NASHVILLE — In his new role as offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, Todd Downing has no plans to try to fill Arthur Smith's shoes.
Downing's real challenge is keeping the offense clicking as well as possible, which is what coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson expect of the team's former tight ends coach.
"I look at this job more as what Coach Vrabel and Jon Robinson asked me to do to fill it this year, not to be the Arthur Smith or to be anybody else for that matter," Downing said Wednesday in his first availability with reporters since being promoted in January after Smith became head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Compared to when Smith took over as Tennessee's offensive coordinator two years ago, Downing has the advantage of having been on OC in the NFL previously with the 2017 Oakland Raiders. He's also familiar with an offense that ranked as one of the best in the league last season, when the Titans had per-game averages of 396.4 yards (tied for second with the Buffalo Bills) and 30.7 points (fourth).
Tennessee was second in rushing, thanks to Derrick Henry, who led the league in that stat for a second straight season and finished with 2,027 yards on the ground to become the eighth player to top 2,000 rushing yards.
"It's certainly an easier job having Derrick Henry back there than not having him back there," said Downing, who noted the Titans are always looking for ways to be more efficient and get the ball to their playmakers.
"It's no secret that that's part of the identity of this offense. So I'm looking forward to finding ways to make sure that Derrick's utilized," Downing added.
Downing does have some challenges. Wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith, who combined for 106 catches, 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, are with other teams now.
The Titans signed wide receiver Josh Reynolds to a one-year deal and drafted Dez Fitzpatrick in the fourth round. Tight end Anthony Firkser is back on a one-year deal.
Wide receiver A.J. Brown has been very vocal on social media lobbying for the Titans to trade for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, a push endorsed by Henry and several of Brown's teammates. Downing said he's excited about the competition the Titans currently have at different spots on offense.
"I think that you're going to see some growth from some of these guys," Downing said. "Excited to see where they finish up by the time we get to the real ball."
Downing's two decades in the NFL include time with the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams in addition to the Raiders and Titans, and he was worked with both quarterbacks and tight ends as a position coach.
"Each stop along the way has given me some new insight," Downing said, "and I can certainly rely on some of those experiences to maybe see around some corners or predict things a little bit better."