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.”