Marcus Mariota’s first interception of 2017 came in Week 2 on the road against the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars. If you missed the introduction to this series breaking down Mariota’s interceptions http://www.titanscheapshops.com/cheap-authentic-quinton-spain-jersey , I suggest giving it a quick read before continuing. You can find that article here. The SituationMidway through the second quarter, Titans outside linebacker Brian Orakpo strip-sacked Blake Bortles, and Erik Walden recovered the fumble at the Jaguars’ 39-yard line. After a Taywan Taylor end-around gained 17 yards, the Titans set up a first-and-ten play at the Jags’ 24-yard line with the score tied 3-3 and 7:40 left in the first half. What HappenedMariota took the snap, scanned the field, and threw an interception into double coverage.Mariota processes through his progressions quickly and settles on his fourth read, Jonnu Smith. There is clearly a miscommunication between Mariota and Smith on this play, which leads me to believe that Smith had the option of sitting on a curl route or breaking inside on a dig route.The PlaycallThe Titans lined up in 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) in an Ace Tight Shotgun formation. Note how tight to the line the two receivers are.While it’s possible that Corey Davis and Delanie Walker also have options on their routes (depending on the defensive look), I only noted the option run by Jonnu Smith.And I’m assuming it’s an option route based on the clear miscommunication between Mariota and Smith. It’s equally possible that Smith simply ran the wrong route entirely.The Jaguars rushed four with a very standard single-high safety man-to-man defense, including two underneath linebackers with responsibilities likely determined by the offensive routes. Depending on how Delanie Walker and DeMarco Murray release, the linebackers’ responsibilities could change.What I’ve drawn above is the way the offensive and defensive calls played out. Corey Davis is meant to take his man, Jalen Ramsey, vertically out of the play and take with him the free safety Barry Church. This opens up the field for Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews to fill the right side on a “sail” concept and give Mariota a high-low read. But Myles Jack is matched up with Delanie Walker in man coverage, and Walker’s route carries Paul Posluszny upfield as the two defenders initially bracketed him. A.J. Bouye has man coverage on Rishard Matthews, and Telvin Smith also starts to crash on Matthews’ drag route.Then, as Matthews crosses the left hashmarks, Telvin Smith passes that responsibility off to Posluszny, who leaves Walker and moves downhill to take away Matthews on the shallower route. Had the Jags been in zone, the strongside curl/flat defender would’ve been conflicted. However, because it’s man coverage with the linebacker underneath, the high-low read doesn’t come into play, and Mariota moves on.On the other side of the field, Tashaun Gipson is manned up on Jonnu Smith. As Jonnu comes out of his route stem, he has a step on Gipson and looks like he could be coming open...What Went WrongMariota’s first read was deep. If Church had stayed shallow, blitzed, or abandoned the deep zone in any way, Mariota is likely letting it fly for Davis one-on-one down the field. But the safety takes that option away, so Mariota moves on to Walker. At the time of the read, Walker is bracketed by double coverage. As Mariota moves to his third read, Telvin Smith comes crashing down on Matthews to eliminate any possible yards-after-catch, and together, he and A.J. Bouye have Matthews double-teamed, as well.Which brings Mariota to Jonnu Smith, who appears to have a window of open opportunity.Because Telvin Smith flows towards the strongside, away from Jonnu Smith, Mariota expected Jonnu to sit on a curl route and come back towards the ball. Instead, Jonnu Smith breaks his route inside. And then Telvin Smith, reading the routes and understanding his responsibilities, lets Matthews run out of his zone and into Poluszny’s territory. Reading Mariota’s eyes Cheap Derrick Henry Jersey , Smith sees that Mariota has moved on from Matthews, so he stops and peels back to follow the quarterback’s sightline, continuing to work underneath on his side of the field. Jonnu Smith does not make the same read on the play as Mariota and cuts inside. Had he instead come back to the ball (I.e., towards Mariota), he might’ve had a chance to break up the interception. These things happen sometimes when third-round rookies are playing in just their second career NFL game. Even if Telvin Smith doesn’t catch this, Tashaun Gipson is right there waiting for the ball.Mechanically speaking, Mariota does a nice job sliding in the pocket to maximize his protection. He went through his progressions and found what he thought would be an open man. But he didn’t account for Smith (Telvin, not Jonnu) coming back across the field when he let the pass fly. Mariota does not step into the throw the way he should. He clearly wanted to fire the ball quickly into a closing window, leaving little time to step into the throw. While it’s technically poor footwork, I don’t think it affects his accuracy on this pass. If you watch closely, you can see that he knows it was a poor decision as soon as the ball leaves his hand. Ultimately, the root of the problem was not the miscommunication between Mariota and Jonnu Smith, but rather Mariota not recognizing Telvin Smith’s change in coverage. In this single-high man-to-man defensive look with two underneath linebackers, Mariota should’ve known that Smith would be coming back to cover the weakside.I do think it’s worth noting that had Telvin Smith stayed with Rishard Matthews, the route miscommunication would’ve resulted in an interception anyway because of Gipson’s coverage. Coach’s CommentsMike Mularkey was asked about the interception in the post-game press conference. Here’s what he had to say:These comments make sense schematically - if Jonnu Smith had run his route a few yards deeper, it would’ve further stressed the amount of space Telvin Smith was required to cover. But ultimately, I think that detail was irrelevant, as Mariota didn’t throw the ball “too far” expecting Jonnu Smith to be deeper. He threw the ball based on the way the play was unfolding. Again, the bottom line was not seeing Telvin Smith change direction.What Mariota Should Have DoneIn my opinion, Mariota had two alternative options that he could’ve targeted to avoid this interception.The first would have been to simply throw the ball to Matthews when he got to his third read. There wasn’t going to be much YAC, but given the game situation, score, and the fact that it was first-and-ten, the quick and easy short gain would’ve been perfectly acceptable. A completed pass here would’ve picked up at least 5 yards, and if Matthews can make a move, perhaps more. I think in Mariota’s processing, he saw the linebacker flowing away from Jonnu Smith and quickly deduced that Smith should be open. However, Mariota should’ve seen Telvin Smith’s movement and not thrown that pass. At that point, he had another option to avoid throwing an interception; he should’ve moved on to his fifth read.DeMarco Murray was wide open leaking out of the backfield.
A checkdown to him would’ve kept the offense ahead of the chains, even if Murray had been unable to make anyone miss after the catch. Telvin Smith is technically the Jaguars player assigned to cover Murray, based on the side of the field to which Murray ran. Mariota had plenty of time with good protection to cycle to his next read. With Telvin Smith obviously not covering Murray, Mariota should’ve keyed on the running back. This will be a common theme throughout these breakdowns. Many of Mariota’s interceptions last year occurred when he tried to fit the ball into a tight window downfield looking for a big play with an open checkdown option underneath. Incorporating the running backs into the passing game will likely be a point of emphasis for Mariota and the offense this year from the new coaching staff, especially considering the receiving production of Todd Gurley in 2017 and the combination of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in 2016. I expect Dion Lewis will help with that, as well. Anyway, interception breakdowns will continue in the next article... First, I want to wish Delanie Walker a speedy recovery. Not only has he been the Titans best pass catcher for the last three seasons, but he’s also an incredible leader and tone setter for this team and the Nashville community at large. Seeing him go down trying to fight for extra yards at the end of Sunday’s game was the last thing anyone wanted to witness. It should also be said that Walker is irreplaceable. He’s one of the top two or three all-around tight ends in the NFL right now. He runs great routes, has sure hands, makes plays after the catch, and blocks his tail off every snap. Those types of guys don’t grow on trees and they certainly don’t grow on the picked over tree that is NFL free agency in September. The Titans have Jerome Cunningham on the practice squad if they’d like to call him up to get a fourth tight end back on the roster quickly. They could also give old familiar names like Anthony Fasano Brett Kern Jersey , Phillip Supernaw, or Jace Amaro a call. Maybe even reach out to a guy like Coby Fleener if he has a clean bill of health after being released by the Saints earlier this year with a head injury that he was still dealing with from the previous season. All those guys would be depth moves though. None of them — besides Cunningham and Supernaw — would know the offense and frankly these guys just aren’t that good. There isn’t an instant fix on the market like there was at safety. Walker’s contributions, instead, will have to be replaced from within to the extent that they can be. The bulk of this burden will suddenly fall on second year tight end Jonnu Smith. The Titans drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft to be Walker’s long term successor as the team’s leading tight end, but that time frame will be sped up now. In his rookie season, Smith caught 18 passes for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns while being on the field for 54.3% of the Titans offensive snaps. The Florida International product looked natural as a pass catcher. At 6’-3” and 248 pounds, Smith is similar physically to Walker and even offers many of the same explosive athletic traits.What Smith doesn’t have as a pass catcher is the nuanced route running and trust with quarterback Marcus Mariota that Walker had developed over three seasons working as a prime target for the Titans quarterback. Unfortunately — or fortunately depending on your viewpoint — that can only get better with time and reps. Smith will be getting plenty of reps in practice moving forward and will need to take advantage of them. What often gets undersold with Delanie Walker is his prowess as a blocker in the run game. Phantom holding calls aside, Walker is rarely unable to get the job done in the running game. That’s critical for a good tight end as it allows your offense to truly be multiple within the same personnel packages. This is a part of the game that Smith still struggles with. He is a willing blocker, but not a very skilled one at this point in his career. The good news is that blocking is something that can develop over time in the NFL, the bad news is that the Titans don’t have any more time. They need Smith to play well right away.Luke Stocker will certainly see more reps now and can help lighten the blocking load foisted on Smith, but he’s not much of a pass catcher despite his 2 catches for 37 yardsstat line against the Dolphins. Stocker now becomes absolutely critical to the Titans running game. The surprise decision to keep camp standout Anthony Firkser as a 4th tight end now looks pretty good. Firkser, like Smith, is far more receiver than blocker, but he could give the Titans a chance to put some multiple tight end sets on the field that can present a threat in the passing game. His best quality is simply his feel for the game. He has a knack for finding soft spots in the defense and the quickness to beat linebackers. It will be interesting to see how much he is used next week. Of course, Walker was more than “just” a tight end, so it will take more than tight ends to replace him. He was Mariota’s go-to target on third downs, someone that the Titans young quarterback looked for when things broke down. Rishard Matthews seems like the natural fill-in here, but he was virtually invisible in Miami despite being on the field for over 50% of the offensive snaps. That likely has a lot to do with Matthews still being on the mend from a surgery to repair a torn meniscus, but the Titans now need him to be back to his reliable self in a hurry.The go-to receiver for the Titans in Week 1 was clearly Corey Davis who led all Titans with a whopping 13 targets, resulting in 6 catches for 62 yards. I thought Davis played well. Of the 7 targets that landed incomplete, 1 was a desperation throw in the back of the endzone on 3rd down that never gave him a chance, 4 were straight misses from the quarterback (2 for Mariota, 2 for Blaine Gabbert), and 2 appeared to be miscommunications (both with Gabbert, including one where it appeared that Gabbert missed an adjustment that Davis was trying to signal to him pre-snap). I’ll go deeper in to this when the All-22 comes out.If Davis wasn’t already going to be the focal point of the passing game, he certainly will be now. He is the most important non-quarterback on the Titans roster at this point so he needs to stay healthy and be productive. He did a few good things on Sunday, but Tennessee will need a lot more from him moving forward. One other guy that I think factors in to replacing Walker’s production is Dion Lewis. He had an outstanding debut — one of the few bright spots on a gloomy Sunday — and showed his value as a pass catcher out of the backfield. That ability will be extremely important moving forward. It will be interesting to see if the Titans feature more 11-personnel or even go with more 2-back sets in an attempt to get their best 11 on the field together.Walker was targeted at team-high 111 times in 2017 — 24 more than the next closest Titan — so that leaves a ton of opportunity for guys like Davis, Matthews, Smith, and Lewis. Davis was supposed to be ready to take the next step this year anyway, but now that step is more important than ever. Smith, on the other hand, wasn’t supposed to be ready this year, but he has to be now. You never know how a guy will respond when he’s tossed in to the fire. You hope that Smith will step up to the challenge, but we will find out starting next week against Houston. He’s not going to be Walker by any means, but if the Titans can get a passable performance from him and some of his other teammates to rise to the occasion, they may still be OK without their best player on offense.Get well soon Delanie.