Welcome to this week’s article about the positive passing game film breakdown: Titans vs. Dolphins, as we look at the good plays made by the QBs. The Titans ended up losing this game, although there were some pretty passes.
Positive Passing Plays:
This is not going to be encouraging for the rest of the season, because I want to highlight the ease of this read and completion with Delanie Walker, who is of course out for the year now. Walker is lined up slightly away from the line, but he’s next to a defensive player in a wide formation. The positioning here is important because Walker’s role is ambiguous to the defense. He can help in blocking the defensive end thus supplementing the protection, or he can run a route. The linebacker tasked with stopping Walker on this play is lined up 2-3 yards to the inside, which is exactly what Marcus Mariota reads. Walker runs a simple out route, but the initial separation in lining up causes enough space for an easy pass. Why is the linebacker protecting against this route? The Dolphins seem to be in zone coverage, which could leave a gaping hole in the middle. The other factor is that Walker is an explosive athlete, and lining up straight would expose them to a slant route, with opportunity for yards after the catch. As far as Mariota is concerned, the read is an easy out route to Walker. It’s also important to notice the back up option here as well. For instance, if the linebacker on Walker did move over to cover Walker, the middle linebacker would then slide further towards the sideline, Jonnu Smith playing as the in-line tight end, would be an option. The dump off option of course is Derrick Henry out of the backfield, and it’s important to notice the timing the set up as well. When Mariota is making the first read, Jonnu Smith is helping with a chip block. By the time Smith releases, Mariota should have decided if he wants to pass to Walker or not, allowing Smith to be the secondary option as he turns around for a pass. If Smith is covered, then Henry is the third option as he gets outside with a one on one match-up. The play ends up being fairly simple, but this is a great set-up for the offense, and you can see why the system is much better than the past.
I struggled with the idea of placing this on the Positives or Negatives article, but eventually decided it had more things go right than wrong. The first thing to notice is the late motion here from Delanie Walker, as he is lined up to the outside at the bottom of the screen. Walker moves inside, and the defender doesn’t follow him, which is a good indication of zone coverage. The move has two purposes, and it works out beautifully in both instances. The first purpose is the middle linebacker, as he needs to engage Walker. If the linebacker doesn’t engage in coverage towards Walker, then the pass goes to the tight end. The second purpose of the move is the angle it creates for Davis on the route, and creating manufactured separation. Once Walker moves away from the outside, the corner-back is lined up about 2-3 yards outside of Davis, and you can notice the outward slant for the route off the line of scrimmage. The direction of the route keeps the defender from committing to the slant because Davis could be running a go route or out route as well, therefore the defender can’t start his momentum towards the middle until Davis makes a move. In this instance, Davis runs a slant route towards the middle and is wide open. The natural defense for this route in the defensive scheme is the middle linebacker standing in the throwing lane for Mariota, but that’s where the Walker route takes him away. Mariota also does a great job of moving the linebacker with his eyes, as you can see the defender leans towards the tight end. The part that had me considering this for the negative passing plays article is that the actual pass is behind Corey Davis, and he does a good job of reaching back and catching this ball. If Mariota leads Davis on this play, this could have gained more yards, thus it’s an inaccurate throw. However, the read, eye discipline, and formation manipulation is excellent on this play, and it does lead to a successful pass, thus it’s in the positives article.
This is a great example of a pre-snap read by Mariota, and might actually be a version of the RPO offense. The first thing to notice is the coverage, once Davis goes in motion. The Dolphins don’t have a defender follow with Davis, thus indicating zone coverage. Once Davis goes to the other side of the formation, look at the number of defenders on that side of the field. The linebacker tasked with containing Davis is lined up 2-3 yards to the inside of the receiver. The Dolphins have single high safety to the side, which should mean the two corner-backs follow their receivers up the field. Mariota realizes that Davis will be wide open for the quick pass since the linebacker can’t get to Davis in time, and the safety is too far away. The indication of an RPO is the blocking from the offensive line, as they seem to try and push down the field, more-so than protecting the pocket. In most cases, RPOs usually have a run first option, but in this case Mariota realizes that Davis will be wide open and foregoes the run option. In this instance, it would have been a pass-run option, where Mariota would have tried to run it himself if this passing lane was cut off. It’s one of the best benefits of the new system aligning with Mariota’s talents. If a QB that isn’t mobile makes this read, it’s a one option play, because if Davis is blocked, there aren’t any choices left because the running back would be too far ahead on the play. Mariota, on the other hand, would at least have the option to run on this play, allowing for an extra wrinkle to be built in.
This is another instance which might be attributed to a great pre-snap read by Mariota. The Dolphins in this case are sending a corner blitz, but I’m not sure how Mariota diagnosed the blitz, and it could most likely be from film study. It looks like an RPO with a pass option first, and it works beautifully. You can see Mariota call an audible at the line, and switch the play, after Jonnu Smith goes in motion. The Dolphins have a linebacker and a corner-back to the right side, with a safety being deep. The Titans have Luke Stocker act as the fullback in this option as well. The thinking from Mariota is simple in this case, and depends on the corner-back. If the corner-back stays home with the receiver, then hand off to the running back, and Stocker will take care of the linebacker, therefore ensuring the running back gets to the second level. If the corner-back blitzes, then the quick out pass to the receiver because no one will be covering him, and free space ahead of him. As you can see, the corner-back blitzes, and Mariota makes a very good throw to Tajae Sharpe for the first down. This is excellent pre-snap read and recognition of coverage, and taking advantage of the system. Once again, notice the blocking, and how the offensive line is trying to get down the field. As mentioned in the Delanie Walker extension article, the NFL rules stipulate that offensive linemen can’t go 1 yard past the line of scrimmage on passing plays, which is why RPO passes are usually quick hits. The line blocks as if it’s a run play, but Mariota gets off the pass before it’s a violation. This is a great pre-snap read, and then following through once the defense confirms Mariota’s suspicions.
I want to take this opportunity to highlight the ingenuity of the play call, and the options provided. The first thing to notice is the route from Luke Stocker, hardly an established receiver, as the main option on this play, which in itself provides deception. The TE starts out as if he’s blocking for a run play from the other side of the formation, and then peels off as the fake hand off happens, allowing him to run down the field unimpeded. The second aspect is the roll out, as Mariota is rolling to his right, after going to his left, which usually means a pass to the right side of the field, since throwing across your body is ill-fated (As Sam Darnold learned on his first pass). The roll out aspect is also crucial to the safety’s position over the top, as you can see Mariota holding the safety with his eyes until stepping up to throw to Stocker. Mariota makes a good throw, although it could have been a great throw if he led the tight end a bit more. The third aspect of this play is actually the safety valve built in for the offense. If the receivers down the field are covered, and Stocker is covered, then Derrick Henry is open for a quick pass as well because the direction of the roll out would indicate against a pass back to the left. It’s an absolutely wonderful set up by the Titans.
This play should have gone for about 5 yards, but Dion Lewis shows great elusiveness as he makes people miss in the open field. There isn’t anything special about the read, as Mariota has two options, a deep post route or Lewis out of the backfield. The QB takes the safer option, and then the newly acquired RB makes two Dolphins defenders look ridiculous as he runs down the field. This is just a great run by Dion Lewis, and he really stood out in this game.
The first pass from Blaine Gabbert, and this is pretty much an easy pitch and catch with Delanie Walker. Corey Davis runs the clear out here, but notice the trajectory of his route. He is aiming to the outside, because he wants the hips of the defender to be facing towards the sideline. The reason being is that if the Dolphins are switching on this play, with the safety covering Davis, and the slot defender on Walker, he wants the hips facing the wrong way to make it easier for Gabbert and Walker. The Dolphins weren’t switching on this play, which made it all the more easier for this pass to be completed, and then Walker shows some elusiveness to gain the first down. It’s a good run concept, good pass from the QB, and a great run by Walker.
This is a 3rd and 9 play, and Gabbert makes a good throw here for the first down. The read is simple, as Corey Davis is lined up against a deep safety, and Gabbert hits him for the first down. The defense here is a bit baffling because they are too spaced out near the goal line, and they seemed confused. I can’t see the receiver’s name, but notice the second receiver to the right of the formation. He runs a go route, which could have acted as the clear out route we saw from Corey Davis is Play 7 of this article. However, the Dolphins don’t switch properly on this play, and Gabbert has about 3 options to pick from on one side of the field. The go route by that receiver also causes Reshad Jones to be tentative, because he’s the last line of defense to the end zone. Gabbert makes the easy read here and hits Davis, although he has a wide-open receiver in the end zone for a touch down if needed. I can’t blame him for taking the easier route because it is 3rd down near the goal line, and they do eventually score the touchdown. This is just horrible communication between the Dolphins defenders.
Delanie Walker, ladies and gentleman, Delanie Walker. This is a great catch by Delanie Walker, and I’m not even sure how this is not pass interference. The Dolphins defender is tackling Walker before the ball even arrives, yet there are no flags.
The only reason this play is on the positive side is because we’re dissecting the passing aspects of it. Otherwise, this play is completely negative because Delanie Walker gets injured here, and as we later found out, has been ruled out for the year. The Dolphins are in zone coverage, and Walker finds a soft spot in the middle. Gabbert does a great job of hitting Walker in stride, which allows him to run after the catch, and unfortunately in the process, get hurt. The read, route, and throw on this play is great.
The passing game certainly showed some promise, but it took a nose dive once Marcus Mariota left the game. I like the design concepts with the offense, and it could help mask some flaws. The overriding concern here is the Delanie Walker injury, because he was vital for this offense in many instances. I highlighted a couple of plays here where the ambiguity associated with a pass catching TE, and how it opened up easy passes. The offense will need to go back to the drawing board, with Walker out.
Please check out the Negative Passing Plays Article
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Primarily, I work as a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Franklin, Tennessee. I’ve lived in Nashville for almost a decade now, and my love for the city only grows deeper, like a 440 pothole. I follow the Titans closely, so I enjoy writing about the team and breaking down film. However, my main job consists of being a real estate agent, therefore if you need any kind of help with the sale/purchase of a home, I’d be happy to help you through the process. If you just want to talk about real estate, feel free to email me as well. I write a real estate blog as well, which I’ll leave a link to at the bottom of this section (as well as a few other places on the website) so please check it out.
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