Five Titans to Watch vs. Carolina
The Tennessee Titans roared to a 27-10 win over the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 of the preseason. Head coach Mike Mularkey’s ‘exotic smashmouth’ offense passed its first test, as the team bowled over the Chargers defense to the tune of 288 total rushing yards. DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and Bishop Sankey scored the team’s three touchdowns. Music City has come to life around the 2016 Titans. There’s still more than a few questions, but the team can only answer them as they come.
When presented with its first opportunity to show off the new offensive philosophy, the team excelled. Still, the excitement seems reserved within the organization. The coaches and players both know there’s still a ton of work to do if this team wants to erase the stink of back-to-back two and three-win seasons.
The second opportunity comes Saturday in the form of a stout Carolina Panthers team that posted a 17-2 record last season. One of those losses happened to take place in the Super Bowl. So, yeah – the competition is going to take a major step up. Who should you be keeping an eye on in Nashville on Saturday afternoon?
Without question, Mount was the most intriguing player from the Chargers game. The potential was always there, but now, the former Louisville Cardinal is starting to produce. Sure, preface that with the ‘but it’s the preseason’ argument. Still, Mount played well, tallying four total tackles and a sack. At a position of great need, he’s the player to watch over the course of this preseason. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo will need some support. We’ve yet to see rookie Kevin Dodd, so Mount has a tremendous opportunity in front of him.
Wide receiver is certainly a crowded position even with the trade of Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles. Given Mularkey’s affinity for Dexter McCluster, one could easily assume that returning duties are locked up as well. Still, McBride is turning heads in practice and against the Chargers. He accumulated 94 total yards in preseason game one, including a 35-yard kick return. If he continues this push, he could make things uncomfortable for McCluster and the receiving corps.
Conklin needs a lot of work throughout the preseason in order to be ready for Week 1 vs. the Minnesota Vikings. While he was strong in run blocking, he didn’t excel in pass protection. That’s going to develop over time. The offensive line was one of the strong points coming out of the first preseason game. The Titans bruised the Chargers, and it was just the first time this offensive line had the chance to gel. Eventually, Conklin is going to have to be able to protect Marcus Mariota and give him time to make a play downfield. For now, it’s about getting reps. Reps, reps, reps.
The Titans added Blake in the offseason to provide depth and compete for playing time at the cornerback position. All indications suggest he may actually be pushing Perrish Cox for the second cornerback spot opposite Jason McCourty. He’s drawn praise from Mularkey for continuing to shine in practice. He certainly played well against the Chargers and could end up starting if his momentum continues.
The clock is starting to tick on the fourth-year William & Mary product. Webb was given a lengthy opportunity against the Chargers and struggled mightily. His reps with the first and second unit were far from great, and he’s facing some serious competition from rookies LeShaun Sims and Kalan Reed. Both Reed and Sims figure to see an expanded role moving forward, meaning Webb is being pushed closer to the bubble. He’ll have to step up in a big way against Carolina and moving forward for that matter.
Dodd practiced for the first time this week, but don’t expect him to see the field just yet. The offensive lineman acquired from the Eagles in the Green-Beckham trade, Dennis Kelly, will see time against the Panthers, but it’s his first week. He’s probably not going to blow anyone away as he learns the playbook. I can already see Titans Facebook crowd throwing the word ‘bust’ around and complaining about the trade. Cox is still nursing an injured ankle and might not play in the preseason at all. Daimion Stafford seems to be generating buzz in camp, but his coverage skills are so lacking that it’s hard to imagine him unseating Da’Norris Searcy.