NASHVILLE – Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing spoke to reporters on a video conference call on Wednesday.
Downing was promoted to offensive coordinator earlier this offseason to replace Arthur Smith, who was named head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
"I think there would be pressure if I looked at it as: My job is to fill Arthur's shoes'," Downing said. "But I think each year is its own year. It has its own challenges, its own components. I look at this job more as what Coach (Mike) Vrabel and Jon Robinson asked me to do to fill it this year, not to be Arthur Smith or to be anybody else.
"It's my job to be the best version of me, and (be) the best coordinator for this offense that I can be. I'm really looking forward to stepping into moments and figuring out ways that I can improve and give this team my best each day."
Here's a look at some of the highlights from the call ...
-The Titans finished 2nd in the NFL in total offense in 2020, while averaging 31 points per game. Downing is now faced with building on the success, despite some key departures (Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith). He wants to take advantage of the continuity with the returning players on offense, while also adding his own touch. "There is a good balance there," Downing said. "Obviously the continuity being here helps me with the language, and the transition of getting everybody on the same page from a communication standpoint. We're really in the phase of laying our foundation right now, and seeing what guys can do for us, cultivating those competitions. I think we'll get more into the differences in scheme down the road." He added: "I am not as caught up in putting Todd Downing's stamp on the offense as I am coming up with what the right recipe for the ingredients we have is, and making sure that we're as competitive and consistent as we can be."
-Downing, who just finished his third season with the Titans, served as the Raiders offensive coordinator in 2017 after spending two years as quarterbacks coach. In 2016, Downing helped the Raiders offense finish sixth in the NFL in total offense (373.3 yards per game) and guided Derek Carr to a career year, finishing with 3,937 yards on 357-of-560 passing (63.8 percent) with 28 touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 96.7. He thinks he's grown as a coach since then, which includes time with the Vikings and Titans. "Every stop along the way in my career has taught me something," he said. "I've been able to glean a little wisdom, I hope, from each stop, and my time in Oakland is no different. … Hopefully I've grown as a coach, and I am always looking for ways to improve daily."
-Downing made no secret the team plans to continue to utilize running back Derrick Henry, the NFL's rushing leader the past two seasons. "It is certainly an easier job having Derrick Henry back there," he said. "We're always looking for ways to get our playmakers the ball, and to be efficient, and we know that Derrick is one of our playmakers, and the offensive line works extremely hard to open up holes for him. It is no secret that is part of the identity of this offense, so I am looking forward to finding ways to make sure that Derrick is utilized."
-Downing said he's happy with the team's current group of receivers, a group led by A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds, the former Rams wideout who joined the team in free agency. "I'm excited about the competition we have at the different spots on offense," he said. "My job is to coach the guys that are here, and I'm doing that to the best of my abilities each day. I think you're going to see some growth from some of these guys, and I'm excited to see where they end up. … I am very comfortable with the level of competition we have there – I think we have a wide variety of skills sets, and I am excited to see these guys take opportunities to step in and get some extended reps. I am fired up to see where it goes."
-Asked specifically about Reynolds, Downing said he believes his future is bright in Tennessee. In four NFL seasons, Reynolds has played in 64 games, with 24 starts. He's worked in the slot and on the outside at receiver during his career, and he's caught 113 passes for 1,450 yards and nine touchdowns. "I think he is hungry, and I think he knows the game," Downing said. "I think he has really good savviness to him, and a good football IQ. I am excited to see where he can increase."
-As for A.J. Brown, Downing said, "A.J. fits into the playmaker category. Those are guys that you look for ways to get them the ball, and rely on their strengths, and hope that they can continue to ascend just like everybody else. I don't think there's a guy on offense that we feel like has arrived, is a complete product, and A.J. is going to continue to work hard to improve in every area that he can, and I'm excited to see the production that he can have for us." Downing said the team will look for ways to get him in single coverage to help him be successful. "It will be fun to watch him progress, and see where we can move him around," Downing said. "(We'll) expand his route tree a little bit and watch him have successes as we expand it."
-Titans veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill joined the team for this week's OTAs, and Downing said, "Ryan is a tireless worker and he's a guy who is going to look for every way to gain a competitive advantage," he said. "It will be fun to kind of leave no stone unturned with him in this process." As for the team's other quarterbacks, Logan Woodside and DeShone Kizer, Downing said they're competing this offseason. "As far as the back-up quarterback situation is concerned – it's two really hard workers, two guys that fall under that old adage as 'gym rat' – they're two guys that love getting in here and watching film and going through plays," Downing said. "They are very self-critical. It's been fun to work with those guys and I am excited to watch that competition unfold."
-At the running back spot behind Henry, Downing said the group is a good one with returners Darrynton Evans, Jeremy McNichols and fullback Khari Blasingame, and newcomer Brian Hill, formerly of the Falcons. "I think the prevailing word would be 'professionalism'," Downing said of the group. "Those guys have done an outstanding job of preparing and being ready to step in and show their abilities throughout the offseason. Brian has done a nice job, and he certainly has a nice play demeanor – you can tell he loves the game. That fits right in there with Jeremy McNichols, who has worked his tail off for us. Darrynton Evans, Khari has been stepping in in any role we've asked him to do. I am really pleased with that room and excited about how they've shown up to work this offseason."