Tennessee Titans  

 

Moss' talents ideally fit with what Titans need, offer

If you're looking for a dark horse to emerge as an AFC title contender, then you should cast your lot with the Tennessee Titans after their acquisition of Randy Moss this week.

Moss adds an explosive element to an offense that already featured two of the league's most dynamic weapons in quarterback Vince Young and running back Chris Johnson.

While some would argue that Moss is not necessarily a good fit for any team because of his boorish behavior and depreciating skills, the marriage between Moss and the Titans looks ideal.

In Moss, the Titans land an established vertical playmaker with the speed and explosiveness to excel at putting the ball in the paint. Although he is a limited route runner and doesn't put out full effort on an every-down basis, he has 52 touchdowns since 2007.

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In heading to the Titans, Moss joins an offense that features a powerful running game complemented by an explosive vertical pass attack. Tennessee wants to run the ball early and often to establish control of the line of scrimmage, and set up play-action to push the ball down the field. From a schematic standpoint, they use a zone-based blocking system that allows their play-action package to mirror the zone concepts that they use in the running game. The routes used in their play-action package are vertical, such as the go, post, post-corner and comeback.

The simplistic scheme is bolstered by the presence of Johnson and Young. Johnson makes the offense go with his speed, quickness and burst. He is a rare runner with the potential to take it the distance from anywhere on the field, forcing defenses to use eight- and nine-man boxes to limit his space. While those tactics have been somewhat effective in neutralizing Johnson this season, it has allowed the Titans to attack vulnerable secondaries with the deep ball.

Young throws an exceptional deep ball. Even though he is not regarded as a polished pocket passer, his ability to connect downfield provides enough balance to keep defenses honest. Throw in his athleticism, and the Titans are able to push the ball down the field on conventional play-action passes or off a series of bootlegs that allow Young to get on the corner.

With the deep ball so important for Tennessee, it is essential that its receivers can stretch the field. In looking at the group, they have two legitimate deep threats in Kenny Britt and Nate Washington. Britt, in particular, was emerging as a weapon (averaging 18.9 yards per catch with seven touchdowns) prior to a hamstring injury that threatens to keep him out six to eight weeks.

Moss' arrival is likely an attempt by the Titans to compensate for the loss of Britt, but it's also a slight to Moss to suggest that Britt's game is on his level. Yes, Britt is coming off a recent game where he totaled 225 receiving yards, but he doesn't force defenses to adjust their coverage based on where he aligns. He might be on his way to developing into that kind of player, but it is too early to suggest he is worthy of consistently receiving double-team attention.

Moss, on the other hand, continues to prove he must be marked at all times despite his shortcomings as a route runner. He only has 22 receptions on the season, but five of his grabs have been for 20-plus yards, and he is tied for 10th in the league with five touchdown receptions. Those numbers were compiled primarily against double coverage because few teams would single him up frequently.

In looking at how the Titans will likely use Moss, I went back and looked at two game films from last season while he was in New England. In the first (see video at right), from a Week 10 game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots operated out of their 12 personnel package (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers) on this particular play in a trey-wing formation, with Moss playing as the Z receiver. Prior to the snap, he motioned close to the double-tight end wing (about 5 yards apart) to give the appearance of a potential crack-back block. Tom Brady took the snap and faked a counter right to Laurence Maroney before he took a seven-step drop. Both tight ends held at the line of scrimmage while Moss ran a fly pattern against the two-deep coverage. The motion helped Moss elude the jam from the corner at the line of scrimmage, so he worked one-on-one against safety Antoine Bethea down the field. Moss, who remains one of the fastest receivers in the game, simply ran past Bethea on the way to hauling in a 63-yard touchdown.

In the second video (see right), from New England's Week 13 tilt with the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots were once again operating from their 12 personnel package in a trey-wing formation. Moss aligned as the X receiver opposite the strength of the formation, which featured tight ends Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker lined up closely as the wing set with Wes Welker on the outside. Prior to the snap, Welker motions close to the wing before running a fake reverse. Brady faked a handoff to Welker, executed a seven-step drop and connected with Moss on a deep post-corner. The Dolphins were in Cover 2 to limit the deep ball, but the combination of the fake reverse and Moss' speed allowed Brady to throw over the top of the coverage for a 58-yard score.

Both plays illustrate how the combination of Moss' speed with play-action can lead to big plays, and the Titans have the scheme and structure to fully blend those aspects together.

Moss has the potential to make the Titans' offense scary for future opponents. While those same sentiments were expressed when he arrived in Minnesota last month, the Titans are in better position to maximize his impact.

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