So, what the heck happened when the Titans lost to the Saints, 31-24? This post is an attempt to answer that question in more detail.
General disclaimers apply in spades to this post. Preseason production values sometimes made player identification difficult. I do not have coaching film available and end zone/overhead camera angles were not regularly shown, so judging things like passing windows, coverage, and just how big a running lane actually was was somewhere between difficult and impossible. What I write below, as is the case in about every post I write but is even more true here, is what I saw and think about what I think I saw, not definitive statement of fact. Snap counts are the official ones from the gamebook.
Disclaimer specific to this game: I completely blew through the last quarter or so, since I was losing interest and running out of time if I wanted to get this post up today. Bottom of the depth chart notes are approximations.
1. Jake Locker (24 snaps)
2. Charlie Whitehurst (3 snaps)
3. Zach Mettenberger (43 snaps)
For the most part, I thought Locker executed a bunch of simple reads effectively. He didn’t do anything that particularly impressed me, but doing his job right is still a good preseason game. The box score had him with three incompletions-one was tipped at the line, the other Delanie Walker’s fumble overturned into a disruption, and the third an attempted deep shot to Kendall Wright after pressure flushed him from the pocket. I’m not sure about the tip at the line, but the others didn’t bother me. One of his sacks came when Michael Roos got run over, the other (negated by penalty) on a failed scramble against a 3-man rush. His worst throw ended up an 8-yard gain to Wright after the throw (high on a short out, not sure what he was doing) was tipped by the defensive back.
I saw the same mix of good and bad from Mettenberger. He had some decent pocket movement. He threw some nice balls. He threw one pick right to a defender he needed to get the ball over, should’ve been credited with a second one (albeit not his fault), and had another throw that could’ve been intercepted (maybe Justin Hunter’s fault for a bad break, not sure about placement), plus a fumble on his sack on some front side pressure I thought he should’ve sensed. The numbers are preseason numbers, which I don’t put much stock into; aside from that pocket movement, I didn’t see anything to change my book on him.
Depth chart, more or less:
1. Shonn Greene (17 snaps)
2. Dexter McCluster (8 snaps)
3. Leon Washington (14 snaps)
4. Bishop Sankey (17 snaps)
5. Antonio Andrews (14 snaps)
A lot more work for Washington after not playing in the first preseason game, though it’s not like he did much notable (no carries, only reception a checkdown a long way from goal on the last play of the first half). He actually got some time with Locker, with whom the Titans mixed up their backs (mostly Greene). Washington played mostly in the second quarter, Sankey not until the second half. I didn’t see anything much to change my evaluation of any of the backs, as Sankey once again got yards were plays were well-blocked and didn’t when they weren’t. The closest thing to a change was he didn’t get the same work in the passing game he did against the Packers. The fumble is the most concerning thing. I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t have reversed my carry projections for Greene and Sankey.
Fullback depth chart:
1. Jackie Battle (13 snaps)
2. Collin Mooney (3 snaps)
I have nothing interesting to say about the fullbacks from this game.
Roughly speaking, 2WR sets:
1. Nate Washington (26 snaps)-Kendall Wright (20 snaps)
2. Derek Hagan (28 snaps)-Justin Hunter (22 snaps)
3. Michael Preston (20 snaps)-Isaiah Williams (14 snaps)
3 WR sets:
2. Hagan-Hunter-Brian Robiskie (18 snaps)
3. Williaams, Rico Richardson (15 snaps), Marc Mariani (14 snaps)
Hunter had the flashy work, with the two TDs. The first was a good release and nice fade throw from Locker, the second a simple dig route where the trailing cornerback appeared to slip or collide with his teammate while the deep safety got caught flat-footed, plus Hunter is fast; good play, not as impressive as “64-yard TD” makes it seem. His other big gain (26 yards) was a good back shoulder throw by Mettenberger that he juggled before catching. You saw what he can do, but throw in that near INT and you see why position coach Shawn Jefferson is still on him. Wright was second in the group with three grabs, one a screen, one the aforementioned tipped pass, the third a quick out from the slot. Three of Robiskie’s targets were short throws induced by pressure, the fourth one one you’d like to see him catch to convert third-and-long that was disrupted by the defender. Preston was the third receiver with multiple catches, both short throws. Hagan’s only target was the fumble/drop-turned-INT.
1. Delanie Walker (25 snaps)
2. Craig Stevens (12 snaps)
3. Taylor Thompson (23 snaps)
4/4a. Jason Schepler (10 snaps)/Chase Coffman (19 snaps)
Last week I had Stevens and Walker as 1/1a, this week Walker got the majority the snaps with Locker in all situations. We’ll see how that shapes out over the season. Thompson caught all five balls thrown his way for 56 yards, which was encouraging to see. For the most part, it was simple stuff, throws from Mettenberger to the short middle of the field. His biggest gain, of 20 yards, came from Locker, when the underneath defenders bit hard on the play-action and he was in open space. Still, given his lack of experience in the passing game, it was encouraging to see him do even that much. Coffman had 3 grabs for 48 yards, including the final TD; he looked like a former third-round pick playing against backups.
1. Michael Roos (26 snaps)-Andy Levitre (25 snaps)-Brian Schwenke (26 snaps)-Chance Warmack (26 snaps)-Michael Oher (24 snaps)
2. Taylor Lewan (32 snaps)-Eric Olsen (45 snaps)-Gabe Ikard (30 snaps)-Justin McCray (30 snaps)-Byron Stingily (30 snaps)
3. Jeff Adams (14 snaps), Tyler Horn (14 snaps), Kevin Danser (14 snaps), Olsen, Will Poehls (14 snaps)
Saints DE Cameron Jordan is a heck of a player, and he gave the Titans absolute fits. He blew Roos back on a third-and-1 play that Green still managed to convert. He drew a hold on Levitre. Locker did a great job to avoid a sack when he embarrassed Oher. He drew a “beat” face mask call on Lewan. He annihilated Stingily before forcing Mettenberger’s fumble. In that way, he was a really good test for the offensive line.
When it came to blocking the other Saints defenders, I thought the line for the most part did a reasonable job. The run game was effective enough until Andrews came in, and most of those faults I saw weren’t because of the offensive line getting beat too badly. Pass pro was more of a concern, though a lot of that was Jordan. The Roos sack I mentioned was ugly, though his game seems to be based so much on preparation I almost expect him to have a play like that in the preseason. I’m not sure the DB blitz that took Whitehurst out of the game was on the O-line. Ex-Titan Keyunta Dawson had a play or two where he made Stingily look bad.
Depth chart, base:
1. Ropati Pitoitua (20 snaps)-Sammie Hill (21 snaps)-Jurrell Casey (27 snaps)
2. Daquan Jones (21 snaps)-Al Woods (15 snaps)-Karl Klug (23 snaps)
3. Marcus Dixon (17 snaps)-Chigo Anunoby (23 snaps)-Lavar Edwards (20 snaps)
4. Lanier Coleman (8 snaps)
Depth chart, sub
N.B. the Saints were missing their top left guard and right guard, both of whom are good. Senio Kelemete played left guard into the third quarter (53 snaps) and was not good. Downgrade what even the first-team defense did accordingly, and what I saw wasn’t as positive as what you wanted. Karl Klug is better than your second- and third-team interior offensive linemen and managed the DL’s only QB hit. If you didn’t think this unit was good enough coming into this game, you probably didn’t see anything that would make you change your mind. N.B. the Saints had a 58% success rate on run plays; I regard that as significantly more important when it comes to evaluating the defensive line than the 2.9 yards per carry you see in the box score.
1. Derrick Morgan (29 snaps)-Kamerion Wimbley (29 snaps)
2. Shaun Phillips (17 snaps)-Akeem Ayers (28 snaps)
3. Brandon Copeland (24 snaps)-Patrick Bailey (18 snaps)
4. Kendrick Adams (5 snaps)
Sides again here, primarily, with Bailey and Copeland once again switching sides sometimes. Ayers again played with both Phillips and Copeland. Ayers had the defense’s only sack, when he ran down the quarterback after a mere 5.5 seconds (at Football Outsiders, our definition of a “long” sack begins at 3.5 seconds). Morgan had some decent plays. Ayers had pressure on another play, though he also negated the sole New Orleans INT of the game with a penalty when he got his hands up on a lineman while rushing the passer. Phillips missed a tackle in space on a swing pass on one play and got a pressure on another by beating the backup right tackle. Once again, if you were down on this position group coming in, you’re probably still down on it.
1. Wesley Woodyard (24 snaps)-Zach Brown (29 snaps)
2. Avery Williamson (28 snaps)-Zaviar Gooden (17 snaps)
3. Moise Fokou (29 snaps)-David Hinds (13 snaps)
4. Jonathan Willard (7 snaps)
Williamson with the second team this week instead of Fokou, which is how I expect the final roster to shake out. My expectation going into this game was for Fokou to not make the team; what I saw from him this game gave me nothing to doubt that. Williamson isn’t ready to be a starter, which is something I was already pretty sure about. Woodyard still needs to be protected, and his effectiveness in run defense seems to be directly correlated with how well he is.
1. Jason McCourty (29 snaps)-Blidi Wreh-Wilson (41 snaps)
2. Coty Sensabaugh (29 snaps)-Tommie Campbell (33 snaps)
3. Marqueston Huff (29 snaps)-Micah Pellerin (13 snaps)
4. Ri’Shard Anderson (2 snaps), Marc Anthony (5 snaps)
3. Winston Wright (5 snaps)
The Titans really like Sensabaugh and Wreh-Wilson. The Titans have the best view of Sensabaugh and Wreh-Wilson’s abilities. The Titans are happy to go into the season with Sensabaugh and Wreh-Wilson as their #2 and #3 corners. The Titans know a lot more than I do about just how good these players are. I keep repeating this to myself on the off chance that it takes and I stop worrying about the Titans non-McCourty corner(s) getting exposed and torched repeatedly. This was not a good game for assuaging my fears, as the Saints went after both players successfully. Both had some solid plays, but some solid plays mixed with a couple where the Saints (or maybe a team playing their starting quarterback) did or would have had big plays is not a successful cornerback campaign. I know, I know, one preseason game, on the road, Overreading Small Sample Sizes, but it’s the evidence we’re getting.
1. Michael Griffin (26 snaps)-Bernard Pollard (26 snaps)
2. George Wilson (22 snaps)-Daimion Stafford (28 snaps)
3. Khalid Wooten (29 snaps)-Hakeem Smith (18 snaps)
Griffin had a good diving pass defensed that might have saved a long touchdown. Pollard appeared to be in man coverage on Jimmy Graham on his first touchdown. George Wilson got hi-lo’d like Rahim Moore on one of the deep passes with Sensabaugh in coverage and missed a tackle in open space on Mark Ingram on a blitz on his touchdown reception. Stafford had the wiped-out interception (on a drop that came to him) and a nice tackle on a third and short pass, but on the whole didn’t have the same standout plays, either good or bad, he did in the first preseason game. Wooten’s only tackle was after I stopped taking notes.
Eh, it’s a preseason game. The offense was fine and showed some of the things you want to see, at least when they weren’t turning the ball over every 12 plays. I’m expecting the Titans to have a bottom ten defense, and this game supported rather than challenged that expectation.