Tennessee Titans: 5 Biggest Questions Surrounding the Titans Against Tampa Bay
After a rather uneventful first preseason game where the starters saw limited action and few players stood out, Friday's game against Tampa Bay will give the Titans' first-team offense and defense an opportunity to make a statement, as most starters are expected to play well into the second quarter.
Obviously the most interesting storyline heading into this game surrounds the quarterback position, where Jake Locker will make his first career start and is expected to see 25 snaps.
While quarterback is certainly the most important position in sports, it's not the only thing to keep an eye on when watching the game on Friday. Here are the five things most worth watching against the Buccaneers:
1. How Will Jake Locker Respond in his First NFL Start?
This is the most obvious question, but also the most important one. Locker looked good in limited playing time in 2011 and has had a great training camp up to this point, but facing his first career start, he will need to put together a strong performance, preferably leading at least one touchdown drive, if he wants to extend his lead in the quarterback race over Matt Hasselbeck.
Locker has responded well to pressure throughout his early career in Nashville and has said and done all the right things to make fans believe that he has what it takes to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. Friday should mark the first of many starts in his career, and he has the potential to possibly secure his spot as the starting quarterback of the Titans.
2. Can the Running Game Show Improvement After Struggling Against Seattle?
Unlike many of those who watched the game that wanted to call out Chris Johnson for his performance, I actually came away more optimistic about his ability to put together a good season then I have been in a long time. He showed his elite burst and actually made tacklers miss for the first time in about a year and a half.
While his stat line was certainly lackluster, when you only get five carries and you're being hit well behind the line on two of them, it's unlikely the numbers will be impressive.
With that said, Titans fans have to be hoping that Johnson will be able to find more of a rhythm and begin to mesh with a revamped offensive line. Getting him in space a couple times would give fans a much better gauge of where he actually is at.
Of course, most of this falls on the offensive line. A strong performance here would really help build optimism for an offense that has the potential to be one of the more explosive units in all of football.
3. Will the Defensive Ends be Able to Pressure Josh Freeman?
Against Seattle, the majority of the pressure and penetration came from either the defensive tackles or the linebackers.
This week, Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan will need to show that they are capable of getting up the field and hitting whoever Tampa Bay has under center. Both have plenty of ability, but have not had great camps and need to start to building towards the regular season, starting with the second preseason game of the year.
4. Can Robert Johnson Work His Way Into the Starting Strong Safety Position?
In training camp on Tuesday and Wednesday, Robert Johnson spent most of his time on the practice field working with the first-team defense.
The former fifth-round pick out of Utah has spent his first two seasons struggling to see the field as he adjusted to the NFL game, but has exploded this camp, showing good coverage skills built around his good size and above-average speed for the safety spot.
Though it's unlikely he will completely take over for Jordan Babineaux at strong safety, another impressive week could really give the coaching staff something to think about moving forward.
5. How Will the First-Team Receivers Look with a New Quarterback Under Center?
In his first preseason game, Locker found some success spreading the ball around to some of the second-team wide receivers. Against Tampa, it will be important to see if a month worth of work with the first team will help Locker's chemistry with Nate Washington, Damian Williams and Jared Cook.
Without Kenny Britt, it's important for Locker to be able to have a feel for where each of his receivers is going to be before he makes the throw, an ability he flashed last week while throwing to first-round pick Kendall Wright. On top of what was mentioned in the first question, a solid chemistry with the first unit can go along way towards giving the coaching staff more confidence in the second-year quarterback.
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