Titans seeking consistency in round two of preseason

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.”