Snap judgments: What playing time against the Browns tells us
It is one of the more confounding elements of the Tennessee Titans’ 43-13 victory at Cleveland on Sunday.
How could Corey Davis do so little with so much opportunity?
Identified by many as a player set for a big year because of his obvious ability, his experience and his health, the third-year wide receiver was on the field for 45 of the 61 offensive snaps against the Browns, which was the most for any Tennessee wide receiver, tight end or running back. In fact, the only ones on offense who got more plays were the five offensive linemen and quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Yet Davis (pictured) ended up with no receptions on three targets. That’s not exactly the stuff upon which a breakout season is built.
Mike Vrabel said Monday that Davis did have moments that stood out during the coaches’ film review even if they did not show up on the stat sheet.
“I don’t think anybody wants to go out there and not have what would be called a productive day on the stat sheet, but I do know (Davis) was doing everything we asked him to do,” Vrabel said. “… We understand what he can do, but it was the effort that I saw on the long screen [Derrick Henry’s 75-yard touchdown reception], on A.J.’s (Brown) catch that I’m proud of Corey for.
“The catches will come, the production will come, but it’s that type of effort that we’re going to need to have from him and everybody else to allow us to be successful.”
The fact that he was on the field for so many plays speaks to how prominently the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft figures in the plans for the offense. Yet it is doubtful that the Titans can continue to win if he doesn’t produce more as a receiver.
Other observations based on playing time:
• Two-man operation: Henry stole the show with his 75-yard touchdown reception, but the Titans running back situation remains a division of labor. Henry was on the field for just 36 of the offense’s 61 snaps (59 percent). Dion Lewis was on the field for 26 snaps (43 percent). The bigger difference was the number of times the ball came each player’s way. Henry got 19 carries and one pass target, which means he got it on 56 percent of his snaps. Lewis had just three rushing attempts and was targeted four times in the passing game, which accounted for 26.9 percent of his plays. So while Lewis is going to get his opportunities, Henry is the one who is going to get the ball.
• Young man’s job: Wesley Woodyard is the Titans’ version of Benjamin Button, the Brad Pitt character who aged in reverse. In the first game of his 13NFL season, Woodyard played 24 snaps on special teams and just 13 on defense. Typically, special teams are the way young players (most notably linebackers and defensive backs) get a foot in the door in the NFL. For Woodyard, at 33 years old, it is a way to keep from being shown the door.
• Busy corner: Third-year cornerback Adoreé Jackson was the only one who played all 73 snaps on defense. The second of the Titans’ two first-round picks in 2017, Jackson got more work than most starters during the preseason while coaches looked for more consistency from him. Apparently, they have gotten to a point where they feel they can’t be without him on the field.
• Pick your spots: Outside linebacker Cameron Wake got just 24 snaps on defense. The feeling from the time the Titans signed the 37-year-old was that less would be more in terms of playing time. That certainly was the case in this contest as Wake led all players with two and a half sacks and four quarterback hits. No reason to think he will be overloaded at any point this season.
• Diving right in: Cornerback Chris Milton, claimed off waivers from Indianapolis last Monday, did as expected and was a significant performer on special teams with 19 snaps out of a possible 33. Milton also got three snaps with the defense, though, which suggests he will get more opportunities as he learns the particulars of the defense.
• Staying active: Second-year linebacker Sharif Finch might still be a role player, but at least he has multiple roles. He was on the field for 56 percent of the defense’s snaps (41 of 73) and 70 percent of the special teams snaps (23 of 33). The more you can do, the longer you last and the 2018 undrafted free agent looks as if he could be around for a while.
• More to come: Wide receiver Adam Humphries will have better days. In his Titans debut, the wide receiver most figured would become Mariota’s security blanket got just 22 snaps with the offense and caught one pass for five yards (t was a first down). Given that he got a four-year, $36 million free agent contract, Tennessee plans on more than that and will use him more in weeks to come.