Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you. I know we are through 3 weeks of the preseason and you most likely are freaking out because I haven’t written an article yet. Well here’s the truth: the preseason isn’t too important when it comes to drawing conclusions about the regular season.
I am as excited as anyone to see football on TV. If you play fantasy football like myself, I’m sure you have been tracking your players closely. But the truth is that we won’t glean much from the preseason other than general themes about each team.
That being said, lets analyze!
To start things off, the Titans are currently sitting at 1-2 after three games and are getting ready to face the Bears for their final preseason game on Thursday.
Tennessee began their preseason slate with a win against the Eagles, but fell in the last two games at the hands of the Patriots and Steelers. For most of these games, the starters only played a series or two in order to get a couple of reps. After that it has been an exhibition of the players lower on the depth chart. This is intentionally executed in an attempt to try and help the coaching staff whittle down the team roster to the final 53 man squad. This must be completed by Saturday afternoon.
In my observations, the first thing that stands out to me is that the O-line has not been quite gelling yet. They have been leaving pretty big holes for the defense to get through and don’t yet look like a cohesive unit. They allowed 7 sacks in their last game alone against the Steelers. Like I said before, most of this is with the backups playing, but when it comes down to it, these are the most important players on the field.
Sadly, you can’t count on all of them being healthy for the entire season, so the starting 5 will need to have competent people behind them to fill in the gaps should they go down.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was pulled very early in game 3 because of concerns regarding his protection, which doesn’t look great on the Titans’ big men. Fortunately, they will have another game and some more time in camp to get things in order. Also, with the upcoming cuts trimming down to the 53 man roster, the line will be more solid than it has been in these games — but it’s something to keep an eye on.
So far, Mariota hasn’t really played much at all. While this may be concerning to some who may be thinking that he wont be in prime form when the season starts, I look at this from the other point of view. This perspective sees that he is the Titans’ most valuable player — someone who they are confident in and must protect from injury.
It isn’t uncommon for teams to sit their starting QB in these meaningless games. For example, there are 4 starting quarterbacks who haven’t played a single snap in the preseason. With early concerns about Mariota’s performance and questions about his security as the starter, the fact that he is sitting most of the time is a good sign that he will start the season as the number 1 QB. Things can change quickly if he gets off to a slow start, but he has looked very solid throwing to Humphries. Also, with Delanie Walker returning to the field, Mariota will have a safety valve for check down passes that will help him stay out of trouble.
Adding to some O-Line frustrations, Taylor Lewan has been suspended for the first 4 games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on Performance Enhancing Drugs. Lewan was found to be taking Ostarine, which is a substance that produces similar results to taking steroids. Lewan said he unknowingly took the substance, but nonetheless lost his appeal to the suspension. Once he returns to the team in week 5, expect some improvements to the front line. Until then, the team will have to fill the gap, which could cause some frustrations in the beginning of the season.
Derrick Henry returned to the practice field after an injury to his leg kept him out for a bit. Don’t expect to see him in the last game of the preseason, but reports are that he will be full up for the season opener against the Browns. Hopefully he will be able to continue with the dominant performances that we saw towards the end of last season.
With all things considered, I think the Titans are in a decent spot right now and once the team has been pared down to 53 players, we should expect to see some stronger play.
I don’t have many concerns with the defense, seeing as they have one of the more solid fronts in the league. With Mike Vrabel on the sidelines, that will be one of the areas that the team won’t need to worry about.
However, I do think that there are some concerns with the offense that stem from the line and could lead to a slow start when the season kicks off. If the line doesn’t come together, Mariota may need to dump the ball off quickly – and Henry may not have the biggest holes to run through, which may lead to some frustrations early on when trying to jump ahead on the scoreboard.
All in all, I am excited to kick the season off and see what the Titans will do. Tune in to the Titans’ home opener against the Browns on Sunday September 8th.
“The credit in life does not go to the critic who stands on the sidelines and points out where the strong stumble, but rather, the real credit in life goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face may get marred by sweat and dust, who knows great enthusiasm and great devotion and learns to spend himself in a worthy cause, who, at best if he wins, knows the thrill of high achievement and, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that in life his place will never be with those very cold and timid souls in the gray twilight who know neither victory nor defeat”Theodore Roosevelt, 1899
— Andrew Lyons