As the Tennessee Titans prepare to open the preseason against the Green Bay Packers tonight, keep in mind that it is still just preseason.
That means starters playing just a series or two, and some not playing at all, if there is even a small risk of worsening a minor injury.
Still, as the exhibition season kicks off, there are some things worth monitoring as the Titans take the field for the first time.
Here are some things to look for tonight, even after the starters are long gone and guys you’ve never heard of are getting snaps in the second half.
1. Wide receiver pecking order. Rishard Matthews won’t play, and it’s highly unlikely that Corey Davis will see action either after not practicing earlier in the week. So that means Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe and a bunch of not-so-familiar names to Titans fans. Mike Vrabel has seldom deviated from his message of grouping his four undrafted rookie wide receivers in conversation, even when asked about one of them specifically. But how the likes of Deontay Burnett, Jordan Veasy, Devin Ross and others rank in the eyes of the coaching staff might be revealed in who gets actions early in the game and who gets the most reps overall. Even though he is not a rookie, you can throw Darius Jennings into that mix as well, along with veteran newcomers Michael Campanaro and Nick Williams, who all may be vying for one spot on the roster.
2. Tight watch on the tight ends. With Phillip Supernaw being released earlier in the week, the question becomes whether the Titans will keep more than three tight ends on the 53-man roster. Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith are locks, and Luke Stocker, despite his issues with dropped passes in camp, appears to have a hold on the third spot because of his blocking. If a fourth tight end forces his way onto the roster, could it be Anthony Firkser, who has seemed to separate himself from the remainder of the pack in practice.
3. Landry time. No Brian Orakpo and probably very little Derrick Morgan. That means that tonight could be valuable for rookie Harold Landry, who should get reps not only with the starters, but stay in while the second string finishes out the first half. The Titans are hopeful that Landry can provide a steady presence on the edge. After working in practice against Taylor Lewan, Landry may have learned a few tricks that he can use in game situations.
4. Vaccaro evaluation. Vrabel promised that new safety Kenny Vaccaro would see action against the Packers, and the veteran, who signed last Saturday, was already running with the first team during practices earlier this week. How quickly Vaccaro gets up to speed and how soon he is in game shape are two very important things to watch in evaluating his progress.
5. The overall look of the offense. Both the Titans offense and defense have undergone changes with a new coaching staff. But it is the offense that has gotten the biggest makeover, and therefore merits the most scrutiny. Sure, Marcus Mariota will be wearing a baseball cap and watching pretty early on, but even with Blaine Gabbert and Luke Falk at the controls, we should be able to get a glimpse of what the changes will look like when the regular season begins.