Titans seeking consistency in round two of preseason
The Titans are focused on consistency and execution in their preseason tilt with the Bengals.
By GREG POGUEFS Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the
Titans head into preseason game No. 2 this weekend, third-year coach Mike Munchak knows exactly what he wants to see most from his team.
"You go with the word consistency, knowing that we'll probably play (the starters) close to a half," said Munchak, whose team plays Saturday night at Cincinnati.
"You just like to see both groups come out and establish themselves," he added. "On offense, moving the ball, making plays we have to make. On defense, getting stops. If they make plays on us, hold them to field goals, get some turnovers. We weren’t in enough plays last game to have that happen."
In the preseason opener, the Titans played starters for most of the first half, which ended in a 14-all tie.
Third-year quarterback Jake Locker, who entered training camp this season as the designated starter for the first time, completed 7 of 11 passes for 58 yards, but most of those were check-downs to secondary receivers who accounted for 4, accounting for 45 receiving yards with runs after the catch.
In as much, Munchak was peppered with questions this week about the new offense being installed by first-year offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. Will he authorize some passing shots downfield to take advantage of a talented quartet of receivers — Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter?
"There will be opportunities for him," Munchak said of Locker and the passing game, which never got off the ground last season when the quarterback missed five games (shoulder injury) and battled inconsistency throughout the 11 starts.
"Last week (against Washington), there were plays called where he could have gone downfield," Munchak added, "but they were playing off and playing soft and they gave us the underneath things. Again, like I said, when you see (power back) Shonn Greene catch a three-yard pass and go 14 or 15 yards with it, you know they’re playing off."
For the Titans, the temptation would be to run lead back Chris Johnson and Greene behind a revamped offensive line that's now being considered one of the team's top groupings.
Veteran tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart return on the left and right sides, respectively, while free-agent acquisition Andy Levitre (left guard) and first-round draft pick Chance Warmack (right guard) shore up the middle.
One of the top position battles comes at center, as veteran returnee Fernando Velasco (Saturday night's starter) and free-agent signee Rob Turner are vying to start. And that's not to mention fourth-round draft pick Brian Schwenke, the eventual heir at that spot, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury.
"Schwenke unfortunately has the hamstring," Munchak said of the promising rookie, who the Titans had graded tops at the position in the past draft. "He's still battling through that. He'd be another guy we’d be talking about at the center spot. It's not down to two yet still. Someone just has to step up and take the job."
The Titans would also like to get tight end Delanie Walker, another free agent signee, involved in the offense as soon as possible. But the former 49er has yet to participate in training camp because of a nagging knee injury, but is anticipating being available for the team’s opener Sept. 9 at Pittsburgh.
"I think if you play a whole game, you'll hit those windows," Munchak said of stretching the defense with deep passing plays. "If Jake (Locker) played a normal four-quarter game, you're going to get some shots in there. If (Johnson) is in the game the whole time with (Greene), and you run the ball well, that's going to have to stop.
"They’re going to have to say, 'You know what, prove you can throw it,' and give you some chances. If they only play the 20 snaps, it's harder to get a chance to get to that. You still have to find ways to get those. We will, and I'm hoping that’s the kind of thing that happens this week."
Another starting battle occurs at right cornerback, pitting third-year Alterraun Verner and second-year Tommie Campbell (Saturday's starter).
Verner started all 16 games last season and had 81 tackles, two interceptions and nine defended passes; but he is considered an overachiever because of his lack of size (5-foot-10, 186 pounds).
Campbell is bigger and much more athletic (6-3, 198), but has frustrated Titans coaches by his lack of progress.
"It has to be where we have a good feel for what we’re doing," Munchak said about having the starter chosen between Verner and Campbell in the coming days. "I'm hoping after this game that we feel pretty good.
"We have some good feelings either way about what our thinking is. We just have to play out a little more in this game this weekend and in practice next week."
Either way, Munchak figures the Titans will have a step up in competition this week against the Bengals, who have made the playoffs three of the last four seasons, including consecutive wild-card round losses at Houston (2011-12).
"(The Bengals are) a good football team," said Munchak. "We better be ready to play. I don’t care if it's preseason or not. I think (the players) see that. I think you're going to see the same type of intensity.
"I just want to see us come out in the beginning and not just kind of feel them out for a series. We need to stay away from that and come out ready to play."