Preseason over, time for Titans to show off new offense
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans go into the regular season very successful at keeping their new offense with coordinator Matt LaFleur under wraps.
The first-team offense scored only two touchdowns in seven series during the preseason, and only Atlanta (27) scored fewer points than Tennessee (40) through four games.
The result: the first winless preseason since 1997 when the franchise debuted in Tennessee at 0-4. That team went 8-8 in the regular season playing home games 200 miles away in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
First-year coach Mike Vrabel made clear Friday that the Titans stayed very basic on both offense and defense to see how players responded. He also cautioned against expecting the Titans to experience growing pains simply because they have a new offense.
“I don’t think that,” Vrabel said Friday. “No one here should concede that. We’re professional football players, professional coaches. We’re expected to put a product out there that’s successful and geared toward winning and production. So I wouldn’t start making excuses about the new offense or injuries or anything like that.”
Now the Titans can start putting together their first offensive game plan for the season opener Sept. 9 in Miami, and LaFleur should have at least two key starters back.
Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker did not play a snap as he sat out the opener in Green Bay before getting hurt in a joint practice with Tampa Bay but expects to be ready for the opener. Starting wide receiver Rishard Matthews was on the physically unable to perform list with an undisclosed injury before being activated Aug. 26. He watched the preseason finale, a 13-3 loss to Minnesota, with 38 other Titans from the sideline.
Walker and Matthews have been quarterback Marcus Mariota’s top receiving targets over the past two seasons. Walker wasn’t happy that the Titans went winless in the preseason.
“But it is the preseason. It’s almost like a scrimmage,” Walker said after the loss to Minnesota. “The outcome doesn’t matter at the end of the day, but you still want to get the job done, and that’s getting the W.”
Right tackle Jack Conklin spent the entire offseason and preseason recovering from surgery to repair a torn left ACL hurt Jan. 13 in a divisional loss to New England.
Vrabel gave no indication of whether the Titans will keep Conklin on the physically unable to perform list to start the season, a move that would keep the right tackle out the first six games. The coach said only that no roster decisions had been made when he spoke to reporters at midday Friday with the NFL deadline to cut the roster to 53 looming Saturday afternoon.
“I would say Jack is progressing and doing well,” Vrabel said.
Mariota completed 61.1 percent of his passes this preseason and threw the two TDs scored by the first-team unit. He was intercepted once while being sacked three times. However the Titans attack the Dolphins, Vrabel made it clear he wants consistency. The coach was not happy with the first-team offense going three-and-out three straight drives in the third preseason game, a 16-6 loss in Pittsburgh .
Actually the Titans went three-and-out on three of four drives, the fourth with the second-teamers in the game. The third drive ended when Mariota was intercepted on third down.
“You can’t have three clunkers in a row where now they’re getting opportunities and they’re changing field position … really forcing your defense into playing really perfect,” Vrabel said.