Titans start overhaul; Colts to trade up for QB? AFC South analysis


Titans coach Mike Vrabel has already taken big steps in the right direction heading into a crucial offseason.

Just hours after Vrabel’s season-ending news conference on Monday, Tennessee announced the firings of offensive coordinator Todd Downing, offensive line coach Keith Carter, secondary coach Anthony Midget and assistant skills offensive Erik Frazier. The offense, offensive game and pass defense were the Titans’ biggest weaknesses this season, so the moves make sense.

Downing had been Tennessee’s offensive lineman the previous two seasons after serving as the tight ends coach in 2019-20. Carter arrived in Nashville in 2018, Midget in 2020 and Frazier in 2021.

Injuries hit Tennessee hard for the second straight season, essentially limiting their ceiling. The team was forced to use 86 players in 2022, a year after using a league-high 91, an NFL record for a non-strike season. But coaching played a major role in the team’s inability to maximize the potential of the available players.

That started with Downing and his underperforming offense, which averaged an NFL-worst 5.5 points per game in the second half. The play lacked creativity and was predictable at times with Derrick Henry’s early runs. Compared to 2021, Downing’s unit got worse across the board in 2022: in total offense (30th), passing offense (30th), rushing offense (15th), third-down efficiency (23rd), fourth down (16th), red-zone efficiency (6th), time of possession (28th) and points (28th). There was no justification for holding him back.

Then there’s the pass defense, the Achilles’ heel to what was otherwise a stout defense. The Titans allowed a league-worst 279.3 yards per game. During the locker room cleanup Monday, safety Kevin Byard noted that pass defense is the area that needs the most improvement in 2023.

And Tennessee’s offensive game regressed for the second year in a row under Carter. The Titans ranked 16th in adjusted sack rate and adjusted line yards (a run-blocking metric) last season and fell to 18th in both categories in 2022. Former second-round pick Dillon Radunz, a viewed as the team’s future at right tackle, he lost his starting spot to third-round rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere. And left tackle Dennis Daley, a starter since Taylor Lewan was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 2, was one of the NFL’s worst-performing offensive tackles, allowing league-highs in sacks (12) and pressures (52). ), according to Pro Football Focus.

The Titans have a lot to fix, after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2018 and posting their first losing season since 2015. Vrabel appears to have taken the right first steps.

Other reflections on AFC Sud:

jeans Is GM Nick Caserio feeling the pressure?

Texans general manager Nick Caserio was a little awkward at Monday night’s Houston news conference explaining the decision to fire coach Lovie Smith. His gestures and the way he spoke screamed of someone who knows his job is on the line. A couple of times, Caserio mentioned how he would have to respect if ownership felt he was no longer the best person for the role.

“If in the end, the best thing for the organization is that I am not in this position, then I have to respect that and recognize it,” said Caserio. “I’m certainly not above anything else.”

The apparent pressure Caserio feels is justified. He has a chance to hire his third coach in three seasons, which is unheard of for NFL general managers. The Texans are 7-27 under Caserio, with tangible progress unclear. Houston is in great shape this offseason to improve its roster (with two picks in the top 12 and plenty of cap space), but the franchise has grown even more irrelevant the past two years.

Caserio needs to hit a home run this offseason, or he’s likely out in Houston.

“At the end of the day, I’m committed to trying to fix it, committed to doing right by the people in this building and trusting the people around me, trusting the resources available,” Caserio said. “In the end, that’s how we’re going to hopefully get to the bottom line that we’re all proud of.”

foals may change from draft number 4

Colts general manager Chris Ballard laughed Tuesday when asked if he had any early thoughts on the 2023 quarterback class, and declined to say anything. But Ballard made it clear: If there’s a quarterback the Colts believe is theirs, the team would try to move up from No. 4 to get him.

“I would do whatever it takes,” he said.

The Bears having the No. 1 pick is advantageous to the Colts. First, Chicago already has a franchise QB in Justin Fields and figures to flip the pick. Also, if the Texans had the top pick, getting it would essentially be out of the question, considering Houston is a division rival and has no reason to help a team it plays twice a year.

Assuming the Colts land one of the top quarterbacks, presumably Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, and land a trade with the Bears, they would move one spot ahead of the Texans, who also they are looking for a quarterback. .

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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