After a huge win last Saturday, the Dallas Cowboys (11-4) are on another short week as they prepare to face the Tennessee Titans (7-8). The Titans have had a dreadful second half of the season, and their offense has been a big reason why they have struggled.
Today we take a look at the struggling Titans’ offense and give you three things to know about the unit before the two teams square off on Thursday night.
1) A struggling rookie signal-caller
When the Titans drafted Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, they likely did not envision that he would have to contribute significantly in his rookie year. Multiple injuries to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill have forced the Titans’ hand, and Willis has been thrust into some significant playtime during his first season.
Unfortunately for the rookie signal-caller, the results have been very poor. Of all quarterbacks who have played at least 100 snaps this season, Willis ranks dead last (47th) in EPA+CPOE (-0.023), Adj EPA/Play (-0.420), EPA/Play (-0.459), and CPOE (-10.9).
The 23-year-old has completed an abysmal 50% of his total passes and thrown three interceptions in his three starts.
Last week against the Houston Texans, arguably the worst team in the NFL, Willis went 14 of 23 for 99 yards and two interceptions and was one of the biggest reasons that the Titans eventually lost the game. For a Cowboys’ defense that has been struggling big time, facing a Willis-lead Titans offense may be just what they need to get back on track.
2) A king still on his throne
While Titans’ running back Derrick Henry may not be playing at the All-Pro level he was back in 2019 and 2020, he still is clearly one of the most effective running backs in football. Henry is second in the NFL in rushing yards (1,425) and rushing touchdowns (13) and leads the league in yards after contact (1,170). The former All-Pro is also third in the league in forced missed tackles (63) and explosive runs (10+ yards, 35).
The 28-year-old has recorded 20 or more rushes in a game nine times this season, and has been the only real consistent weapon on the Titans’ offense. With Willis at quarterback, the only real chance the Titans have to move the ball on offense is to lean on Henry and their running game. Facing up against Henry this week will be a big test for Dallas’ run defense. If the Cowboys want to slow him down, they’ll need to tackle well and force Tennessee to get away from their game plan and throw the football.
3) A lack of offensive weapons
When the Titans traded away wide receiver A.J. Brown back in March, they were banking on their outside additions being able to come in and replace his production. So far, their plan has gone about as poorly as you could imagine.
Treylon Burks, who the Titans selected with the first-round pick they got in exchange for Brown, has had a very uninspiring rookie year. The 22-year-old has caught just 29 passes for 359 yards and has found the end zone just once.
Robert Woods, who the Titans traded for to help replace the production Brown provided, has also had a very poor season. The veteran has caught just 44 passes for 448 yards and is on pace to have the fewest receiving yards, first-down receptions, and Y/R of his career.
Outside of the disappointing Burks and Woods, the Titans don’t have many other real offensive threats. Tight end Austin Hooper and wideout Nick Westbrook-Ikhine have both had decent seasons, but neither guy is going to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.
All in all, outside of Derrick Henry, Tennessee lacks offensive talent. If you are able to slow Henry down and force the Titans into passing situations, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with a victory.