Exotic Smashmouth: A Love Story

The NFL is ruled by quarterbacks. And while the Tennesseee Titans believe they have the real deal under center, they’ve made a commitment to the ground game with a pair of offseason acquisitions. Sharona explains why the exotic smashmouth isn’t only a good idea, but a great idea by the Titans’ braintrust.

The Titans haven’t been very good lately. This isn’t surprising or even newsworthy except as a way to whisper this sweet nothing in your ear: This year they might be. They really might.

One should never overreact to exhibition games, but you can certainly glean some information from them. For the Titans, one thing is perfectly clear: They intend to run the ball with some razzle dazzle sprinkled in and they might even be good at it.

The Titans made several changes during the offseason after firing head coach Ken Whisenhunt midway through the 2015 season. They removed the interim tag from head coach Mike Mularkey’s title and made some other staffing changes as well, including the addition of well-respected offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie.

They also added some talent to the offensive line including Ben Jones at the center position. This might be the most overlooked acquisition of the offseason because that addition could be a catalyst for something big. Jones has been solid during the preseason and could shore up a position that the Titans have needed at help since letting future Hall of Famer Kevin Mawae walk at the end of the 2009 season.

Leading up to the draft, the Titans held the number one overall pick and speculation was high they would draft former Ole Miss Rebel left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was widely projected as the best offensive lineman in the draft. The Titans, however, traded the #1 pick to the Los Angeles Rams, a move which netted them the 15th overall pick.

Tennessee was then widely mocked when they moved back up to the eighth overall pick (by virtue of a trade with the Cleveland Browns) and selected Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin. After they selected Derrick Henry in the second round at pick #45, they dubbed their office the “Exotic Smashmouth.” Everyone made jokes and laughed but the Titans may end up getting the last laugh.

By trading for DeMarco Murray and adding Henry to the mix, the Titans returned to their roots with a much-needed emphasis on the running game. The new additions will contribute early and should contribute often. None more, perhaps, than Jones, who has been quietly paving the way for the Titans success on the ground during the preseason.

Watch Jones help spring Murray for his long touchdown against the San Diego Chargers.

[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Ben-Jones-springs-Murray.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Ben-Jones-Springs-Murray-Still.png”]

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Jones was also instrumental in breaking open some nice runs for Henry, including these three plays.

[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Jones-Springs-Henry.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Ben-Jones-Springs-Henry-2-Still.png”]

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Need more proof? The Titans showed a marked propensity to run it up the gut during the preseason and while Jones didn’t play every single snap he saw significant action in the run game.

Titans rushing directional chartAgain, you can overreact to exhibition games but the Titans were 2nd in the league in rushing, averaging 161 yards per game. Only the San Francisco 49rs were better, averaging 184.3 yards per game.

If you needed any more evidence that “Exotic Smashmouth” could be sexy, consider this: The Titans ranked 6th in the league in yards per game this preseason averaging 345.3 while only ranking 21st in the league in passing yards with an average of 184.3 per game.

This love story isn’t complete without mentioning the leading man, Marcus Mariota. The former second overall pick is a dual-threat quarterback, able to beat defenses with his arm his legs. Coming off a good rookie season that was cut short by injury, Mariota looks healthy, and if so he will make plays like this..

[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Marcus-Mariota.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Marcus-Mariota-Still.png”]

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The future is bright for the Titans

One final bit of evidence, as if you needed more, the Titans also have TaBae (a/ka/ Tajae) Sharpe, who was selected in the 5th round (pick #140 overall) out of the University of Massachusetts. Sharpe has garnered notice with head turning plays like this one.

[jwplayer file=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Marcus-Mariota-to-Tajae-Sharpe.mp4″ image=”http://cdn.insidethepylon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Marcus-Mariota-to-Tajae-Sharp-Still.png”]

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Exotic Smashmouth isn’t looking like a joke anymore. It’s real and it could be pretty spectacular.


Follow Sharona on Twitter @SportsbySharona, and check out her Diary of a DFS Virgin as well as her appearance on ITP’s Mock War Room.

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All film courtesy of NFL Game Pass.

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