Skip to main content

Big Three Increase Big-Play Potential

Saturday's NFL playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals is likely to be one of the rare times this season Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones have played together.

NASHVILLE – The last time that Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones were on the field together was a week before Halloween, and the Tennessee Titans throttled the Kansas City Chiefs 27-3.

Each contributed to that Week 7 blowout, with Henry carrying 29 times for 86 yards, Brown catching eight passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, and Jones catching two passes for 38 yards.

So, it’s understandable that Titans fans are thrilled about the prospect of reuniting the talented trio for Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game against Cincinnati at Nissan Stadium (3:30 p.m., CST).

Ryan Tannehill should be pretty excited too. Per Sharp Football Analysis, a mere 10.9 percent of Tannehill’s drop-backs this season came with Henry, Brown and Jones on the field. When that happened, the veteran quarterback averaged 9.4 yards per passing attempt, well above his overall season average of 7.0 yards per attempt. Had Tannehill kept that pace all season he would have been tops in the NFL.

What happened when various parts were removed from the big-three equation, according to Sharp’s analysis? Predictably, Tannehill’s stats suffered, especially when it came to the bigger throws that move the ball downfield more easily.

Here’s a look:

• A total of 30.4 percent of Tannehill’s drop-backs occurred with Brown and Jones (but no Henry) on the field. His yards per attempt average dipped to 8.2 yards on those throws.

• A total of 31.3 percent of Tannehill’s drop-backs occurred with Henry (but no Brown or Jones) on the field. His yards per attempt average was 5.5 yards on those throws.

• A total of 24.6 percent of Tannehill’s drop-backs occurred without any of the three. His yards per attempt average was 5.2 yards on those throws.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

“Yeah, I’m excited to have our guys back,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “It’s a little bit different when you have guys back, guys you’ve played with a lot. So, it’s definitely a positive thing.

“But at the end of the day, you have to go and make the plays and execute. Just because you have guys back, or maybe (Henry) is coming back, just because he walks out there, doesn’t mean anything is going to happen. We have to go out and earn it and make the plays necessary to win the game.”

It looks more and more as if the reunion indeed will occur against the Bengals.

Neither Brown nor Jones was listed on Tuesday’s injury report for the Titans. Brown played in the last three games, a stretch that included his 11-catch, 145-yard, one-touchdown performance against San Francisco in Week 16. Jones was one the field in three of the final four and finished with an uptick, five receptions for 58 yards in the regular-season finale.

Henry hasn’t played since he sustained a foot fracture in Week 8, but he’s in his third week of practice at this point, and – playing in pads -- went through contact drills Tuesday to help simulate game conditions. He wouldn’t be listed on the injury report until he’s activated to the 53-man roster.

“I think that’s a good step,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “We’ll have to have some contact. It’s been a while since he’s had contact. We’re going to have to do these things to replicate what’s going to be asked of him in a football game. So, we’ll have a week of work, we’ll see how he feels and make a decision.”

Technically speaking, the Titans had Henry, Brown and Jones together for just five of 17 games this season – Weeks 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7. But Brown played only eight snaps in a Week 3 win over Indianapolis, so – in reality – it is more like four of 17 games.

The bottom-line results in those contests: The Titans lost to Arizona in the opener 38-13, but beat Seattle 33-30, Buffalo 34-31 and the Chiefs 27-3 in the others. Those were three pretty good wins for a threesome that hopes to find itself whole once again in a few days.

“There’s definitely a confidence boost, just knowing what we have out there, the capabilities we have,” Tannehil said. “But like I said, at the end of the day, you have to go make the plays. Just because guys are out there doesn’t mean it’s just going to happen. You have to execute and make the plays.”