The Tennessee Titans kick off the 2014 preseason Saturday night at LP Field against the Green Bay Packers. The game is set to begin at 7 PM CT and will be on the air wherever the Titans and the Packers have local preseason affiliate. Non-local viewers will have to wait for NFL Network’s re-air of the game Sunday morning or subscribe to the NFL’s Preseason Live service (which is how I’ll be viewing the game) or find some other way of watching.
I note this every year at this time, but that the Titans are playing the Packers instead of some other team doesn’t matter that much. As Ken Whisenhunt indicated this week, the Titans aren’t going to prepare for the Packers the way they do for a regular season opponent, or even the way they will for the Falcons in Week 3 of the preseason. What the Titans will do on Saturday will be a function of what the Titans want to see and do rather than gameplanned responses to particular things the Packers do.
These are the things I’ll be focusing my attention on as I watch Saturday:
1. New scheme: Offense. The obvious, though of course preseason schemes tend to be very vanilla. One of the big questions for me for the Whisenhunt offense is how downfield it will be; his Arizona teams threw deep, while in San Diego last year the passing game was reoriented towards a shorter attack. Preseason games, especially early ones, tend to feature short throws even from teams that throw intermediate and deep a lot, so we probably won’t get much of an answer to this one. Instead, I’ll be looking more at personnel groupings and alignments.
2. New scheme: Defense. The other side of the ball. The vanilla comments apply here as well, but personnel groupings and alignments apply here. How much 3-4? How much nickel? What’s the nickel package look like, 4-2-5, 3-3-5? How much Big Nickel against base (21 or 12) offensive personnel? How much “exotic” personnel package? Are the corners up or off? How deep are the safeties (considering preseason TV, this one may be really hard to answer)? I know I’m going to spend too much of Sunday checking for answers to these in too much detail.
3. The backs. How much does Bishop Sankey play? How is he used? Can he catch as well as we all think he can? How does he block in pass protection? Is Dexter McCluster really a running back? What kind of carries does he get? Can Jackie Battle block effectively at fullback? Does a back I don’t think should get touches in the regular season like Antonio Andrews or Leon Washington (pure returner IMO) make me rethink things?
4. Justin Hunter. Is he still a body catcher, or has he learned to extend for the ball? Can he run more than a limited route tree?
5. Wide receiver depth. Beyond the top three are a bunch of question marks. Can Marc Mariani and Michael Preston grab spots? Who gets on the field first? Will any of them stand out on special teams?
6. Offensive line. In the guard and center positional analyses, I just discussed Brian Schwenke and Chance Warmack and the jump from the first to the second season. Tonight will be my first look at their progress in that regard. Is the line working together? Can they get off combo blocks to get players at the second level?
7. Derrick Morgan, OLB. New position, not the one I initially thought he’d play in the new defense? How does he do going forwards and dropping backwards?
8. Zach Brown and the ILB battle. I want ZB to win the job. My guess is the Titans would like him to win the job. My guess is he’s the favorite to win the job. He needs to win the job, and certainly not lose it. How does he do? Can his competition make things more interesting?
9. The cornerback battle. Coty Sensabaugh v. Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The Titans really like both of them, and both will probably play a lot. Who plays outside at first and who plays in the slot? Are they as good as the Titans think they are? Is it a three-man race with Tommie Campbell? Is Campbell the fourth corner if they need one or just a special teams player? What’s Marqueston Huff look like?
10. The returners. I think Dexter McCluster should be the punt returner, but who returns kicks? Is there a job for Leon Washington if all he does is return kicks? Can anybody else return kicks?
11. No injuries. Listed last, but first, foremost, and most important.
I’ll be yapping about the game a lot on Twitter, so follow and chat with me there if you like. Recap up after the game and Monday should see an in-depth post looking at the questions I bring up here and whatever else catches my eye as I watch the game.