The Tennessee Titans’ biggest area of weakness in 2019 was the lack of a pass rush. The Titans’ biggest weakness in 2020 is also the lack of a pass rush.
Tennessee has several things that need to be addressed if the team is to be taken seriously in the playoffs — third-down defense and a weak secondary, to name a few.
But the inability to pressure Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow, who on Sunday was without four of his starting offensive linemen and had been sacked the most of any QB in the NFL (28) entering the game, shows just how lackadaisical Tennessee’s pass rush really is. Burrow sat back and threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns and was not sacked once.
Linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley were brought in to get to the opposing quarterback but have failed to do so. Clowney, who has six QB hits and three tackles for loss, did have a few early chances at Burrow, but he whiffed on them all.
Harold Landry whiffed on three chances on the same play to bring Burrow down, along with cornerback Chris Jackson.
“[Quarterbacks are] athletic and we’re going to have to continue to take our chances and get them down,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “The quarterbacks in this league are going to be big and athletic, and I don’t know if we can get any more guys there.”
Yes, Burrow is elusive and can be mobile in the pocket, but the Titans have to be better. They were credited with just two quarterback hits, one by safety Kevin Byard, the other by defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. The Titans have only 36 QB hits this season.
Their sack numbers are even worse. Through seven games, Tennessee has just seven sacks and they are one of just five teams to not reach double-digit sacks yet. Of those seven sacks, only the 1.5 from Landry have come from an edge rusher.
The Titans hurry the quarterback 6.3 percent of the time — second-worst in the NFL. For comparison sake, last year they ranked ninth in the league at 10.7 percent.
“You have to coach and play better with whoever is out there,” Vrabel said. “That’s the National Football League.
“…There’s a lot that goes into losing. Certainly, our inability to affect the quarterback would have been one of them. Not getting off the field on third down would have been another one…There were times where (the Bengals’ backup offensive linemen) helped and there were times when their quarterback got rid of the football.”
Clowney (seven games, 14 tackles, three tackles for loss) and Beasley (four games, three tackles, one tackle for loss) are both under-performing, and Landry can’t do it all himself. Rashaan Evans has played on the outside a little this season, but that was for naught. The Titans have the sixth-worst QB pressure rate (19.5 percent) and they're 20th in total QB pressures (50).
If things don’t change soon, the Titans may be forced to look for some replacements at edge rusher.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_