Tennessee Titans first preseason game review

Last year I tended to do separate offensive and defensive reviews, but at least for this first game I’m doing a comprehensive review. I’ll just go position by position, with the implied depth chart, playing time notes, and whatever insight I managed to glean from watching a broadcast with preseason production values.

General disclaimers apply in spades to this game. Preseason production values meant the broadcast missed entire plays. Camera work meant the key parts of others, like a tackle a yard short of the sticks that prevented a third down conversion, weren’t shown on the television screen. I do/did not have coaching film available and end zone/overhead camera angles were rarely shown, so judging things like passing windows, coverage, and just how big a running lane actually was was somewhere between very hard and impossible. What I write below, as is the case in about every post I write, is what I saw and think, not definitive statement of fact.

Depth chart:
1. Jake Locker (26 snaps)
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick (11 snaps)
3. Rusty Smith (21 snaps)

Dink dunk, dink dunk, dunk dink. It’s ultra-common in preseason, even among quarterbacks who throw the ball down the field a lot. The Titans got a little bit more aggressive with their second-string offensive line against the Redskins third-string defense, but they only had one designed shot play all night and at the end of the game when they needed points they were back to dinking and dunking. Did Locker miss open receivers downfield on any of his dumpoffs? No clue.

Running back
Depth chart:
1. Chris Johnson (4 snaps)
2. Shonn Greene (9 snaps)
3. Jackie Battle (11 snaps)
4a. Darius Reynaud (14 snaps)
4b. Jalen Parmele (18 snaps)

CJ had the one great run and one that went nowhere because Chance Warmack got beat. Greene ran hard and showed better quicks than normal on the touchdown run. Battle got most of the praise for running hard, but I thought Parmele did equally well in that regard. Battle showed good patience on a couple runs. My base impression was already that Battle was a slightly more accomplished runner than Parmele, but that he wasn’t much better. What I saw in the game validated that. I continue to struggle with Darius Reynaud as a runner.

Fullback depth chart:
1. Quinn Johnson (14 snaps)
2. Collin Mooney (15 snaps)

I didn’t keep formal track, but it seemed like both fullbacks were in the offset I the overwhelming majority of the time. Mooney’s total also includes one snap as the lone setback in 11 personnel. Both looked like mediocre fullbacks, blocking reasonably well at times and not so well at others. QJ had the fourth-quarter touchdown when the Redskins didn’t bother to cover him in the flat on a bootleg. I was more impressed by Mooney’s reception two plays before, when the Redskins did cover him in the flat and he still get 8 yards after catch. If he could do that against real linebackers instead of against the guys playing in the fourth quarter of the first preseason game, that would be a useful skill.

Wide receiver
Depth chart is kind of complicated here, but it went something like this:
1.  Kenny Britt (21 snaps)-Nate Washington (19 snaps)
2. Michael Preston (21 snaps)-Marc Mariani (4 snaps)
3. X-Justin Hunter (21 snaps)

1. Kendall Wright (11 snaps)
2. Damian Williams (21 snaps)
3. Diondre Borel (6 snaps)

Williams was the lone wideout when the Titans were in 22 personnel, from the first snap of the game to almost the end (Preston was the last time and I might have missed another play). Wright was only on the field when the Titans had three receivers on the field. Hunter got one snap with Locker but saw basically all of his action in the second half.

It’s hard to separate the wide receivers from a passing game that was overall very meh. The most notable play of the night was the one where Justin Hunter voluntarily gave up a third down trying to make something after the catch. If I were writing a “stock up, stock down” piece, Michael Preston would be down after he failed to haul in a couple non-easy but possible catches. Kenny Britt ran a third-down route a yard short of the sticks, then fought the ball and couldn’t manage to stretch for the first. With Kendall Wright also having a third down pass go through his hands, I wondered if Locker was fastballing some short throws. Nate Washington did a good job on some third down throws of getting open and stretching to convert.

Tight end
Depth chart:
1. Craig Stevens (15 snaps)
2. Tayor Thompson (29 snaps)
3. Jack Doyle (25 snaps)
4. Brandon Barden (11 snaps)

Tight end involvement in the passing game was basically non-existent. Doyle was targeted a couple times, the other players not at all. I noted missed blocks by Stevens and Thompson; Stevens also had a nice block on CJ’s TD, but on the whole it was a very quiet night for the tight end grouping.

Offensive line
Depth chart:
1. Michael Roos (13 snaps)-Andy Levitre (13 snaps)-Rob Turner (26 snaps)-Chance Warmack (28 snaps)-Mike Otto (26 snaps)
2. Byron Stingily (40 snaps)-Fernando Velasco (40 snaps)-Chris Spencer (27 snaps)-[Velasco]-Daniel Baldridge (32 snaps)
3. Barry Richardson (5 snaps)-Kasey Studdard (31 snaps)-Eloy Atkinson (5 snaps)-Oscar Johnson (5 snaps)-X

Velasco came into the lineup for Levitre at left guard, then shifted over to right guard when Warmack went out. He did not play any center.

I characterized Warmack’s performance as up-and-down in my postgame recap, but on the whole I’d rate it more down than up. I wonder how often he ended up on his butt at Alabama like he did on Greene’s 2-yard gain at 3:14 of the first quarter. He wasn’t always nearly that bad–I think that play made him mad because he did a nice job of sustaining and driving back Neild, the man who knocked him down, the next play–but three plays in a half you’re responsible for not succeeding is at least two too many. Michael Roos gave up a sack to Brian Orakpo, and the third was a failed scramble by Rusty when he took off early.

Run blocking was for the most part okay, but nothing special with the “I’m trying not to overread backups against backups” caveat. Velasco did not have a particularly good game at guard. Studdard is not clearly better than Mitch Petrus. Turner battled, but he’s Rob Turner. I think based on this game Brian Schwenke has a very real chance to start at center.

Offensive Personnel Groupings
Snap counts are the official ones from the NFL. These are off my count.

10: 1 snap
11: 20 snaps
12: 10 snaps
21: 15 snaps
22: 12 snaps

Aside from the already-noted Damian Williams with 22 and WR3’s playing when the Titans had three receivers on the field, players tended to play sequentially and did not return to the game for specific situations after the bulk of the playing time. Quinn Johnson, who also played some late, is about the only exception to this, but that seemed like more just balancing reps.

Defensive line
Depth chart (base):
1. Derrick Morgan (16 snaps)-Sammie Lee Hill (13 snaps)-Jurrell Casey (14 snaps)-Ropati Pitoitua (12 snaps)
2. Keyunta Dawson (25 snaps)/Kamerion Wimbley (19 snaps)-Antonio Johnson (14 snaps)-Zach Clayton (24 snaps)-Karl Klug (25 snaps)
3. Nigel Nicholas (14 snaps)-Mike Martin (28 snaps)-[Clayton]-Lavar Edwards (34 snaps)
4. Thaddeus Gibson (8 snaps)-Stefan Charles (17 snaps)-DaJohn Harris (16 snaps)-X

Depth chart (nickel):
1. Morgan-Casey-Klug-Akeem Ayers
2. Dawson/Wimbley-Martin-Edwards-Scott Solomon

Consider these depth charts extraordinarily rough descriptions of how the Titans lined up. I kind of mashed Wimbley and Dawson together because (a) they rarely played together and (b) I had a hard time distinguishing 75 from 95.

Particularly in base formation, the Titans tended to play strongside ends (Pitoitua and Klug) and weakside ends (Morgan and Dawson/Wimbley) much more than RDE or LDE.

Solomon and Ayers played SLB in base and DE in sub. Solomon, like he did last year, played only LDE. Ayers played only RDE. Edwards played both tackle spots but only RDE. Nicholas and Gibson played almost only LDE (they were in together one play and Nicholas played RDE). Aside from Charles and Harris, who played LDT and RDT respectively almost exclusively, DTs in both base and sub played both left and right.

Karl Klug is better than the Redskins’ backup guards. Unsurprisingly, Pat White’s option work gave the Titans absolute fits in the fourth quarter. Aside from Klug’s pass rush, I didn’t like the way the second-team defenders the Titans like for competition purposes fared against the Redskins second-string offensive linemen, especially in the run game. Mookie Johnson was the exception to that earlier statement. Edwards finished the play, but Dawson had the pass rush that created the lone sack on the night. Like the Titans, the Redskins mostly got the ball out quickly; that they threw fewer checkdowns was not the defensive line’s fault.

Depth chart:
1. Akeem Ayers (16 snaps)-Moise Fokou (19 snaps)-Zach Brown (19 snaps)
2. Patrick Bailey (27 snaps)-Greg Jones (31 snaps)-Tim Shaw (26 snaps)
3. Scott Solomon (37 snaps)-Kadarron Anderson (25 snaps)-Jonathan “Tig” Willard (18 snaps)

“Depth chart” (nickel):
1. Fokou-Brown
2. Jones-Shaw
3. Anderson-Bailey
4. X-Willard

As noted, both Ayers and Solomon played SLB in base and DE in sub.

I put the nickel “depth chart” in quotes because I don’t take it very seriously. It looks like the MLB will be one player in nickel and one of the outside linebackers will be the other. If the Titans had a healthy complement of linebackers, I’d expect that to look pretty different. Hopefully Zach Brown will be healthy all year and I won’t have to think about who plays next to Fokou or McCarthy (answer is probably Gooden anyway).

The defensive line got beat on run plays, so the linebackers too often ended up not clean. Linebackers that aren’t clean don’t make too many plays. Greg Jones looked like a backup. So did Tig Willard. And Anderson. I didn’t see a lot from Scott Solomon, but I’d like to see more; watching the plays with Shaw and Bailey in the game in the first half seemed almost like a waste of time.

Depth chart:
1. Jason McCourty (19 snaps)-Alterraun Verner (19 snaps)
2. Coty Sensabaugh (25 snaps)-Tommie Campbell (39 snaps)
3. Blidi Wreh-Wilson (43 snaps)-Khalid Wooten (27 snaps)
4. X-George Baker (8 snaps)

Slot CB:
1. Sensabaugh
2. Wreh-Wilson
3. Baker

Soft man coverage was the order of the day, and the Redskins had a lot of success attacking it. Tommie Campbell seemed to be the biggest culprit, but I also noted Blidi Wreh-Wilson and George Baker as responsible in that regard. Sensabaugh seemed to be better, at least by negative appearance in my notes and the scoresheet.

Unless and until the Titans show they can successfully defend them, expect to see an awful lot of out-breaking routes from the slot. The Redskins threw a few of them with success, and it’s something teams used last year.

Depth chart:
1. Michael Griffin (19 snaps)-Bernard Pollard (16 snaps)
2. Al Afalava (51 snaps)-George Wilson (22 snaps)
3. Afalava-Markelle Martin (12 snaps)
4. Tracy Wilson (26 snaps)-Afalava
Misc: Daimion Stafford (1 snap, though I had him for 2)

Afalava played FS most of the time and SS with Tracy Wilson in the game.

Meh. Tracy Wilson did some okay things. Pollard came up for a hit but didn’t stop the runner in a goal-to-go situation. Pollard had an idiotic personal foul penalty. I think either Griffin or Ayers blew the coverage on the first Redskins TD. Markelle Martin gave up the catch on a jump ball on the second TD, following which the wideout juked Afalava out of his socks. I had Afalava with a couple more minus plays and not standing out, though of course as FS for this game he might’ve done a lot to disrupt plays that didn’t happen without me noticing.

Defensive Personnel Groupings

The Titans played base 4-3 or 4-2-5 nickel every snap (the broadcast bothered to show). Using actual offensive plays, I had that as about 47 snaps of 4-3 and 28 of nickel. By my count, 25 of the nickel plays had a third corner, while three had a third safety (Stafford twice, Markelle Martin once).

Conclusion-Type Things

Eh, it’s the first preseason game.

As I was writing this post, it occurred to me I was writing a lot more negative things about the defense than I was positive things for the offense. In a 22-21 game, you’d expect a more balanced writeup. The Redskins, though, were much more consistently successful than the Titans. They ran more plays, had more yards, averaged more yards per play (even with the 58-yard TD), and had a success rate of 53% (ignoring penalties) to the Titans’ 36%. While I didn’t formally chart Redskins participation the same way, they played their starters and key players less than the Titans did (aside from CJ, of course). I’m fine with the idea the Redskins on the whole outplayed the Titans.

Key disclaimer: Pannel Egboh started last year’s first preseason game, so performance here is not necessarily indicative of what happens when games start mattering.