A wish list of some things the Titans’ offense wants to do against the Bengals:
1) Establish rhythm early — Although it’s the preseason and a sell-out crowd is not expected in Cincinnati, this will be Tennessee’s first opportunity to play on the road in 2013. The best way to quiet a hostile crowd is to sustain offensive possessions early, and the Titans would like to have a solid opening series that blends the run and pass, moves the sticks and maybe results in a score.
Tennessee lost five yards on its first possession (a three-and-punt) against Washington with a short run by Chris Johnson, an incompletion on a deep pass to Kenny Britt and a sack of Jake Locker. Johnson scored on a 58-yarder on the first play of the Titans’ next possession to answer a touchdown by the Redskins, but quick strikes aren’t the most conducive to building rhythm.
Playing well early doesn’t secure victories on the road, but it doesn’t hinder them.
2) Maximize efficiency — Titans coach Mike Munchak said the first team is likely to play roughly 30 snaps or about a half, depending on the flow of the game. That should provide more opportunities for Locker, who finished 7-of-11 passing for 58 yards and a passer rating of 77.1, to take a look down the field this week. Washington opted to sag off Titans receivers to take away deep opportunities, and Locker frequently checked down to take what was available. Some were concerned about the lack of vertical attempts, but the Titans believe they missed out on a lot of hidden yardage on shorter throws last season. At least two of Locker’s incompletions probably should have been caught by receivers.
Forcing deep throws into coverage can result in incompletions or interceptions, which would hinder efficiency. Consistently connecting underneath, however, could open opportunities in defenses.
3) Protect the pocket — The Titans’ rebuilt offensive line created ample space for Johnson (60 yards on two carries) and Shonn Greene (32 yards on five), but Washington was able to record two sacks of Locker. Munchak said part of that may have stemmed from preparing less for the Redskins than the team will study opponents in the regular season.
The Titans, however, don’t want Locker getting hit too much in the preseason. He’s shown no signs that he’s dealing with any lingering effects of the injuries he suffered in 2012 to his left, non-throwing shoulder, but the Titans want to keep him upright, especially in games that don’t affect standings.
4) Evaluate deeper part of roster — An increase in playing time for starters reduces the amount of playing time for younger players, but there will still be useful opportunities for evaluations. This is particularly helpful in looking at the running back behind Johnson and Greene (Darius Reynaud, Jackie Battle and Jalen Parmele have been in competition), as well as tight end, tackle and receiver spots where younger players are vying for roster or practice squad spots. Reps are also helpful in advancing the progress of second-round pick Justin Hunter and trying to conduct the most thorough evaluation of a deep pool of receivers that coach Shawn Jefferson said is “the most talented group of receivers that I’ve been around since I’ve been in the League.”
Tags: Chris Johnson, Jackie Battle, Jake Locker, Kenny Britt, Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans, Titans
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