It was a rainy night in Nashville, Tennessee as the Tennessee Titans opened their pre-season against the Green Bay Packers. Given the torrential rain though much of the game, it is difficult to formulate too many conclusions but there are a few things you can take away from the game.
The Titans defense, particularly the run defense, still needs a lot of work. When the starters and their front line rotational players were in the Packers were running down their throat. In the first offensive series of the game, Packers running back James Starks averaged 8.2 yards per carry and scored easily on a 20 yard run.
The Packers run game slowed down a bit when the back of the running back depth took the field although former Tennessee Volunteer Rajon Neal looked good before he got dinged up. Neal carried the ball 5 times for 39 yards and a touchdown and averaged 7.8 yards per carry. DaJuan Harris carried the ball 7 times for 18 yards for a 2.6 YPC average.
Jake Locker didn’t play much but did survive his first big hit of the pre-season without any noticeable effects so it’s acceptable to call this a win. Charlie Whitehurst overall did pretty well getting the bulk of the playing time and did have the play of the game with a scrambling effort to avoid pressure and throw to rookie running back Bishop Sankey who took it for a first down and a nice gain.
Zach Mettenberger threw an interception and had a couple of rookie moments but his arm was on display. He went 4 of 7 for 87 yards and averaged a whopping 12.4 yards per pass. By contrast, Whitehurst went 10 of 15 for 94 yards averaged 6.3 yards per pass.
The Titans run game looked good given the weather. Shonn Greene got the bulk of the carries early on and scored on a 13 run yard in the first quarter after the Packers fumbled a punt which second year linebacker Zaviar Gooden recovered inside the Titans red zone. Greene finished the night 4 for 20 and the touchdown for a 5.0 yards per carry average.
Bishop Sankey had a nice night in the passing game with 3 catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. In the run game his numbers weren’t as good as he carried the ball 13 times for 37 yards and a 2.8 yards per carry average. Offensive weapon Dexter McCluster carried the ball 3 times for 19 yards for a 6.3 yards per carry average. He did not see any targets in the passing game. Big Jackie Battle who appears to be the favorite at FB/HB scored the game winning touchdown and had 2 carries for 9 yards and a 4.5 yards per carry average.
Marc Mariani got his shot at the return position but was unable to do much with it in the rain. He made a bad decision to return a kickoff that only went for 13 yards. It’s hard to fault him too much for trying to make a play. It was the only return of the night for the Titans He knows he has to show something to make the roster. He also failed to haul in a catchable touchdown pass. A likable guy and fan favorite, he will need to show more in the next 2 exhibition games.
More on the defense and the Titans young secondary players. Daimion Stafford had the hit of the night and is really having a nice training camp. Rookie Marqueston Huff looked lost at times in coverage last night but did have a sack on a blitz to end the first half. He also had a tackle for a loss and finished with 5 tackles all of them solo. Second year man Lavar Edwards also registered a sack.
The bad news of the night was the injury to linebacker Colin McCarthy who suffered a shoulder injury in the second half. It’s a crushing blow to a talented player who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. I expect he will end up on injured reserve and released with an injury settlement.
While the rain hampered things, and clearly they were running mostly basic packages, the Titans didn’t get much pressure. This has long been an area of concern and where they need to do better on defense. They did blitz some as previously mentioned and you can expect they will do a lot of it once they start installing their defensive packages.
The kicking game remains a concern with Maikon Bonani missing the first extra point. Travis Koons had a nice kickoff that went longer than I expected but his range is still concerning. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has declined to comment on who is the favorite and whether one might get more opportunities.
In other notes the time of possession was virtually even with the Titans holding the edge at 30:38. The Titans were perfect in the redzone with a 3 for 3 record. The Packers went 1 for 2 in the redzone. The Packers were penalized 6 times for 62 yards while the Titans were penalized 4 times for 56 yards. It was a particularly rough night for the Packers hanging onto the ball as they coughed it up 5 times but only lost 1. The Titans fumbled 3 times and lost 1.
Green Bay Packers 16
Tennessee Titans 20