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Titans try to build off preseason for Patriots

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)

The Titans want their preseason performance to carry over now that all the games count.

Tennessee gave up the fewest quarterback sacks, led the NFL with eight interceptions and topped the AFC in fewest points allowed. Darius Reynaud, the replacement for former Pro Bowl returner Marc Mariani, led the AFC on punt returns.

Now everyone's record is 0-0, and the New England Patriots will be a completely different challenge in the opener.

Still, coach Mike Munchak likes what he's seen so far as a stepping stone into the regular season.

''You get a confidence going,'' Munchak said of the preseason. ''You start getting a confidence going in each other. To me, when you're playing a game it doesn't matter. It's all about playing your best. I think our guys approached it that way in the preseason that we needed to establish an identity a little bit more that we can go and make those kind of plays.''

The Titans went 9-7 in 2011 with a defense that ranked eighth in points allowed. Forcing more turnovers and getting to the quarterback were a focus for improvement in the offseason.

Tennessee managed eight interceptions in this preseason, just three back of the 11 the Titans picked off all of 2011. They also finished with 13 sacks compared to 28 last season, which tied them for fifth in the preseason. The stinginess improved a tick too, as Tennessee led the AFC allowing 16.8 points per game. They tied for second recovering five fumbles.

They also finished the preseason with plus-6 in the takeaway-giveaway ratio, and six different players had interceptions.

''We haven't been really turning the ball over, which is good,'' Munchak said. ''The protection's been good. ... We're heading in the right direction in a lot of categories. We all know we're 0-0 going forward, but you still want to have success at different phases of the game. And we've had success at a lot of phases we were concerned about after last year ended.''

In the final roster cuts, the Titans kept each of this year's draft picks, with safety Markelle Martin already on the physically unable to perform list. Munchak said that mixed with the on-field success can help players realize the organization has a plan that works.

''It should be exciting to see we have a good young team that's heading in the right direction. We have to go out there and play some good football teams and make plays. There's some things we're not doing well, but we have a whole season to get better at it,'' Munchak said.

Those areas include the run game and the development of Jake Locker in his second season now that he's been tabbed the starting quarterback.

Chris Johnson averaged 2.9 yards per carry in the preseason after spending the whole offseason working with his teammates in Nashville in his attempt to bounce back from his worst season as a pro. The Titans tweaked the offensive line bringing in five-time All Pro Steve Hutchinson at left guard, bumping Leroy Harris to right guard. Fernando Velasco now is the starting center.

Locker got three starts at quarterback to ease him into the season. He completed 51.7 percent of his passes with a 71.3 passer rating after throwing two touchdown passes with one interception. Locker said after Thursday night's 10-6 win over New Orleans he's excited for the regular season to start.

''We are going to have to continue to improve this next week, but it's a good opportunity for us,'' he said.

Locker won't have receiver Kenny Britt against the Patriots due to his one-game suspension, which started Friday night. Britt is expected to join the Titans again on Sept. 10. That leaves Tennessee with Nate Washington, rookie Kendall Wright, Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins at receiver for the opener.

Munchak said they'll likely stick with the four receivers because they also have tight ends Jared Cook, Craig Stevens and rookie Taylor Thompson.

''We feel we have plenty of weapons if we use them all and play right,'' Munchak said.

Notes: The Titans signed five players to their practice squad Saturday bringing back all players waived Friday. Those signed include TE Brandon Barden, DT Zach Clayton, FB Collin Mooney, WR Michael Preston and S Tracy Wilson.

Tagged: Titans, Jake Locker

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