The Tennessee Titans play their first preseason game of 2018 on Thursday evening. Mike Vrabel and his players are hoping that it will be a mostly polished effort.

The NFL preseason can be really intriguing for a number of reasons. It is the first real opportunity that fans and media members get to catch teams in action.

Though the final score is always completely meaningless, things that happen within the game can go a long way toward shaping how a team will look once the regular season begins.

For the Tennessee Titans, the preseason will provide great insight into a lot of different areas. It will also give the team an opportunity to figure out which of the things they have been working on still need some effort to improve.

It can often become monotonous for a team to continually battle itself in Training Camp. Cornerback Malcolm Butler, for one, is looking forward to facing another team’s receivers. “We’ve been battling each other all camp, it will be great to go up against some other talent.”

One of the biggest focuses for the Titans, when they face the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, will be translating the things they’ve practiced into a game setting. Butler added that the intensity with which the team practices will only aid in that translation. “You’re going to practice how you play. The only thing that’s left out is some of the extra physical parts like tackling and things like that. But nothing that’s different, just got to tackle and be more physical.”

The quarterback position is always a focal point for observers of a team’s preseason game, and the Titans will be no exception. Starter Marcus Mariota has had a shaky start to Training Camp, but he has had some bright moments. Backup Blaine Gabbert has looked like a very competent #2 option.

Gabbert, who figures to see a lot of playing time, said his biggest focus on Thursday will be consistency. “Vrabel was talking about that the other day: taking the meeting room to the field and carrying that in into individual drills and into 1-on-1’s and into the team periods. Now, it’s carrying the team periods into the game. As a quarterback, you just want to play good, consistent football. Execute each and every play, not get ahead of yourself, and just have fun.”

Mariota said his focus will be on the team running an efficient operation. “I think, as an offense, if we can go out there, our operation is clean, and we’re able to move the ball…Just getting in and out of the huddle, little things like that, getting into the tempo of a game. Making sure everything’s clean and crisp.”

Head coach Mike Vrabel also brought up operational efficiency as a focus for the team in Thursday night’s game. The clean operation. Guys getting out there, getting in the huddle, getting lined up, substitutions…Making sure that the special teams is ready to go. Making sure that everyone’s into the game, that everyone’s focused…Taking a look at these guys’ execution, their effort.”

Perhaps the hardest part of a football team to analyze in a practice setting is the running game. Because there’s no tackling, it’s difficult to say whether a particular run was “good” or not.

The preseason, however, will be a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the Titans’ rushing attack. It will also be the first real chance to take a look at the respective roles of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.

Vrabel said the run game will indeed be a focus for him on Thursday. “Can we break tackles? Can we push the pile and make some yards on the ground? I think those are all things that we are going to find out on Thursday, if these backs are doing what we have asked them to do. Are they hitting holes and are the linemen getting to their guy?”

While it is clear that the Titans’ coaches and players are excited about the preseason and want to have fun, they also know that it will be a great tool for coaching and learning. It will give them invaluable insight into which areas need the most focus during the final week of Training Camp.

The Titans travel to Green Bay on Wednesday, and will face the Packers on Thursday night starting at 7:00 PM CDT.

Cover image via Titans Online.

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