Tennessee Titans: 5 Things to Watch for in Titans' 3rd Preseason Game

Quinn Cretton@@QuinnCrettonCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2012

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 17:  Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Tennessee Titans looks to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFL preseason game August 17, 2012 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Entering the game against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, Titans fans have plenty to look out for after Mike Munchak announced that Jake Locker would be the starting quarterback moving forward.

After a dominating performance against the Buccaneers that saw the reemergence of the running game as well as a suffocating defense, the Titans will look to build on the overall performance and to also find some rhythm in a passing game that struggled to get anything going on Friday.


1. Jake Locker Looks to Rebound After a Poor Performance

Coming off of the worst game of his young career, Locker will try to string some drives together as he gets a chance to play with the starters well into the third quarter on Thursday.

Against the Cardinals, Locker faces a defense that finished last season ranked in the top 10 in sacks but finished in the bottom half of the league in quarterback rating against and scoring defense.

In what will be the biggest tuneup before the start of the regular season, it's important that Locker is able to progress through his reads and make better decisions after throwing into double-coverage multiple times last week.

On top of that, Locker needs to develop chemistry with the first-team receivers and show a willingness to target any one of them as Chris Palmer continues to install Run'N'Shoot principles into the offensive scheme.


2. Can the Running Game Build Off of Last Week?

After struggling to get going in the team's first preseason game, Chris Johnson and the first-team offensive line were able to open up a few lanes on its way to nearly 50 yards and two touchdowns in less than a half of a play.

Johnson has had a strong training camp, showing the burst and cutting ability that helped him have one of the most impressive starts to a career in NFL history.

With Locker officially being named the starting quarterback, it's important that CJ and the newly revamped offensive line continue to gel as a quality running game can often be the best friend of a young quarterback that continues to adapt to the NFL.


3. How the Pass Rush Looks Against a Weak Offensive Line

After beating up on the Buccaneers' offensive line that featured the highest paid offensive guard in football, the Titans now go up against one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL.

For the first time in a while, the Titans defensive ends were able to get upfield consistently as the defensive tackles, highlighted by Jurrell Casey, Karl Klug and Sen'Derrick Marks, collapsed the pocket from the inside.

With the Cardinals in the midst of a quarterback competition, Arizona will likely do everything it can to keep Kevin Kolb and John Skelton upright. If the Titans can continue to get to the passer, it could spell good things for a defense that has flashed the ability to dominate in limited action thus far.


4. The Battle for the Starting Strong Safety Position

With Jordan Babineaux now a game-time decision, it is possible that Robert Johnson will get a second straight start at the safety spot next to Michael Griffin.

If Babineaux is good to go, it is expected that both he and Johnson will be given numerous opportunities to work with the starting defense as the pressure to name a starter at the position grows with every passing week.

Despite not being tested often in his first start, Robert Johnson showed an ability to keep the play in front of him and had a solid game against the Buccaneers, but it would be nice to see him take some of the playmaking that he has shown throughout camp into live-game action.

A good performance against the Cardinals would go a long way towards Robert Johnson potentially starting against the Patriots in Week 1.


5. The Offensive Play-Calling

With Jake Locker being named the starter, it would be expected that the Titans would play this game as close to a regular season game as a preseason contest can possibly be.

As Locker looks to take full command of the huddle, it's important to watch the number of different formations the Titans run as well as the run-to-pass ratio when the first-team offense is on the field.

With the opportunity to build some momentum heading into the regular season, it will be important for the Titans to put some points on the board and string together some long drives against a questionable Cardinals defense.