Titans by the Numbers: 2013 Stats Tennessee Must Improve in 2014
While the record book may not show any difference, the 2013 NFL season was an improvement over the 2012 season for the Tennessee Titans in several ways. Unfortunately, there was too much that didn't change for the team to overcome.
Offensively, improvement was seen in nearly every major offensive stat category except yards per rushing attempt. Though there was definite improvement, it was also very incremental.
In the most important category there is for an offense—scoring—the Titans scored two more points per game than the year before. While it is good to see that the offense was better, it was not enough to make them even an average unit in the league.
Defensively, the Titans couldn't have been much worse in 2012. The defense made major strides of improving in every category but run defense. The Titans jumped 10-plus spots in the rankings from 2012 to 2013 in four of the six stats covered below.
|2012 Tennessee Titans||Category||2013 Tennessee Titans|
|313.1 YDS/G (26th)||Total Offense||336.9 YDS/G (22nd)|
|20.6 PTS/G (23rd)||Scoring Offense||22.6 PTS/G (19th)|
|207.7 YDS/G (22nd)||Passing Offense||218.5 YDS/G (21st)|
|6.6 YDS/A (25th)||Yards Per Attempt||7.0 YDS/A (16th)|
|105.4 YDS/G (21st)||Rushing Offense||118.4 YDS/G (14th)|
|4.5 YDS/A (10th)||Yards Per Attempt||4.1 YDS/A (19th)|
|374.9 YDS/G (27th)||Total Defense||337.9 YDS/G (14th)|
|29.4 PTS/G (32nd)||Scoring Defense||23.8 PTS/G (16th)|
|247.8 YDS/G (26th)||Passing Defense||225.8 YDS/G (11th)|
|7.5 YDS/A (24th)||Yards Per Attempt||7.0 YDS/A (14th)|
|127.2 YDS/G (24th)||Rushing Defense||112.2 YDS/G (20th)|
|4.2 YDS/A (15th)||Yards Per Attempt||4.0 YDS/A (17th)|
With the hiring of new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans are hoping to make similar strides to the ones they made defensively, from 2012 to 2013, on the offensive side of the ball.
In a year of transition to a new 3-4 hybrid defense, defensive coordinator Ray Horton would do well to maintain the improvement seen this past year.
If the Tennessee Titans, like their fans, are through with being a middling team, there needs to be clear improvement in a few key areas. Let's delve into the main areas of necessary improvement the 2014 Titans must make to become a playoff-caliber team.
Limit Number of Turnovers
The Tennessee Titans went four full games without turning the ball over at the start of the 2013 season while racking up nine turnovers in the same time span. However, by season's end, the team finished even in giveaways and takeaways.
Obviously, the likelihood of a team going an entire season without turning the ball over is slim-to-none, but that the Titans blew a plus-nine turnover margin is startling.
The turnover parade happens to coincide with Jake Locker's first injury of the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick accounted for 16 of the Titans' 25 turnovers over the final 12 games of the season. The Titans were turning the ball over an average of two times per game in that span.
The recent signing of Charlie Whitehurst may spell the end of Fitzpatrick's time in Tennessee, but barring major improvement by the offense, the Titans are incapable of recovering from such a rapid turnover pace.
When extrapolated over a full 16-game season, the Titans were on pace to turn the ball over more than 33 times in 2013. With a healthy Jake Locker at the helm, the Titans must get back to being stingy with the ball and winning the turnover battle.
Improve Run Defense
The Titans' weakest area on an improving defense was the run defense. While every other area of the defense saw major improvement, the run defense only showed marginal growth.
In both games against the Indianapolis Colts, the run defense failed late in the game and proved to break the spirit as a whole. The Titans are looking to beef up up front on the defensive side, having signed Al Woods and targeting several other free agents.
While the ability to stop the run isn't absolutely vital to a team's success, the Titans are in a division with three teams that emphasize the ground game. It's in their best interest to be able to stop their division opponents' strengths.
Putting Pressure on Opposing Quarterbacks
In 2012, the Titans sacked opposing quarterbacks 39 times. In 2013, the Titans only had 36 sacks, despite the team's overall defensive improvement. For all the emphasis the Titans have placed on improving their pass rush, the results leave a bit to be desired.
In 2011, Tennessee finished with just 28 sacks. While there has been improvement, the team still lacks a standout pass-rusher that opposing teams have to game-plan against. Horton has emphasized fielding an aggressive defense in his previous stops as a defensive coordinator.
Teams should expect to see several blitzes when facing the Titans, but the need for an elite edge-rusher remains. In Horton's final season in Arizona, the Cardinals finished with 42 sacks, and the Cleveland Browns piled up 40 sacks last season.
Points Per Game
As stated before, the Titans improved offensively but still remain a subpar offense. The Titans' 22.6 points per game was good for 19th in the league. No team with fewer points per game made the playoffs.
Coach Whisenhunt was brought in to help improve an offense that has been stuck in a pre-modern offensive scheme for some time now. Whisenhunt is in Tennessee to put an end to the days of a having a feature back and lackluster passing game.
The San Diego Chargers averaged 24.8 points per game by being able to feature the passing game and to wear down opposing defenses with their ground game.
The acquisition of Dexter McCluster has already signaled the likely end of the Chris Johnson era in Tennessee. McCluster is likely to provide a passing option out of the backfield the team has lacked since being in Tennessee.
Kick Return Coverage
Yes, the kick returners on the 2013 Titans made several costly errors throughout the year, but the Titans have already doubled up on shoring the area up with McCluster and the return of Leon Washington, per Titans Online.
Tennessee allowed 24.4 yards per kick return last season, good for 10th worst in the league. The coverage unit must do a better job of staying in the lanes and containing returners to help keep the field position battle in their favor.
*All stats are gathered from NFL.com.