Thoughts after Titans First Preseason Game
1. Dat Run Game
Oh my sweet golly gumdrops. That run game is going to be really good in 2013. The offensive line was missing one of its keystone starters (right tackle, David Stewart), yet it still made holes for Chris Johnson to score a 58-yard touchdown in typical CJ2K style, breaking rookie Baccari Rambo’s ankles.
The line also allowed Shonn Greene to pick up a 19-yard touchdown. The former Titan, linebacker Keith Bulluck, said that he “could drive his Mercedes through that hole” that the offensive line made for Shonn Greene on his touchdown run. The Titans are going to return to their former self with a very good run game with a decent passing game…
2. The Passing Game
Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains did not open up his play book much at all. Quarterback Jake Locker spent most of his time under center, making short passes and taking the check-down. This was most likely to improve Locker’s confidence with a high percentage of completions, as he didn’t get intercepted, like Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco. He finished 7-of-11 for 58 yards, which should have been 8 completions after Kendall Wright dropped an easy pass; nevertheless, the Titans will likely show more of their passing game and let Locker loose next week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The offensive line also struggled with defending the pass rush. This may be just a combination of offseason rust and the absence of David Stewart. Hopefully by Game 4 in Minnesota, the Titans line will be fine against the likes of Jared Allen.
3. Darius Reynaud may be in trouble
The third-string running back looked horrendous on offense. He is a capable kick returner who had some home-run touchdowns on special teams in 2012 but also tends to put the team in poor field position if he doesn’t take it back to the house. Reynaud was not impressive in the return game against Washington and was disappointing on offense, as well. With kick returner Marc Mariani now healthy and running back Jackie Battle performing well, Reynaud’s roster spot is now in jeopardy. Mariani is the more consistent returner, hardly ever putting the team in dangerous field position, but he has to be a good receiver on offense if he wants to take Reynaud’s roster spot.
4. Justin Hunter is a rookie
The former Tennessee Vol wasn’t targeted very much in his NFL opener, but he did get one catch. He caught a pass for a first down but made a rookie mistake and ran backwards in attempt to lose the defender and gain more yards. This would have probably worked for him in college, but the NFL defender was able to take him down and force the Titans to punt. Hunter is going to have growing pains as a rookie, but it’s good that he did that now instead of Week 1 of the regular season in Pittsburgh.
5. The Center battle is still on
Free agent signing out of St. Louis, Rob Turner, started at center for the Titans on Thursday and looked pretty good. He has gotten many starting reps in training camp over Fernando Velasco and rookie Brian Schwenke. Velasco was playing guard during the fourth quarter with the scrubs, which might be a matter of him building chemistry with the backups, in case of emergency. Velasco and Turner are still competing for the job, but right now Turner definitely has the edge.
6. The Defense
Well… The defense was “meh.” The starters had one terrible drive and allowed Redskins backup QB Kirk Cousins to score a touchdown and Roy Helu Jr. to rush for 57 yards on 13 carries. Part of this was due to Jerry Gray using a very “vanilla” defense, which mostly consisted of zone schemes. This is very puzzling, as the Titans have talked about using more press-man schemes. Hopefully the team will stray away from these weak zones in Game 2 and allow fans to see how the team performs with the more aggressive schemes.
6. Verner > Campbell
Cornerback Tommie Campbell looked bad on defense. With weak decision making and poor zone coverage, Campbell is appearing to be just camp hype. Verner is clearly the better zone corner, as Campbell will be seeing more time as the 4th corner, most likely; however, if the Titans do use more press-man schemes in Game 2, Campbell will get his chance to prove that he is the defender that reporters have been raving about.
7. Bernard Pollard will be fined
Bernard Pollard was flagged after an illegal hit during the preseason game and is likely to be fined. This is not much of a surprise, as he and Senior Assistant Gregg Williams are supporters of aggressive and mean defense. Pollard will likely keep playing like this in 2013 and will probably get a lot of fines. I don’t care if he lays the wood on the opponents often; however, it’s going to bother me when he gets penalties that could cost the team. In Baltimore, he could do that because the defense was strong enough to make up for the penalties. The Titans’ defense is still young and will possibly struggle with making up for the big penalties.
8. The backups are backups for a reason
The backups did not look good. The 4th quarter offensive line gave up many penalties and did not give quarterback Rusty Smith the opportunities to move the ball downfield consistently. Smith looked good but received no help from his offensive line. Backup receiver Michael Preston was inconsistent. He caught two passes, but also dropped one, couldn’t get his feet inbounds on another, and also almost allowed an interception after he lost the track of the ball. Preston will have to keep working if he wants to take the 6th receiver spot from Marc Mariani.
The backup defense was scary… scary bad. Pat White looked like RGIII on Thursday, tearing up the field and the Titans defense during the 4th quarter. A roughing the passer penalty and poor coverage led to the defense allowing Pat White to score and defeat the Tennessee Titans. Luckily these guys won’t see much time on the field on defense during the regular season and may be capable to be very solid players on special teams.
Overall, I’m satisfied. I was impressed with the running game and not disappointed by the passing game. Locker had one bad throw, which every NFL QB has. I expect the coaches to open up the playbook on both sides of the ball next week, allowing fans to get a real look at this team and see what they are capable of.