NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Here's a look at six things that stood out — good and bad — in the wake of Sunday's loss to the Texans:
Murray has been solid**
I get asked a lot about rookie running back Derrick Henry, and why he's not getting more carries. My answer always involves DeMarco Murray, and another question: Why would you take snaps away from him? With 340 yards and three scores in four games, Murray is on pace for 1,360 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns this season. After four games, he's also on pace for 76 catches for 624 yards, and eight more scores. I like Henry, and I think he'll be involved moving forward. But Murray has given coaches little reason to limit his work.
Mariota needs to bounce back
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn't been himself of late. After completing 68 percent of his passes the first two weeks of the season, his completion percentage is 48 percent in the last two. Through four games, Mariota has four touchdowns and five interceptions. He was 13-of-29 for 202 yards against the Texans. So what's been the problem? I suspect some of it has to do with a new offensive system, and new players around him. The team's top three pass catches so far weren't on the team last year. But I also believe Mariota will settle in, and settle down.
Offensive line is much improved**
After four games last season, Mariota had already been sacked 14 times. He's been sacked just seven times in four games this season. Left tackle Taylor Lewan has consistently been one of the highest-graded players each week by Pro Football Focus, and he was the highest graded player on offense vs the Texans. Center Ben Jones, left guard Quinton Spain and right tackle Jack Conklin have consistently received high marks as well. The personnel is better than a year ago, but I'm giving new offensive line coach Russ Grimm some credit here, too.
Special teams play has been shaky
Kicker Ryan Succop is 5-of-6 on field goals, punter Brett Kern is averaging 49.5 yards, and I think returner Marc Mariani has made good decisions. Long snapper Beau Brinkley has done his job. But the Titans have been unsteady on special teams, and it's hurt. Allowing Will Fuller's 67-yard punt return on Sunday was a killer, but even before then the Titans had their share of issues. Penalties on special teams have consistently put the team in a tough spot. Coach Mike Mularkey said after the game, "special teams are not playing well right now. We have to fix that." On Monday morning, Mularkey relieved special teams coordinator Bobby April of his duties. Assistant Steve Hoffman replaced him.
Orakpo has been a force**
While Murray has stood out on offense, linebacker Brian Orakpo has been a force on defense. Orakpo has four sacks through four games. Orakpo had another sack on Sunday in Houston. The Titans now need to find ways to get him some company in the backfield. Defensive lineman Karl Klug and linebacker Kevin Dodd have the team's only other sacks in the season.
Opportunities are on the horizon
So far, the Titans have faced teams with a combined record of 10-5 – the Vikings (3-0), Lions (1-3), Raiders (3-1) and Texans (3-1). The Titans have played the third toughest schedule in the NFL so far. The next five weeks provide some opportunities. The record of the team's next five opponents: 4-16. After the Dolphins (1-3), the Browns (0-4), Colts (1-3), Jaguars (1-3) and Chargers (1-3) are on the horizon. It's time to string together some wins, and change the conversation.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 4 action at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)