Tennessee Titans: 5 Big Storylines Heading into Preseason Week 3
Up next for the Titans in the preseason are the Atlanta Falcons, who will pose another tough challenge for the Tennessee secondary.
The Titans have to trim the roster to 75 players from 90 players in less than a week. This game against the Falcons will be the last real opportunity in a Tennessee uniform for a lot of these players.
The third preseason game is often thought of as the dress rehearsal for the regular season, so a good showing here is important for the team's confidence. Expect Jake Locker and the rest of the offensive starters to see a lot more action.
These are five storylines for Tennessee heading into its third preseason game of 2014.
Can Jake Locker End on a High Note?
It wasn't a huge one, but Locker, who enters a make-or-break year in 2014, took a step forward against the New Orleans Saints in rebuilding his confidence.
This week's opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, ranked in the bottom half of the NFL last season in pass defense, so Locker should see some opportunities to put together another solid outing.
What we really need to see from Locker is smart decision-making. We know he has a good arm and can run. Seeing smart throws and an efficient completion percentage will be important. Scoring drives never hurt, either.
On the flip side, an ugly outing from Locker will be hard to swallow. The Titans need him to have full confidence against a formidable Chiefs defense in Week 1.
There will still be one more preseason game remaining after this, but the fourth preseason game isn't usually when you want your starting quarterback to be having to build confidence. This is his last opportunity to really prime himself for a season where the pressure will be high.
Who Is Going to Emerge at Cornerback?
It's looking more and more like Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson will alternate roles in the secondary.
Sensabaugh's strengths suit him better as the nickel cornerback, so I expect him to end up there for the majority of the time.
However, it doesn't mean that both guys won't shift into different roles from time to time, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.
We need to see if these two young corners are ready to prove the Titans right in letting Alterraun Verner go. It will be a tall order.
This will also be the first time these two players will have seen a team's true starting quarterback. Both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees didn't play in the Titans' first two preseason games against Green Bay and New Orleans, respectively. We'll get our first true look at how far along this secondary is post-Verner.
Who Will Win the Kicker Role?
Travis Coons made some serious progress last week against the Saints. He benefited greatly from the indoor conditions by hitting a 50-yard field goal. He also hit all of his extra points.
It's his job to lose after that showing.
Maikon Bonani can still win this job by making a couple of long kicks of his own in another indoor venue, this time in Atlanta. He has a really strong leg that's hard to turn down. If he notches a couple of 50-yard kicks, then this battle will get interesting when it's time to make a decision.
A bad showing by both would put the Titans in a really tough situation. They might be forced to go find a kicker who himself has yet to find work.
You never want to see drives stall, but the Titans need to feel good about their kicker situation heading into the regular season. They need one of these guys to take charge against Atlanta.
Is Bishop Sankey Ready for a No. 1 Running Back Role?
Bishop Sankey's fumbling problems have been well documented, but he is still a rookie who has just two preseason games under his belt.
This concern has come up recently after having fumbles in both preseason games, and also fumbling problems in practice.
However, Sankey does need to show some improvement in ball security if the Titans are to feel comfortable about him getting a lot of touches in a hostile environment like Kansas City.
The Titans still have Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster to give some touches at running back. With that said, Sankey is supposed to be the guy who eventually will get the bulk of the workload and be the every-down running back.
Ken Whisenhunt has said that Sankey actually doesn't have a fumbling problem, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.
Either way, an outing that is free of fumbles is needed from Sankey in this next preseason game. He should see plenty of action to really get him the reps he needs to get ready for the regular season. Missing some action this offseason to finish out his college education may have caught up with him a bit. It shouldn't be a major concern if he can put together a solid performance against the Falcons.
Can Marc Mariani Make the Team?
No other Titans player fighting for a roster should be getting more attention than Marc Mariani, who made the Pro Bowl as a returner in his rookie season in 2010 but missed the last two seasons with injuries.
Some may think that Mariani's place on the roster for 2014 is secure, but I would have to disagree.
There's not a ton of room for him on the roster as a returner with Leon Washington and McCluster also viable returners. It's my belief that Mariani has to make the team as a wide receiver, and he has some stiff competition in that area.
Michael Preston's roster spot should be secure as the No. 4 guy. His athleticism and his ability to make big catches makes him safe.
As for Mariani, he's familiar with the feeling of being on the roster bubble, per Joe Fann of the Titans official website.
It was unfortunate that Mariani couldn't haul in that red-zone pass from Zach Mettenberger against the Saints. It would have been a touchdown and could have really given this coaching staff something to chew on outside of Mariani's special teams ability.
The main guy whom I could see taking Mariani's job is veteran Brian Robiskie. He's been close to perfect in practices and preseason. He's sprinkled in a couple of great catches and would bring some much-needed veteran experience to an otherwise young group.
Derek Hagan is another veteran who has an outside chance to make the roster if he finishes out the preseason in strong fashion.
Mariani needs an efficient outing as a wide receiver to prove that he's worth a valuable roster spot.