OK, we get it. It’s preseason football.
Everyone was so excited about the opening of training camp and even the first preseason game. But now that you’ve come to grips the annual realization that August football isn’t exactly the real thing, you’re waiting for the regular season to begin.
But the fact is, the regular season is still three weeks away, so preseason will have to do. As preseason games go, week three is usually the one to watch because the starters play more than usual and it feels more like a regular game, at least for the first half.
The Titans head to Oakland to face the Raiders on Saturday night, let’s look at some things to watch for to help those of you who need a football fix to be entertained and be able to forget that it’s just preseason.
Set the tone defensively
The Titans defense has given up touchdowns on the first drive of both preseason games. That’s a disturbing habit that has been haunting this team for several years now, and it has to stop. A nice three-and-out on the flashy Raiders offense could be just what is needed for the Titans. The third game usually includes a little game-planning, but with the Raiders on the Titans schedule for real in week three, you wonder just how much scheming Dick LeBeau will do to get this scoring monkey off the Titans’ back.
Move the ball without the no huddle
The Titans no-huddle offense has produced two touchdown drives in preseason so far for the first unit. Now, it’s time for Marcus Mariota to direct a scoring march when the opposition has time to substitute and get into different personnel groupings. As Mariota himself said of the no-huddle, “The no-huddle has gone well. That’s something we’ve found success in, but that’s not something we’re going to major in. As I said before, we’d like to score on every possession whether we’re in the no-huddle or not.”
Look for the Titans to try and run with some success and use play-action to potentially find some one-on-one looks outside.
Who steps up in the secondary?
The Titans won’t have Perrish Cox again this week, but they will have Jason McCourty back. Last week with both of them out, their lack of secondary depth was exposed. Antwan Blake, who got the start last week, will come on the field in the nickel package and work outside. He needs a bounce back game after being torched by the Panthers. Brice McCain looks to have the nickel spot, so some of the interesting battles will be once the starters are out. Who among B.W. Webb, Cody Riggs, Kalan Reed, LeShaun Sims and Blidi Wreh-Wilson will step up and claim a roster spot.
Watch special teams
Yeah, we know, punts and kickoff usually are the time for a bathroom break or another trip to the fridge. But if you really want to see how the bottom of the roster breaks down, look to see who is doing the right thing on special teams. Not just on returns, but who stays in their lanes on coverage, which gunner can shed a block, those sorts of details that the average onlooker won’t see or appreciate. With Craig Stevens’ unexpected retirement on Tuesday, it opens up another roster spot – one that doesn’t necessarily have to be a tight end. A big play or two on special teams from a backup at another position could open up an opportunity. For instance, David Cobb will be getting a crash course on teams this week in his quest for a role.
The tight end situation
Speaking of Stevens’ departure, keep an eye on the backup tight ends. How Phillip Supernaw, Jerome Cunningham or even Alex Ellis do in bigger roles this week could determine whether the Titans are satisfied with what’s left after Stevens’ retirement or whether they will be combing the waiver wire in a week looking for Steven’s replacement.