Daily Focus: Titans RBs dominate San Diego defense

John Kosko takes a look at Titans vs. Chargers, Travis Frederick's new deal and standout rookies in the preseason.

| 4 months ago
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Daily Focus: Titans RBs dominate San Diego defense


Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.

Titans’ running backs have a field day against porous San Diego defense

Even Joey Bosa couldn’t have saved the Chargers from being run all over as the Tennessee Titans racked up 288 yards on 33 carries and three touchdowns – one each from DeMarco Murray, rookie and former Heisman winner Derrick Henry and Bishop Sankey. Head coach Mike Mularkey has said he wants his team to play “smashmouth” football this year and his two-headed attack of Murray and Henry provided just that with plenty of forced missed tackles and big runs.

Either the Chargers’ run defense is really bad or the Titans’ rushing attack is really good. It’s mostly the former, as the San Diego run defense graded as the worst in the NFL in 2015 with only rookie Denzel Perryman and Jerry Attaochu grading well against run. The Chargers drafted Bosa to help fix the problem but with the team and Bosa in a contract stalemate, their solution is sidelined.

Murray looked much more comfortable in the Titans’ power running scheme as he’s never shown the great vision needed to be a good zone scheme running back. Against San Diego’s first- and second-team defenses, Murray had two runs over 15 yards and gave Titans fans a taste of what they hope to expect during the season as he showed good agility and speed evading FS Darrell Stuckey and outrunning SS Adrian Phillips to the edge and easily breaking his tackle for a 71-yard touchdown run.

Derrick Henry picked up right where he left off in college as Chargers defenders looked like the college players the former Crimson Tide used to plow over. On just ten carries, Henry forced four missed tackles finishing with a superb 168.0 elusive rating while averaging 4.20 Yco/att. These numbers will be unsustainable for an NFL season but the Titans’ brass and fans couldn’t have asked for a better first preseason game.

The best center in the NFL got paid like he deserved

Dallas Cowboys’ center Travis Frederick has agreed to terms of a six-year, $56.4 million extension that makes him the league’s highest-paid center. Reported by Ian Rapoport, the deal has $18.2 million fully guaranteed with up to $28.2 million in total guarantees. The former Wisconsin Badger has graded as the best center in the NFL in each of the past two seasons and the Cowboys have rewarded his play.

Frederick is arguably the best all-around center but the best part of his game is his run blocking ability. No center in the league can match Frederick’s ability to reach 1-techs on outside zone – in fact, no team will ask their center to even do that because of the sheer difficulty of the task. Frederick does so with uncanny ability and has plenty of other moves to add to his repertoire.

In 2014 Frederick ranked sixth in pass blocking efficiency – a rating that measures pressures allowed on a per-snap basis weighted towards sacks – at 97.9. He ranked first in the stat in 2015 as he didn’t allowed a single sack and just one QB hit all season.

Drafted No. 31 overall in the 2013 draft, Dallas was heavily criticized for the pick as many “experts” claimed the team reached for the center as they had him graded as a third-round prospect. It didn’t take very long for Frederick to prove Jerry Jones right as the famous owner/GM has built the best offensive line in the NFL.

Notable rookies from Saturday’s games

While all eyes were on No. 1-overall pick Jared Goff, the rookie QB that had the best game was Dak Prescott (Mississippi State). On 14 dropbacks he was on target for all 12 of his aimed passes, completing 10 of them with two touchdowns and two drops. Prescott’s first game was so impressive that he currently sits atop the QB PFF passing grades.

Titans’ first-round pick RT Jack Conklin struggled in his debut as the transition for college LT to NFL RT is challenging. Often overpowered, the former Michigan State Spartan didn’t do anything to buck the recent trend of struggling first-round offensive tackles. While the top ten pick didn’t allow a sack, he gave up a QB hit and three hurries on just 12 pass blocking snaps. He currently sits third worst overall of all OTs, second worst of rookies, with tonight’s game still left to go.

A favorite of PFF’s in the 2016 draft, DI Chris Jones showed the explosiveness and power against an overmatched Seattle Seahawks offensive interior. Jones was disruptive up the middle notching three hurries on just 17 pass rushing snaps along with clogging running lanes in the run game. The Seahawks offensive line is arguably the worst in the NFL so his performance comes with a slight asterisk, but the fact that Jones was able to be so disruptive is a promising start.

| Analyst

John is an analyst for Pro Football Focus and former safety for the University of Kansas Jayhawks (2004–2006).

  • Chris

    John maybe you missed that the Chargers first team defense basically shut down the Titans. The Titans left their first team offense in against the Chargers backups, which is when they started having success running the ball.

  • sjt2115

    “San Diego’s first team defense”. LOL! The starters who actually played only played 2 series at most. Murray’s big run came against 2nd and 3rd stringers. Stuckey is a career backup who is only on the team because he’s good at special teams, and Phillips is a career practice squad guy. Neither one will be a starter this year, even for the sorry Charger defense. Henry looked really good when the Titans 1st string O-line was teeing off on the Chargers 3rd string D-line. I’m sure JJ Watt and Malik Jackson will be just as easy for the “exotic smashmouth” to run all over this year. Titans AFC South champs, book it!

    • Chris

      Exactly. Murray had 4 rushes against the Chargers first team defense and only one of them went over 3 yards, and that was courtesy of a blatant hold. The long run was against backups.

      • Esthermpollack2

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    • @PFF_JohnKosko

      Hey sjt2115, thanks for reading. You’re right it wasn’t the full 1st team defense as it was a mixture of 1s, 2s and 3s but there were handful of Chargers’ starters on the field on that run. Preseason should be taken with a grain of salt. The Titans looked good and the Chargers didn’t. While the Chargers’ struggles are worrisome, even with backups, it’s only the first preseason game.

      • Chris

        John, name one starter on the field for that run. There weren’t any. If you’re going to write for PFF please get your facts straight.

        • @PFF_JohnKosko

          Casey Hayward

          • Chris

            Who isn’t a base defense starter. So what if there was 1 sub package player… I’m still missing the handful of actual starters.

          • @PFF_JohnKosko

            You’re right, I was incorrect about a handful of starters but it doesn’t really matter too much. Hayward is a starting slot corner and a very good one. It’s not like the 2nd team defense are a bunch of scrubs either. Murray’s first run of the game went for 15 yards agains the 1st team D and then Mariota promptly threw a 30 yard pass to rookie Tajae Sharpe.

          • LD Kirk

            John, there is some merit when considering the 2 plays mentioned above, but as there always is some over-analyzing when it comes to these preseason games. There was a marked difference between the Charger starters and reserves. SD took their starters out early while the Titans stuck with their starters deeper into the 1st half. Having said that though, SD better hope their starters don’t go down, they looked bad matched up with the Titan starters. Let’s hope it is something a few tackle drills can’t clean up.

    • Julie

      If it’s so easy to run all over back ups why didn’t other teams do it in their pre season game? People act like 1st team is superhuman.. Back ups play in regular season on rotation to give staters a breather.. This is what peeps said about Mariota .. It’s just TC it’s just practice it’s just pre season.. He had a solid year playing with no oline and bunch of scrubs.. JJ Watt is aging and banged up he’s not what he use to be.. He had back surgery in the off season .. 1 or 2 guys can’t stop a team

  • Brandon Chester

    Looking good San Diego. That Gordon catch makes the impression he’s trying to run passed his failure of a rookie season. I hope Bosa comes back and helps clog some holes in that run game. If that’s what Murray and Henry did I can’t wait to see what my Chiefs will do week one with Charles, Ware, and West.

    • sjt2115

      Maybe in Week 1 the Chargers will play their actual defense more than 1 series. Maybe.

      • Brandon Chester

        Maybe, but the way that run defense is looking that will be a good thing right? Especially for West, Ware, and Charles.

        • LD Kirk

          Brandon Chester, I don’t understand your comment. Can you elaborate? The SD reserves looked bad, but they won’t be playing on opening day. I’m confused as to why this will be good for the KC RB’s.

          • Brandon Chester

            Well it gives a perfect indication of how thin the depth is entirely. Any injury and the run defense will be tremendously worse. Bosa’s holdout does nothing but hurt the team, I’ll expect him to make a minimum impact if any at all.

          • LD Kirk

            I agree. The longer he holds out the less chance he has to be effective. Either way, only time will tell.

  • Joe Doe

    Travis Frederick making Wisconsin proud. Between him, JJ Watt and Joe Thomas, the UW has three players at the top of their position per PFF. Out of curiosity, can anybody else boast either that many or more top players at their respective position?

  • Christopher Tovar

    San Diego was ranked 27th verse the run last year , so their bad regardless if they have Bosa or not, I expect the Chargers to be picking in the top five of the 2017 NFL draft, however I expect Tennessee to dominate the AFC south they have to much 10 top talent on the OL and two franchise RB’s , and most importantly franchise QB , throw in top 12 defense and the Titans should go 12-4 this year and contend for Super Bowl.

    • sjt2115

      Top 12 defense? In Tennessee? They gave up 400+ points last year. Or were you talking about the Volunteers? Have fun watching Mariota waste his career with Mularky and his prehistoric offense.

      • Cheezman

        Have fun with your crappy team that’s on it’s way out of town. Oh, and your 1st rd draft pick that’ll be reentering the draft next year! HAHAHA so salty over a preseason loss. Hilarious.

        • LD Kirk

          Yeah Cheezman, so hilarious that you’re wasting your time trying to get under their skin. If they’re so crappy, why do you even care. Get a life man!

    • Brandon Chester

      Tennessee a Superbowl team? Yaaaa not gonna happen. Maybe next year.

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    funny thing about demarco murray’s long run was he looked slowwww, his stride is very short. obv was fast enough to outrun SD’s safeties tho which is what counts