NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans want to unleash a rugged offense that wears teams down over the course of games. Wide receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown have played a major part in bringing physicality to the passing game and helping out with the rushing attack.
Most of the attention rightfully goes to Derrick Henry since he's the NFL's leading rusher. The Titans have the league's second-best rushing attack, averaging 160.1 yards per game. When Henry breaks off a long run, chances are you will see either Davis or Brown helping spring him with their downfield blocking.
"When you have receivers that just want to block and be unselfish ... I appreciate those guys," Henry said. "They work hard and are attentive to what they need to do for us to have a successful running play."
Titans coach Mike Vrabel pointed to how Davis and Brown are willing to "finish longer than the guy with the football" as a reason they're such impactful blockers.
"That's where you hang your hat -- your effort and finishing," Davis said.
Blocking is something that wide receivers coach Rob Moore has made a priority for his players, especially in conversations during the week leading up to game day. It's all a part of being a complete player. That's why you don't see Brown or Davis complaining about not getting enough targets and what makes them an ideal fit for Tennessee's offense.
Being in a run-based offense doesn't give the receivers a lot of opportunities to catch the ball. But it gives them the opportunity go against coverage that is better for them to make big plays.
"That's part of the passing game that comes out of the run-first offense," former Titans WR Drew Bennett said. "It's play-action, take shots down the field. You get chunk plays when you have a good running game and face more man coverage. It doesn't surprise me that in the right offense with a threatening running game that those guys could put up the numbers they are."
Opposing defenses are stacking eight defenders in the box on 35% of the snaps when Henry is on the field. That offers plenty of one-on-one matchups for the receivers to take advantage of. The opportunities might not be abundant, but Brown and Davis are taking advantage of each one they get.
"We always talk to each other about making the most of every opportunity," Brown said.
Since reaching the NFL last season, Brown's 7.64 average yards after the catch is the third best among all receivers. Davis' 15.9 yards per reception is the eighth-best average in the NFL and Brown is 11th with a 15.4-yard average.
Both players are big targets who can make contested catches and turn them into big gains.
"They’re big, strong, physical, extremely talented guys," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "They really are built for what we like to do. You can’t focus on one guy -- you’ve got a guy on each side that can hurt the defense."
Added Vrabel, "They've done a good job of catching the ball in traffic and being strong with the football, breaking tackles. That's the key."
Defenses have been rolling more coverage to Brown's side since he has established himself as the Titans' No. 1 receiver. Former Titans wideout Derrick Mason thinks it has helped open the door for Davis to thrive.
"I think the last couple of years he felt the pressure of being a No. 1. When I look at those two, I look at how Drew [Bennett] and I played and how at times they tried to force him to be a No. 1," Mason said. "He was a helluva No. 2, but he wasn't a top-flight No. 1. When they got A.J., Corey was able to resume his natural position as a top No. 2. When defenses focus on A.J., Corey's dismantling guys one-on-one."
Mason went on to compare the Davis-Brown duo to the Keenan McCardell-Jimmy Smith one-two punch that once led the Jacksonville Jaguars' passing attack. McCardell and Smith each gained 1,000 receiving yards in the same season four times. Davis and Brown both have an opportunity to surpass the 1,000-yard plateau in the season finale against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Davis needs only 55 yards to record his first 1,000-yard season, while Brown is 76 yards away from his second. Mason was a part of the last Titans receiver duo to both gain over 1,000 yards in a season; he posted 1,168 yards in 2004 -- the same year Bennett led the team with 1,247.
Unlike the 2004 Titans, who finished with a 5-11 record, this year's team is being carried to the playoffs by an offense that is scoring 30 points per game. The 60 receptions for 945 yards and five touchdowns that Davis contributed this season have solidified him as a legitimate threat opposite of Brown.
Mason feels that is exactly what the team needed to take the offense to the next level. He thinks the Titans have to make sure that Davis, a pending free agent, is back next season.
"In this league, you need a No. 2 because the No. 1 may not play well every game and defenses are trying to take him out. That's what Corey has been able to do," Mason said. "It's good to finally see the Titans have two guys on the outside that can affect the game. You gotta have two top-flight receivers that are young, explosive and that can make tough catches. You can't replace those guys. If they let that guy get away, they're making a huge mistake."