I’ve believed for quite a few years that the Titans needed a fast receiver, one who could be a deep threat and stretch the field. Tyrone Calico was supposed to be that guy but he didn’t live up to his potential as a second-round draft pick.
Then it was Courtney Roby, whom Floyd Reese claimed had 4.28 speed, who would be that guy. Roby was released after three uninspiring years.
Earlier this year, the Titans acquired the speedy Nate Washington as an unrestricted free agent to be that guy.
Washington has a reputation for inconsistency, for dropping a few catchable balls, and frankly, that doesn’t bother me as much as it probably does others.
As I see it, the Titans didn’t sign Washington to catch a lot of long passes, just some. Just the threat of him catching a bomb on any given play is almost as important as catching a lot of bombs. I learned that years ago in Super Bowl III, when the Jets upset the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts. Jets Hall of Famers Joe Namath and WR Don Maynard had been a dangerous combination in the AFL but Maynard wasn’t at full speed for SB III with a tight hamstring.
He was still fast enough. Early in the game he got behind the Colts defense and Namath’s long bomb to him was just off his fingertips. It set the tone for the rest of the game though. Even though it went down in the record books as an incomplete pass, it changed the game by loosening up Baltimore’s defense, giving Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer room to run and enabling Namath to repeatedly connect with his other WR, George Sauer.
This is very much the same as what has happened in Pittsburgh recently. Ben Roethlisberger said that whenever Washington was in the game it forced defenses out of stacking eight men in the box. This is what excites me about Washington, just the threat of him catching the deep ball will determine how defenses play.
Imagine how many extra yards Chris Johnson can get when defenses have to be a little more honest. When defenses don’t put eight men in the box, CJ should be able to pick up three or five extra yards on occasion, which means more first downs every now and then. Not to mention the times that eighth man is the last man between him and a long gainer.
I’ve been trying for several days, as time has permitted (and also without success), to find a stat on how many yards per carry Johnson averaged on first down last year. I’ll have to go over all the games from last season and chart all of CJ’s carries to get more insight into that. It could mean that validates my theory although it could also mean I’m full of nonsense. In the meantime, if anyone has a link to that stat, CJ’s ypc on first down, I’d appreciate it.
Hopefully, Washington will also open up the passing game for Justin Gage and the tight ends, just as the threat of Maynard did for Sauer.
Extra rushing yards by Chris Johnson and company. Extra receptions by the receivers and tight ends. More first downs, more time of possession and more points on the board. They’ll be “hidden” yards, first downs and points, not reflected in the stats at all. None of those will be credited to Washington when he’s “just” out there as a deep threat but I believe just the threat of him will make a big difference.