The Tennessee Titans’ preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers was a bit of a mixed bag. There was plenty of good, but plenty of room for improvement as well.
For the Titans’ offense on their first drive of Thursday’s preseason opener, things were about as clean as they can possibly get. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was incredibly precise, going 2/3 for 42 yards as his team marched straight down the field.
The excellent drive was capped off by a four-yard touchdown reception by receiver Darius Jennings, who got the start in the absence of Corey Davis. Mariota exited the game following the drive, finishing with an impeccable passer rating of 149.3.
Scoring Drive: 9 plays, 71 yards, 4:38 pic.twitter.com/vWcMUmmWZ0
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) August 10, 2018
After the fairy tale opening drive, things began to get a little more hairy for the Titans. They couldn’t keep the perfection going, and plenty of mistakes were made throughout the remainder of the game.
Dropped passes, poor throws, and over-aggression in coverage resulting in penalties were a few of the issues that plagued the Titans. But the biggest mistakes for the Titans came with the NFL’s new helmet rule.
Twice on the same drive, once by linebacker Robert Spillane and another time by safety Demontre Hurst, the Titans were penalized for illegally initiating contact with the helmet. While the new rule itself is controversial, both plays were certainly deserving of flags under the new rule.
This is going to be a problem all season long https://t.co/BghVWZ29rE
— Austin Stanley (@AustinStanley81) August 10, 2018
Both of the players flagged are backups, but it still should be an area of focus for the Titans moving forward. That poor technique will need to be corrected. As a team, the Titans committed fourteen penalties in the game.
The Titans’ starters on defense were victimized early, particularly cornerback Malcolm Butler. He was beaten by Packers receiver Davante Adams and allowed a 48-yard bomb from quarterback Brett Hundley.
Despite all of the sloppiness, the Titans were able to make some nice plays throughout the game. A few players shined brightly.
Cornerback LeShaun Sims had a very big game. He was rock solid on defense, registering three tackles and two pass breakups. He also made a big play on special teams, punching the ball out of Packers return man Quinten Rollins’ hands for a fumble.
A few of the Titans’ young pass rushers also took advantage of their opportunities. Harold Landry and Sharif Finch each registered a sack, and Gimel President notched a QB hit.
Harold Landry already sacking people out here. pic.twitter.com/XlaI2PELh0
— Terry Lambert (@TLambertFB) August 10, 2018
While Landry is a lock to make the team, Finch and President are likely competing for a spot on the Titans’ final roster. It will be interesting to see which of them can separate himself from the other over the next few weeks.
Running back Akrum Wadley overcame a fumble to make some good plays in the game. He made a nifty catch out of the backfield on a fourth down to move the chains, and he showed his explosiveness on a 64-yard kickoff return.
The murky situation as to which of the Titans’ younger receivers will make the team did not become any clearer during Thursday’s game. Each of the players, especially Devin Ross and Deontay Burnett, made some nice plays.
The Titans did some good things in their preseason opener, but they also made a lot of mistakes that cost them any chance they had at winning the game. And, while the final score is meaningless in the preseason, those mistakes are sure to make head coach Mike Vrabel feel uncomfortable.
Along with a handful of his players, Vrabel spoke last week about wanting to have a “clean operation” in the Titans’ preseason opener. Thanks to some fumbles, personal fouls, procedural penalties, and drops, the team was far from that.
Friday will be an off day for the Titans before they return to the practice field on Saturday. When they do return, they will have plenty of work to do.
Cover image via Titans Online.