1. Pardon the lack of a separate post on the third preseason game. Life intervened, plus I didn’t get anything compelling in the detail I was able to re-watch it with given that it’s a preseason game. Jake Locker still looked reasonably composed. That and the offense functioning smoothly when he’s in the game is really what I was looking for him in this preseason, barring the completely random and totally unexpected massive jump you generally only ever see with second-year players. Does he seem great at processing changing defensive pictures? Maybe not. Should he have thrown that ball to Nate Washington earlier, before Paul Soliai shoved Andy Levitre back in his face? Yes, I absolutely think so. But he did a good job on some other throws, including the TD to Washington. The backs still look mostly blocking-dependent to me.
I’ve believed for a while the defense has a talent problem, and the front office keeps not addressing it to my satisfaction. I think what we saw with Atlanta’s first-team offense is the defense will have trouble just lining up and playing. Bernard Pollard calls the preseason streetball, and that’s a good description of it. Ray Horton is a schemer. He’ll have to be for the Titans to have a good defense this year. Execution, including things like tackling, will be particularly important. It was bad on a couple key plays, by which I mean those slants that ended up in the end zone. The defensive line did get some pressure at times, maybe more than I thought live, but (a) not as much as I wanted to see against Atlanta’s line, and (b) Matt Ryan, whose pocket presence hasn’t always thrilled me, got the ball out before pressure got there.
2. The big news came yesterday, when the Titans announced they agreed to terms with Jurrell Casey on a four-year contract extension. Casey had a really, really good year last year, transitioning from a player who flashed dominance into a more consistently successful player. Heading into the final year of his rookie deal, Casey was scheduled to make $1.4 million this season. I still haven’t seen a full breakdown of the numbers, but he’ll make more than that. The numbers were reported as $36 million over four years with $20.5 million guaranteed. Note that’s four more years, so I’m assuming the real figure is $37.5 million or so over 2014-18.
I wasn’t sure a deal would get done, since the new scheme will change Casey’s role in the new defense at least somewhat and could create uncertainty about whether he’s exactly as valuable as he used to be and whether he enjoys playing in the new defense (remember Jason Jones?). It did, though, and it’s my favorite big Titans extension in a while, maybe since they extended Michael Roos and David Stewart. A player who’s actually shown for a season he can play at a high level for a contract that while at the upper end of the 3-4 DE market isn’t market-setting or completely excessive? Absolutely fine by me.
3. The Titans also got through the first round of cuts to get down to 75. I didn’t consider any of the cuts notable, though Chris Spencer’s injury gave Gabe Ikard a glimmer of hope before Ikard himself got hurt and sent to injured reserve. The round of cuts to 53 will be much more interesting, especially how the Titans handle the injured players at defensive line. I’ll discuss that more in a post previewing tonight’s final preseason game.