NASHVILLE, Tenn. --Nate Washington jokes that Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has been busy in the "lab" scheming up new ways for Tennessee to attack on offense. Well, what's new actually is something a bit old school.
Just call it a variation of the run and shoot.
Palmer said Thursday he is expanding the playbook from the limited approach introduced last year that provided minimal options for receivers. It's the same offensive system Palmer has been using for 20 years, dating to his days working with the then-Houston Oilers when now-Titans head coach Mike Munchak played guard alongside current offensive line coach Bruce Matthews and blocked for Warren Moon when they called it the run and shoot.
"I've taken that every place I've gone," Palmer said. We've been fortunate to be successful with it."
Palmer said the run and shoot is alive and well and points to the number of NFL teams using four wide receiver-sets. The biggest difference from the pass-happy offense the Oilers used to now is protecting the quarterback. Palmer said the key now is dropping the quarterback instead of rolling behind the tackle to throw.
"To score you've got to be able to throw the ball. To win, you've got to be able to run. You're going to hit some bad weather and you're going to have to be able to run," Palmer said.
That helps explain why the Titans used their first-round draft pick on receiver Kendall Wright out of Baylor, even though they have Kenny Britt expected back by the start of the season after tearing his right ACL and MCL last September. They also have a group of receivers who turned in their best seasons yet in Palmer's first season as coordinator.
Palmer said the best three will be on the field, though he expects Britt and Wright to be in that group along with Washington, who had a career year with 74 catches for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I'm a much better coach with those two guys I can tell you that," Palmer said of Britt and Wright.
The Titans posted passing numbers not seen by this franchise since Moon was filling the air at the old Astrodome in Palmer's first season as coordinator. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 3,571 yards, fourth-best in franchise history with Moon holding the top three seasons. Hasselbeck's 518 attempts also ranked fourth, while his 319 completions ranked third-most. Hasselbeck also had 28 completions of 25 yards or more, most by this team since Steve McNair had 32 such plays in 2001.
Palmer didn't have much time to implement his offensive schemes in 2011 thanks to the NFL lockout, so he kept routes simple. He's expanded on the playbook this year, creating more options for receivers in their routes to help them get open. The plan is to see during the preseason what the receivers can handle and adjust accordingly.
Tennessee ranked 12th in the NFL in passing offense, carrying most of the load with Chris Johnson and the run game was 31st in the NFL. The Titans signed veteran guard Steve Hutchinson to help bulk up the line for the run game, and Palmer said he will definitely help. Johnson also has been taking part in the offseason program.
"We're coming together as a group and with the tools that we have at wide receiver, I think that's going to even open up the running game better," Palmer said.
Tight end Jared Cook also had a career year, ranking fifth among all tight ends with 759 yards off of 49 catches. He thinks the changes will allow the Titans to take advantage of all the talent with the new wrinkles.
"He's thrown some demanding stuff in there," Cook said about Palmer. "But it's going good. Everybody's trying to get it down. They're having some good practices out there, just working together."
The Titans hold their first on-field team sessions of the offseason program next week. That's when the quarterback competition moves past individual workouts and film sessions, but Palmer expects the changes will only help Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker.
"We've added a couple plays that we held up last year so from that standpoint there will be more options for the receivers. From a quarterback (standpoint), which I think makes it quarterback friendly, the receivers get open," Palmer said.