The true measure of any organization is if it improves. In competitive environments, such as professional football you are either getting better or worse. There are a lot of elements to a defense in the NFL. Overall the Titans took a step forward on this side of the ball but the progress wasn’t across the board.
6.4 vs 5.9 NY/A
Those numbers represent the net yards per attempt that Titans opponents got every time they dropped back to pass. It includes negative plays and incompletions. In 2016 the Titans gave up an average of 6.4 yards per pass play. In 2017 that number dropped to 5.9 yards per play. The Titans paired free agent Johnathan Cyprien with Kevin Byard at safety and spent a first-round draft pick on cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. The result was a defensive secondary that denied big plays and allowed Byard to play centerfield. It improved Tennessee’s league rank from 18th to 13th and made Byard an All-Pro tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 8.
4.0 vs 3.6 Y/A
The rush defense was the strength of the unit going from a stingy 4.0 yards per carry in 2016 to 3.6 yards last year. The improvement was small because the best team in the league and the worst team are only separated by 1.6 yards. Those tenths mean a lot and the .4 that the Titans fought, blitzed and moved the line on scrimmage for jumped them from 12th to 4th best in the league. Looking at opponents average for every play, a similar outcome can be found. That number dropped from 5.5 yards to 5.1 and the Titans improved from 17th overall in the NFL to 11th. Pro Bowl defensive end Jurrell Casey was a rock disrupting blocking schemes and controlling the line of scrimmage. I see Casey continuing to thrive under new defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
25 vs 27 TD
With the run defense being as dominant as it was opponents took to the air to put points on the board. The Titans gave up 2 more touchdowns in 2017 with 30 fewer overall passing attempts. 72% of the times opposing offenses found the end zone was by throwing the football. Tennessee didn’t start or finish well on defense. In the first and fourth quarter, the Titans were 26th and 29th in points allowed respectively. The Baltimore defense under coach Pees ranked 4th in points allowed in both the 1st and 4th quarters.
26.7 vs 28.8
Average starting position in the NFL is a big deal. Titan opponents were two yards closer to paydirt in 2017. Those two yards dropped Tennessee from 4th best in the league to 17th. Brett Kern was an All-Pro punter so that wasn’t the issue. Touchbdropped to 20th in the league. This is down from 7th the year prior. I really think that the starting position changed as dramatically as it did is on the offense more than the defense. The average yards per drive for the Titan offense fell from 31 yards per possession to 27.1. It is not a revelation that the Titans offense took a step back from 2016. Matt LaFleur was brought in to revamp the offense and utilize Marcus Mariota to the fullest.
Statistics used in this article can be found at pro-football-reference.com and teamrankings.com You won’t find the meaning of life but you will find more statistics than you can imagine.
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