The week of roster reductions is always difficult as teams transition from the preseason to the regular season, but here are three statistical comparisons between this preseason and 2012 that the Titans should find encouraging. The numbers essentially evaporate with no bearing on regular season results, but illustrate desired trends that the Titans would like to continue beginning Sept. 8 in the season opener at Pittsburgh.
Team Quarterback Rating: 2012 — 69.2 | 2013 — 104.6 | Difference: +35.4
Diagnosis: Titans quarterbacks have completed 80 of 120 passes (66.7 percent) for 912 yards and thrown eight touchdowns against two interceptions, delivering double-digit increases in passes completed and completion percentage and accounting for 280 more net passing yards, five more touchdowns and one less interception.
The substantial gain in passer rating stems largely from the increase in the number of passing touchdowns thrown by Titans QBs this preseason. Jake Locker attempted 11 fewer passes and completed two more, driving his completion percentage from 51.7 to 67.3 percent and improved his QB rating from 71.3 to 93.7 this preseason with the benefit of a full offseason as Tennessee’s starter.
Outlook: A considerable effort was made this offseason to capitalize on Locker’s strengths, as well as take advantage of high-percentage underneath routes to tight ends and running backs. Tennessee believes there’s hidden yardage there that it left on the table in 2012.
Time of Possession: 2012 — 27:45 | 2013—31:33 | Difference: +3:48
Diagnosis: Some have said this is the most important statistical category in which the Titans can improve this season not only to help the offense but also the defense. Tennessee wants to be a more physical team that is capable of running the ball when it needs and wants to do so, then take advantage of play-action passes that create larger throwing windows.
Outlook: The Titans added veteran running backs Shonn Greene during free agency and Jackie Battle before training camp to add different styles of backs to complement Chris Johnson’s speed and big-play threats. Johnson’s ability to make long runs and score on them is quite rare, but such explosiveness can reduce time with the football.
In 2012, three of 51 Titans possessions (6.9 percent) in the preseason lasted 10 or more plays, but this preseason Tennessee had 11 of 41 possessions (26.8 percent) go 10 plays or more. Continuing to do so in the regular season will improve offensive rhythm and allow the defense to stay fresh to maximize its performance.
Third-down percentage: 2012 — 14-for-52 (26.9 percent) | 2013 — 27-for-58 (46.6 percent) | Difference: +19.7 percent
Diagnosis: Success on third down increases time of possession, so it’s not surprising to see such strong improvements overlap. The gains can be attributed to better results on first and second downs to avoid obvious passing situations created by third-and-longs. Reducing the distance needed to convert a pass on third down is also likely to help quarterback completion percentage and passer rating.
Outlook: Continuing to move the chains on early downs opens the playbook for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, and having third-and-short distances keeps faking the ball to running backs before throwing it a possibility. Tennessee also emphasizes the important role that running backs play in picking up the blitz, and Johnson, Greene and Battle have shown a willingness and ability to do that. Converting third downs early can be particularly helpful on the road because it reduces the fire in opposing fans and builds rhythm and confidence in offensive players while letting defensive players stay fresh.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Dowell Loggains, Jackie Battle, Jake Locker, Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans, Titans
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