Tennessee Titans: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of Preseason
As the preseason continues to roll along, the Tennessee Titans continue to showcase their strengths and weaknesses.
The rookie class has continued to take shape, which is always expected in the preseason. There's reason for excitement in this area.
The Titans have two preseason games remaining to try to be 100 percent prepared for a tough season opener on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. It's important the Titans get off to a fast start this season after squandering a 3-1 start in 2013.
Here's what we've learned through two preseason games from the Titans.
The Secondary Is Still an Unknown
Two preseason games have offered us very little insight on where the Titans' secondary stands without Alterraun Verner.
A big reason behind that is because the Titans have missed out on facing both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in their first two preseason games. It may have given them better chances at winning exhibition games, but it also makes it tough to gauge where the secondary truly stands.
The Titans' starters will hopefully see their first quality quarterback of the preseason when they face Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the third preseason game, which is often a dress rehearsal for the real thing.
One thing we do know about this secondary is it won't be lacking in speed. Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com actually rates the Titans as the fastest team in the NFL, with Jason McCourty and Coty Sensabaugh boosting their speed in the secondary.
This definitely came off as a surprise to me, but it doesn't necessarily translate to success.
As for the battle between Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, it's still a stalemate. However, neither of them looked particularly great against the likes of Matt Flynn and Luke McCown.
We'll get our first honest measurement of this secondary against Ryan and the Falcons. If he lights them up in the first half, then there will be reason for serious concern.
There's a Leader in the Kicker Competition
Apparently some indoor conditions was all that was needed for this kicking competition to look a little brighter.
Travis Coons nailed a 50-yard field goal just after making a 45-yard field goal that was negated by a penalty. I'm giving him credit for both kicks, which were spot on.
My initial concern with Coons was his limited kickoff attempts in college, and the fact he was more of a punter.
There's still more to prove by Coons in the last two preseason games, but he made a huge stride over Maikon Bonani.
Speaking of Bonani, he didn't do anything to hurt or help his cause against the Saints. He just kind of stayed put and didn't show us anything we didn't already know. He looked good on kickoffs, but we already knew he had a strong leg.
If Coons follows up with another accurate performance, then I think it will safely be his job to lose in the final preseason game back at LP Field.
This May Be a Breakout Year for Taylor Thompson
No one has done more to help their cause on the roster through two preseason games than Taylor Thompson. He was a possible roster cut heading into the preseason, but he's had two very productive outings.
Thompson seems to be benefiting greatly from Ken Whisenhunt's emphasis on using the tight end more. He was virtually non-existent in 2013 under Mike Munchak.
John Glennon of The Tennessean mentioned Thompson's surprising emergence this preseason:
A breakout year for Thompson would solidify this passing offense for Jake Locker. He already has three formidable options at wide receiver and a consistent Delanie Walker at tight end. Adding Thompson to the mix as a reliable contributor could really make this offense soar like we haven't seen it do in several years.
There's room in this tight end-friendly offense for both Walker and Thompson to flourish this season.
Receiving Corps Has a Very High Ceiling
The opening drive that ended in a beautiful touchdown pass from Jake Locker to Justin Hunter was just what the Titans needed to boost their confidence.
It was a drive that rarely happened last season.
Hunter looks primed to push for 1,000 yards in 2014 and really take the NFL by storm. He should be on everyone's radar to be a dark-horse Pro Bowl candidate.
There are still other things Hunter needs to polish up, per Greg Pogue of Fox Sports Tennessee. Consistency is the main thing here, which I think will come as a second-year receiver.
The Titans know what to expect from Kendall Wright, who's going to be a reception machine. Nate Washington should also remain a reliable target as the veteran leader of this group.
Suddenly, there's reason for excitement about how far this receiving corps can go if they can just find a fourth receiver to fill the void Damian Williams left behind. I believe Michael Preston is capable of filling that void.
Bishop Sankey Has to Fix Fumbling Issue
A fumbling problem is to be expect from a rookie running back. The problem is the Titans are going to be relying on Bishop Sankey to be their No.1 running back alongside an injury-prone Shonn Greene.
Sankey has to correct his troubles with holding on to the ball. This offense has a small margin for error, and turnovers will keep this unit buried in mediocrity for another season. He's going to see a lot of touches, and with that have a lot of opportunities to stall drives through turnovers.
This concern wouldn't be nearly as high if Sankey was backing up a veteran that was going to be the primary ball-carrier.
The Titans had five ugly turnovers in their 31-24 loss to the Saints, and Sankey contributed to that number when he fumbled an exchange from Zach Mettenberger.
Ken Whisenhunt commented on this issue, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com:
Whisenhunt realized he's dealing with a rookie who is going to make some early mistakes. Hopefully it won't cost the Titans a couple vital wins in a division that will be a close race. The Colts are the favorites, but the gap isn't huge.
The expected rookie growing pains for Sankey elevates the importance of Greene to be healthy for Week 1.
This is exactly why the preseason is so beneficial for rookies. Sankey's talents will eventually outweigh this turnover concern. Two more preseason games worth of reps will will have him ready for the regular season.