won't be easy. Smith played 40 snaps on Sunday against the Dolphins, was targeted three times and caught one pass for 12 yards. He should see plenty of opportunities running the intermediate routes that produce high-percentage throws in Tennessee's scheme. Mariota stresses being safe with the football, which bodes well for Smith. Mariota makes a lot of quick throws across the middle on RPOs (run-pass option plays).

Mariota injured his elbow executing a read-option play -- he was carrying out the run fake when he was blasted by Dolphins defensive end William Hayes. Usually, a hit like that on a quarterback would warrant a penalty. However, there was no penalty because Mariota was carrying out the fake when he was hit.

With Mariota expected to play in Week 2, the Titans will continue to utilize the RPOs. However, they'll need to execute the quick passing game to keep Mariota from taking big hits, and not having Walker should warrant more spread concepts with three wide receivers on the field. Spacing out the defense and using quick throws to the receivers will give them chances to gain yards after the catch.

Wide receivers Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe will be relied upon to help fill the void left by Walker. Matthews has two seasons with Mariota as his quarterback. After Walker, he's the pass-catcher that Mariota is most familiar with.

All of Tennessee's wideouts are capable of making plays after the catch, but Taylor is perhaps the most explosive. His 47-yard touchdown catch and run against Tampa Bay in week 2 of the preseason is an example of his playmaking ability.

He only played nine snaps against the Dolphins and was targeted once as he tried to make a diving catch in the end zone on a deep pass from Mariota. His snaps will increase going forward.

Running back Dion Lewis will also get more targets -- especially on third down. He has become an outstanding route runner and creates matchup problems for opposing defenses. His ability to turn a short pass into a big gain is something the Titans will rely on.

Though the outlook is bleak without Walker, there are still ways for Tennessee to get the offense going. It will take a group effort to replace Walker, but the pieces are in place to do so.