This weekly mailbag will address a Tennessee Titans question or multiple questions that are stewing among the fan base. The status of the Titans' pass rush and 2016 second-round pick Kevin Dodd are Saturday's topics of choice.
The pass rush was of big interest this week due to the team having just nine sacks in six games. Dodd also was a popular topic, partially because of Derrick Morgan's abdomen strain that leaves him questionable for Sunday's game at Cleveland. Let's kick it off with the pass rush overall.
— Shaun Ferguson (@ShaunFerg02) October 19, 2017
Regression is a little strong, but the front-seven veterans would admit they need to finish better. In fact, I talked to Morgan this week and he said it's about closing out opportunities for sacks when they come up. Even in their best pass-rush game of the season, against Seattle, they missed quite a few sacks.
Believe it or not, the Titans are tied for third in the NFL in pressures with 70 and opposing quarterbacks are completing just 37.7 percent of passes on those dropbacks. They have six more QB pressures than they had this time last season and they're pressuring quarterbacks at a higher percentage in 2017 (29.7) than 2016 through six games (28.1).
The problem is the sacks. The Titans had 18 sacks through six games last season. Their nine sacks through six games this season is third-worst in the NFL, which is weird given the amount of pressures. Some of that can be attributed to playing mobile quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, but a lot of it is on the Titans' front-seven to finish.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey has stressed sacks don't tell the full story, which is true. Sometimes pressures are just as effective, but for the Titans to become a feared defense, they'll need to close.
Monday's game against Indianapolis was a little disappointing because they were playing a banged-up Colts offensive line that has struggled. You would have liked to have seen them get more pressure early, but they weren't winning a lot of one-on-ones. Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau sent more blitzes in the second half and they were able to get more pressure.
Will they give Kevin Dodd a chance to play this Sunday? He can't be any worse than what we have as our pass rush. Doesn't seem to be doing much. -- Justin M. Turner
Justin, if Morgan doesn't play then, yes, you'll see Dodd. You could even see him if Morgan does play. The Titans have been shuffling their front-seven inactives every week to find the best combination. Dodd has only been active once.
Mularkey has mentioned Dodd's lack of special teams contribution as a primary reason why he's not active. It's also worth noting that Dodd doesn't yet trust his surgically repaired right foot, so a portion of it is mental.
If he plays Sunday, his responsibility will be clear.
"(Be a) force on the corner, a guy that can set an edge for the run game and put pressure on the quarterback," Mularkey said. "That's what we need."
From Beast to Bust, Dodd hasn't come close to sniffing fan expectations. If Morgan can't go, and Dodd shows out, how will Dodd be perceived?
— Mo (@bmo54bmo54) October 19, 2017
That bust word is thrown out a lot. It's certainly disappointing that Dodd hasn't contributed much, but it's too early to say that he can't turn his career around. Players often flourish in their second and third NFL seasons. Some just need more time and confidence.
Dodd can still carve out a role for himself as a key backup to Brian Orakpo and Morgan this season, and eventually a starter in the coming seasons as those veterans get older. He has to show something though.
Just as easily as fans will anoint a player a bust, they'll love him again if he contributes. Dodd still believes he can be the guy the Titans drafted a year and a half ago.