Tennessee Titans: Creating the Blueprint for Optimal Offense in 2014

Marlon MaloneyCorrespondent IJune 6, 2014

Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt, center, supervises a practice during NFL football rookie minicamp on Friday, May 16, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

With a new coaching regime in place, the Tennessee Titans will head into the 2014 season learning their third offensive playbook in as many years. Offensive coordinator Jason Michael is in his first stint in the position, but the play-calling will still fall on Ken Whisenhunt's shoulders.

So what type of offense should we expect to see with Whisenhunt at the helm?

In his time with the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals, Whisenhunt utilized a lot of Shotgun formation with three- and four-receiver sets. One of his favorite formations appears to be "Stack" formation.

Marlon Maloney

Stacking receivers is typically a variation of a "Bunch" formation. Bunch formations offer offenses several advantages.

Rather than spreading out the receivers as much as possible, Stack formations compress the space given to each receiver.

The effect of this is to open space on the perimeter by allowing room on the outside for receivers to outrun defenders to a spot, while leaving space on the edge for opportunities after the catch.

Most importantly, bunch sets can beat man and man-under coverages because of the natural picks created by compacted wide receivers running precise routes in a tight area.

Receivers can run timing routes with almost zero space between them, in turn forcing defenders to run around them and one another.

Another key characteristic of Whisenhunt's offense is his ability to constantly attack defenses with short and intermediate routes, often involving running backs in the passing attack and limiting the amount of time the offensive line has to pass protect.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15:  Kendall Wright #13 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Rashad Johnson #26 of the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field on December 15, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Taking these keys into account, the Titans have three quality receivers in Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Justin Hunter.

Hunter can probably still use some work on his route-running, which is important for "Bunch" formations, but he displayed a penchant for picking up yards after the catch during his rookie campaign. He averaged 5.1 yards after the catch last season in a very limited role.

While he has displayed an ability to gain yards after the catch, I foresee Hunter being used to spread the field vertically, while Wright and Washington stretch the defense horizontally.

In Wright's breakout campaign he also proved to excel in racking up YAC, ranking 10th in the category with an average of 6.2 yards.

Wright is expected to handle Chargers receiver Keenan Allen's role and continue to improve on his rookie numbers. Allen was often used on the left side of the formation and did the majority of his damage over the middle of the field.

Washington will be utilized in a similar role, but also has the speed to go deep.

Whisenhunt's use of tight ends has been a bit inconsistent throughout his coaching career, but it has always seemed to depend on the talent available at the position. Once Heath Miller was drafted to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the position was used more than his first campaign.

The Cardinals never had a true receiving threat at the position, but he quickly found two targets in San Diego he enjoyed involving in the offense on a weekly basis in Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green. So much so that they have reinvigorated his excitement for the position, per The Tennessean (h/t Fansided): "Working with Antonio Gates got me excited about the position, and I think there’s a lot of elements to what Delanie [Walker] does that are similar in that capacity."

Gates and Green were used primarily to attack the middle of the field, anywhere from one to 20 yards downfield. However, they both were given their fair share of deep-ball opportunities.

I don't expect a lot of the two tight end sets Whisenhunt utilized in San Diego given the lack of receiving threats at the position, but Walker should see an increased role in the offense.

While I fully expect there to be a shared workload in the Titans backfield, I'm also expecting Bishop Sankey to shoulder the brunt of the load.

Ryan Matthews toted the ball 284 times in 2013 and, with the way things are progressing with Shonn Greene, I can see Sankey receiving a slightly slimmer workload.

Dexter McCluster is an obvious replacement for who Whisenhunt had in San Diego with Danny Woodhead, who averaged about 7.5 carries per game combined with five receptions per.

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

If Greene is able to win a roster spot when cut-downs are concluded, I expect him to have the fewest carries of the team's top three backs. Ultimately, his role will come down to short-yardage situations and goal-line carries.

Overall, Wright and Washington should be used on several short and intermediate crossing routes that allow them to show their knack for making plays after the catch.

Hunter must be used to keep defenses honest by regularly being sent deep, but still getting plenty of opportunities on mid-range routes. Hunter's height and newfound strength must be taken advantage of.

Walker should be used in every role he can retain. He has the ability to come out of the backfield and block or make catches, so make defenses defend it. He can also make tough catches over the middle and has the speed to go deep. 

Walker has the ability to keep linebackers and safeties guessing on every down. At running back, Sankey and McCluster must be involved in the passing game with regularity while still performing well on the ground behind a revamped offensive line.