Tennessee Titans: 5 Big Takeaways from 20-16 Win over Packers
Was it a bad omen that the Titans were greeted by a torrential downpour to kickoff their preseason? The weather was so bad in the early going that it was really hard to get a honest gauge of where this team is at.
There were still noteworthy things to take from this exhibition win against the Packers, which ended in a final score of 20-16.
The starters saw very little action, and it was very apparent that this defense is going to have some growing pains.
These are the five biggest takeaways I got from the 2014 preseason opener.
There Will Be Plenty of Options in the Running Game
You can't help but feel good about the Titans rushing attack after the preseason opener, even in the monsoon that engulfed LP Field for much of the first half.
The Titans are going to have to rely heavily on their committee of running backs to make a surge towards the postseason in 2014. There may be some promising options in the passing game, but controlling the line of scrimmage will still be vital for Jake Locker's confidence to avoid long third-down attempts.
Every Titan running back showed promising signs in the preseason win over the Packers, with Shonn Greene getting the 13-yard touchdown run after the defense forced a turnover for a short field. Those are the kinds of opportunities the Titans will have to cash in on when given the opportunity by this aggressive defense.
Dexter McCluster got limited touches but looked sharp in his small amount of action.
Perhaps the sharpest of all the running backs isn't even listed as a running back, and that's Jackie Battle. He may have contributed to an interception by not securing a reception, but he bounced back with solid play the rest of the way.
He's listed as a fullback and gives the Titans a ton of versatility, as Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean mentioned:
Then you have rookie Bishop Sankey, who many are claiming has a great chance at rookie of the year honors. He looked the part in his debut as both a runner and a receiver. The Titans have to be excited about what their running game brought to the table in sloppy conditions.
Reserve Judgement on Jake Locker
The nasty weather was unfortunate for Jake Locker, who really needs all the reps he can get before heading into hostile territory for Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the conditions being so poor, Locker wasn't able to really show us much. There was no point in risking Locker's health and possible NFL career for a glorified scrimmage. It still would have been a huge confidence booster for Locker to have the chance to lead this new offense on some extended drives.
Paul Kuharksy of ESPN.com felt like there was nothing to really pull from Locker's performance against the Packers:
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) August 10, 2014
Judgement has to be reserved on what Locker did in his limited action against the Packers. He didn't look comfortable, but you can't really blame him. He overthrew Justin Hunter on the first series when the rain was really coming down at its hardest. Other than that single play, throw this one out and look forward to perfect conditions indoors at New Orleans against the Saints.
If Locker looks shaky in perfect conditions, then we might have a reason to be concerned. He won't have an easy challenge against a pretty decent Saints defense led by Rob Ryan.
With that said, let's just all have a sigh of relief that Locker escaped without any injuries.
The Defense Still Needs a Lot of Work
There's no reason to push the panic button after just one preseason game, but this new hybrid defense has a lot of room for development before the regular season gets underway.
The Packers pretty much gashed the Titans for huge chunks of yardage early on with James Starks in the game. Some of that can be blamed on the poor weather conditions, but some of these big gains weren't even close to being stopped. I saw a lot of defenders looking confused about where to be.
With that said, the defense definitely looked aggressive and sprinkled in some big hits. The one that really caught the eye was the massive hit laid by Daimion Stafford in the open field. He has a great chance to make a big leap in 2014 behind Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard.
I saw encouraging signs from Zach Brown as well, who has a lot to prove this season. On the flip side, Akeem Ayers looked lost for much of the game.
We saw Derrick Morgan line up as an outside linebacker and looked moderately well falling back into coverage for his first time. Look for him to continue to progress in that role as the preseason unfolds.
A real test for this defense comes in the next preseason outing against the always high-powered Saints offense. We'll get a taste of what this defense is really made of for at least the first quarter of action.
The Offensive Line Was as Good as Adverstised
The offensive line has gotten a lot of attentions the last couple of seasons, and they looked the part from start to finish against the Packers.
The early touchdown run by Shonn Greene had a hole big enough to drive a bus through, not to take any credit away from Greene.
Pass protections was also very good for the most part. There were a few busted plays, but the starters played as well as you would want to see with such high expectations.
Charlie Whitehurst got a lot of action, and saw strong protection throughout the night. His one highlight scramble that ended in a reception to Bishop Sankey was impressive.
This game reinforced the idea that this will be the strongest unit of the entire roster. The Titans have a glimmer of hope to make a playoff run if this offensive line wins the battle in the trenches. They did so against the Packers.
Pump the Brakes on Zach Mettenberger
Yes, it is true that Zach Mettenberger did absolutely nothing to hurt his cause as the possible future of this franchise at quarterback. However, that doesn't mean that he lit the world on fire, either.
Mettenberger definitely showcased his strong arm that we all knew he had by connecting with Brian Robiskie for 38 yards on the go-ahead drive. Just remember that it came against a lot of players who probably won't make an NFL roster.
David Climer of The Tennessean wisely drew comparisons to how well Rusty Smith often played when his number was called in preseason games.
We saw Mettenberger do what he had to do to make us feel hopeful that the Titans made the right choice in the sixth round of the draft by choosing him. He seems to be a solid backup plan for 2015 if he continues to progress. You have to start somewhere, and this early outing by Mettenberger was certainly promising.
Anyone who is anointing Mettenberger as an emerging challenger for Jake Locker's starting job is simply delusional. If Mettenberger strings together a solid four preseason performances, then all it will do is leave us feeling hopeful for the future if Locker fails to deliver.
Throw a Mettenberger sighting in the 2014 regular season out the window unless two major injuries occur ahead of him.