Quick Thoughts on Titans at Cincinnati – Preseason Game 2

It’s only the second preseason game but boy oh boy was it a disaster in a lot of ways. Still, there were some good things to take away from the game. On offense, that is the quarterback position and the development of Jake Locker. On defense, it has to be how well Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan are looking this year. So let’s get to it starting with Locker.

Locker would play roughly 42 snaps and finished the night 12 of 20 for 116 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass but the good news is that he hasn’t turned the ball over which is a big improvement from last year. He also added 2 rushes for 7 yards. Not a bad stat line for preseason when you consider his receivers let him down. I counted at least 4 drops including one by Nate Washington that could have been a touchdown.

[Update] The running game looks to be back on track which is more good news. The Titans continue to get Chris Johnson involved in the passing game as he caught 2 passes for 16 yards while Jackie Battle added 1 catch for 7 yards. CJ ran 7 times for 30 yards, Shonn Greene 6 rushes for 39 yards and camp sensation and new fan favorite Jackie Battle led all backs with 12 rushes for 58 yards.

Not to be outdone, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a nice outing as well, finishing 9 of 13 for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did fumble but it was recovered and it looked to be more an issue with the center than anything but I would love to see a replay. The center spot is obviously one to watch as there have been some high snaps and other issues as well. Rob Turner seems to have the job but Brian Schwenke should be back against Atlanta. Can the rook win the spot? Rookie guard Chance Warmack is showing some inexperience but he always settles in and plays well.

Speaking of wide receivers, the injury to Kendall Wright doesn’t appear serious which is good news. I like Wright and I think he can be a valuable contributor but this could open the door for Damian Williams who has really looked good this offseason. Having watched the wide receivers closely in training camp, in my opinion both Nate Washington and Damian Williams are quicker and better receivers than Wright. I would like to see Williams get more playing time. Speaking of Williams, what a night he had as he ended the game leading the Titans wide receivers in receptions with 4 catches for 65 yards. Michael Preston had another nice game and finished with 3 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.

I have read the talk about the Titans being enamored of Jack Doyle and he has looked good in training camp but it’s been mostly with the 3s and 4s. The drop was bad but I would like to see some more of him in Atlanta to see if he is as good as they think. Personally, I believe Brandon Barden is the better receiver. He finished the night with 3 receptions for 16 yards and a touchdown. I am really anxious for Delanie Walker to hit the field and it sounds like he could play against Atlanta. Also, let’s hope Taylor Thompson is back as well.

I know Rob Bironas is a fan favorite but his performance is trending the wrong way. He struggled some in 2012 and that carried over into last night when he missed 2 field goals. Backup kicker Maikon Bonani would add a sympathy miss as well. If the Titans make those 3 field goals they win this game 28-27.

Sigh. Now let’s talk about the defense. The inability to tackle is profoundly troubling and a flashback to 2012 that we just can’t have. At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum, tackling is fundamental and if you can’t execute the fundamentals it’s going to be a long season. Add on top of that a completely listless defense to boot and well let’s just say the defense still has a ton of work to do.

Michael Griffin led the Titans defense with 6 tackles and 1 assist. IT’S NEVER A GOOD THING WHEN YOUR FREE SAFETY LEADS THE TEAM IN TACKLES. Speaking of Griffin, I am so pleased with how well he has looked this offseason. Griffin catches a lot of flack but I still remember how well he played his first few years in the league. I think Titans fans have reason to hope he will return to form this year as he will play free safety exclusively.

More good news and that is that the Titans line got some good pressure last night. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is going to be in beast mode this year. He forced a fumble, got a sack and ended the night with 2 tackles. Defensive end Derrick Morgan added another sack and finished with 2 tackles as well. Sammie Lee Hill batted a pass.  However, the Bengals put up 247 passing yards with 1 touchdown and (wait for it) 193 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns. The run defense has to get better and fast.

Speaking of run defense, the Titans really miss middle linebacker Colin McCarthy there. Moise Fokou is a nice fill in and generally plays fine but McCarthy is much better against the run. I would like to see the Titans give Kadarron Anderson and Gary Guyton more playing time at middle linebacker. Last night Fokou only had 1 tackle and 1 assist. The injury to Akeem Ayers doesn’t sound serious which is good news. I hope to see him back against Atlanta. Zach Brown doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for how good he is and how well he plays in coverage.

Overall I thought Jason McCourty played pretty nice coverage despite the long pass to Marvin Jones. Maybe it’s just me but it’s frustrating to watch the mix of tight coverage and soft coverage in these first preseason games. Jason McCourty can play man coverage and do it well I just wish they would let him continue to do it.

Tommie Campbell struggled again at the cornerback position and you have to think Alterraun Verner has won that competition. Verner has shown nice man coverage skills this offseason. Like McCourty, the big issue I have is when they put him in soft coverage. Do. Not. Like. Coty Sensabaugh has struggled a bit but he made some nice plays and appears to have solidified his spot at the nickel back. He isn’t really in the mix for the outside spot despite what the Titans have said. At least not at the moment. Blidi Wreh-Wilson still has a lot to learn but he shows flashes.

I like Bernard Pollard and he has brought a swagger to the Titans they needed, but it was sadly lacking last night. Pollard struggled there is no other way to spin it. To his credit, he owned his bad game and promised the defense would work on their issues and fix them. Accountability. I like it and that’s another thing the Titans lacked in 2012. I would like to see the horse collar penalty against George Wilson again. It likely saved a touchdown and Wilson is far from a dirty player. I thought he might have grabbed him under the pads but I could be wrong. The Titans would finish the game with 5 penalties for 44 yards.

Finally, looking at the stat sheet, the Titans and the Bengals were really close. Again, the missed field goals and dropped passes made the difference.

Total First Downs 21 Total First Downs 22
By Rushing 8 By Rushing 7
By Passing 13 By Passing 14
By Penalty By Penalty
Third Down Efficiency 10/19 – 52% Third Down Efficiency 6/13 – 46%
Fourth Down Efficiency 2/2 – 100% Fourth Down Efficiency 0/0 – 0%
Total Net Yards 412 Total Net Yards 429
Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks) 73 Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks) 64
Average Gain per Offensive Play 5.6 Average Gain per Offensive Play 6.7
Net Yards Rushing 143 Net Yards Rushing 193
Total Rushing Plays 30 Total Rushing Plays 31
Average Gain per Rushing Play 4.8 Average Gain per Rushing Play 6.2
Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards) 0-0 Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards) 2–3
Net Yards Passing 269 Net Yards Passing 236
Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 2 – 8 Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 2 – 11
Gross Yards Passing 277 Gross Yards Passing 247
Pass Comp-Att-Int 25 – 41 – 0 Pass Comp-Att-Int 19 – 31 – 0
Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 6.3 Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 7.2
Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 5 – 3 – 2 Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 6 – 5 – 4
Punts (Number-Average) 2 – 45.5 Punts (Number-Average) 3 – 48.0

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