JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Replacing Arthur Smith as the new Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator was a daunting task for Todd Downing. The Titans were among the NFL's top-scoring offenses last season, averaging 30.8 points per game.
"Todd's a stud," offensive lineman Taylor Lewan said after the Titans' 37-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5). "People want to compare him and Arthur all of the time. I think the easiest comparison is the guys don't have egos. When Arthur first got in, we started 2-4, and he just kept working, never wavered or seemed like he was panicking. It seems that way with Todd."
Downing showed his creative side Sunday. He found ways to get wide receivers wide open running across the field by using bunch formation, as well as stacking wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Downing's play design created extra separation and space for Ryan Tannehill to deliver the ball to receivers, especially on third downs, as the Titans (3-2) converted five of their 11 opportunities. One of the biggest plays on the day came when Titans running back Jeremy McNichols gained 25 yards on third-and-6, thanks to a well-designed play that got him open on a crossing route.
Good play design by Todd Downing having Jeremy McNichols run the drag from the opposite side of the trips. There was no way that LB was going to be able to stick with him. 25-yd gain for the first 3rd down conversion by the #Titans pic.twitter.com/MVxcOvndXV— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) October 10, 2021
There were plays that included layered routes that put Jaguars defenders in conflict. A.J. Brown had three receptions against Jacksonville. Brown's longest play came when his drag route cleared open because tight end Geoff Swaim's crossing route from the opposite side took the linebacker with him to open up a huge window.
Brown caught the easy throw from Tannehill and picked up yards after the catch for a 22-yard gain. The play set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry.
"He did a good job today," Brown said. "Whenever he can draw up plays for us, it takes a load off of us. That's huge."
Downing used motion to free up Josh Reynolds for a quick pass on an out-breaking route that picked up 8 yards. On the next play, Downing dialed up an end-around to Chester Rogers that picked up 9 yards.
Another well-designed play by Todd Downing. Anthony Firkser's rte got in 27's way allowing A.J. Brown to get open on the crosser. Geoff Swaim running a left to right crosser took the LB with him freeing up even more space. It set up Derrick Henry's 1-yd TD just now. #Titans pic.twitter.com/IxxIXjsZRD— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) October 10, 2021
A couple of plays later, Cam Batson took the direct snap out of a wildcat formation and scooted 11 yards to get the Titans into the red zone. The eight-play drive covered 75 yards, ending with a 14-yard pass from Tannehill to MyCole Pruitt to make the score 21-13 in favor of the Titans.
The Titans scored touchdowns on four of their five visits (80%) into the red zone. Entering Week 5, Tennessee's red zone offense had scored touchdowns on only 50% of its trips inside the 20-yard line.
"I feel like Todd has done a really good job this year," Tannehill said. "Sometimes as players, we haven't executed well, especially down in the red zone. But Todd has done a good job of putting jobs together and marching down the field, giving us opportunities."
Downing still managed to find a way to get 29 carries for Henry, leading to 130 yards and three touchdowns. The lack of panic that Lewan referred to showed in the rushing attack.
Jacksonville's defense limited Henry to 0.7 yards after contact per rush in the first half, down from his 2.3-yard average on the season. Downing didn't waver on the Titans' first drive of the second half when he called seven rushing plays that gained 42 yards in Tennessee's 11-play, 75-yard drive.
Henry's 9-yard touchdown run gave the Titans a commanding 31-13 lead. Tennessee got the ball into the red zone on a play in which Batson went in motion to draw the defense's attention, allowing Henry to receive a pitch from Tannehill and get to the outside for an 11-yard gain.
Keeping up with the Buffalo Bills (4-1), a team that is averaging more than 30 points per game, will be Downing's next test. The Titans host the Bills on Monday Night Football in Week 6.