After spending too much of the past few weeks writing stuff for a book (buy it when it’s available! it’s good!) and then a column, it’s time to post here some more. Before Saturday’s preseason game, I posted a few things I’d be paying attention to during the game. With the game in the books, it’s time to take a look at how they turned out.
1. The Debut of Jake Locker.
He got some work with the second team, and generally had an encouraging debut. The dropped snap was a disappointing, but not too surprising given his lack of practice with Kevin Matthews. What was more positive was that he kept his eyes downfield and noticed Chris Cook’s coverage lapse leaving Figurs open and hit him for the score. I’m not sure if the big miss on the pass for Mariani was inaccuracy or VY/Brandon Jones-style misreading. I didn’t see much eye movement to manipulate defenses, but that’s sort of an advanced skill anyway. His eyes seemed, however, to be a pretty good guide as to where he was going with the ball. None too surprising, even, and something that often comes in time.
2. The Interior of the Offensive Line
To be honest, pretty much all of the early running was to the tackles and outside, so I didn’t get a good grasp on how this changed, if at all. I had Harris with a couple good blocks, one on the first throwback screen to Hall and one to get the seal on a carry by Harper on Locker’s first drive. I also had Scott with a couple linebacker blocks, one each on both the first and second drives. Amano I had down once, for a block on DT Remi Ayodele, who’s the sort of big run-stuffer he’s struggled with at times in the past.
3. Depth at Wide Receiver.
Figurs of course had the TD on the blown coverage, but he’s not more than Just A Guy at best. Nobody stood out in a big way to me, though Rusty! probably isn’t the best quarterback for that kind of thing.
4. The New-Look Defensive Line.
The Vikings don’t have a great offensive line, and Adrian Peterson didn’t get much run, so it’s tough to put this in perspective. Preseason can also be a tough time to read defensive line play, as it depends a lot on intensity and that goes up and down. The Titans did have four sacks, though three of those came in the second half against a rookie playing behind a third-string offensive line.
5. Akeem Ayers.
One strong pass rush, though McNabb escaped and got the ball off. One tip at the line of scrimmage on a quick pass. Spent a decent amount of time lined up on the line of scrimmage, creating a 5-2 look. Can he cover? I think he overplayed his zone and gave Booker a bigger gain than he deserved, so let’s say it’s still a concern of mine.
6. The Safety Depth Chart.
I think Jordan Babineaux is probably the number-three guy, both with his experience playing for Jerry Gray and with his versatility. His interception of Webb was a smart veteran play. None of the other safeties really stood out to me, aside from Myron Rolle still not looking like an NFL player.
Some other notes:
- I still consider myself more a member of Team McCourty than Team Verner, and he had some solid coverage and good tackles.
- Jamie Harper tries to bounce EVERYTHING outside, and he doesn’t have the speed to do that. This is a big pet peeve of mine and was something he apparently did a lot in college. If you’re a bigger back, use your size and run forward. Also, learn to pass block.
- I’m starting to come around a little on Karl Klug, though I’m still not totally convinced he’s much more than a relatively minor upgrade on Mitch King.
- I am not concerned about Rob Bironas, partly because every kicker who attempts difficult kicks has at least some inconsistency. The Titans have been lucky with the level of kicking performance they’ve gotten out of Bironas the last couple years, and the proper response to that isn’t to act like having a very good kicker who’s having a very good year is a birthright.
- A couple nice comments from DraftableXnOs on twitter. Palmer’s Oilers tenure gave him experience with the run-and-shoot, where the wide receivers do a lot of vertical stemming. One of the things about the run-and-shoot was it required a lot of post-play reader by both the quarterback and wide receivers, who had to be on the same page. It’s tough on DBs, but that wasn’t something either Collins or Young particularly excelled at, nor did it seem to be part of Heimerdinger’s philosophy. We’ll see just how much of that Palmer incorporates in the offense, both for Hasselbeck and for when Locker inevitably steps on the field.
- From the same guy, he mentioned Colin McCarthy really suffered from poor coaching at Miami and if Frank Bush can do the job he’s hired to do (doubtful, really doubtful if you ask any Texans fans) could be much improved.
As players who will matter come the Sunday after labor day play more, I’ll see if I can’t give more detail on the less obvious things that are going on out there.