Tennessee vs. Atlanta: Titans Week 3 Game Preview

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIAugust 23, 2014

Tennessee vs. Atlanta: Titans Week 3 Game Preview

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    John Russell/Associated Press

    The Titans will face their biggest preseason challenge yet when they take on Matt Ryan and the Falcons on Saturday night. Thus far, they've missed out on Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees when playing the Packers and Saints, respectively.

    They'll also be facing their first franchise quarterback in Week 3, the preseason game that usually comes the closest to a regular-season matchup.

    The offense looked greatly improved in Week 2, but the defense still seems porous. Consistently stopping the Falcons would show a lot of promise from a unit that was very good overall in 2013.

Tennessee Titans Week 2 Recap

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Drew Brees missed the matchup with an oblique injury, and the Titans instead faced Luke McCown, who scored on the opening drive.

    Luckily, Jake Locker was ready to answer and threw a touchdown himself. The Titans defense played a little better after that, but they still got burned repeatedly by Jimmy Graham, who ended the night with 48 yards and two touchdowns.

    Other than tons of penalties, the story of the night was injuries, as Shonn Greene, Charlie Whitehurst and Michael Preston all went down at some point in the game.

    With Whitehurst out, Zach Mettenberger played most of the game and looked fairly sharp. However, he still showed that he was a rookie, throwing a telegraphed interception and another bad pass that should have been an interception.

    Still, he finished the night 20-of-25 with 269 yards and two touchdowns.

    Unfortunately, the Titans defense couldn't seem to get it together against the Saints, and they lost 31-24.

News and Notes

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The decision to increase the size of practice squads, via John Breech of CBS Sports, opens things up a bit for the Titans. Whereas Marc Mariani and Michael Preston were competing for what may have been one spot, the Titans will have a much easier time keeping Preston around with extra room.

    Of course, this also makes things interesting on the defensive line, which is pretty crowded with Jurrell Casey, Karl Klug, DaQuan Jones, Ropati Pitoitua and Lavar Edwards all vying for spots at end and Sammie Hill, Antonio Johnson and Al Woods all trying to play nose tackle.

    The last player that may be affected is tight end Taylor Thompson. He's shown some promise this preseason, but he may still be a work in progress, and if the Titans decide to keep more players elsewhere, there may not be room for a third tight end.

    Even with the added room, competition will still be fierce at many positions.

Injury Report

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images
    Shonn GreeneRBQuestionable
    Taylor LewanOLProbable
    Charlie WhitehurstQBDoubtful
    Colin McCarthyLBInjured Reserve

    Colin McCarthy has officially moved onto the injured reserve list after he sustained a shoulder injury requiring season ending surgery, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. He was a good player when healthy, he's just rarely gone long without injury.

    Charlie Whitehurst and Shonn Greene both suffered injuries against the Saints, and while Whitehurst has now moved to doubtful, Greene's status as questionable hasn't been changed since August 18.

    Taylor Lewan appears to have shaken off his ankle injury, and he is listed as probable to play.

    Injury reports via ESPN.

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Jason McCourty vs. Julio Jones

    I don't expect Julio Jones to be in single coverage very often, but when he is, it will almost certainly be against the Titans' best corner, Jason McCourty.

    McCourty has looked solid so far this preseason, and he was great in 2012 and 2013, so seeing how he matches up against an elite player like Jones will be a great test for him.


    Titans Defense vs. Matt Ryan

    After having trouble with lesser quarterbacks like Matt Flynn and Luke McCown, the Titans may not be ready for Matt Ryan. There ought to be a sense of urgency from the unit to show that they're up to par if they don't want to go into the season disrespected.


    Titans' X-Factor of the Week: Derrick Morgan

    With the 3-4 defense designed to rush the passer, and the Falcons being a pass heavy team, I would expect the Titans to put a lot more pressure on Matt Ryan in the form of pass rush.

    Derrick Morgan has been the best edge-rusher on the team for some time, so he should have some opportunities to make plays on the quarterback. If he plays well, it could be the missing cog that the defense was looking for.


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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    The third game of the preseason usually has the starters spending the most time on the field, so I expect the Titans and Falcons to treat the game like a real one.

    The Titans defense is suspect until it appears otherwise, so I expect Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to drop some points on the Titans. That said, Ryan has only had some very limited playing time during this preseason, so there may still be some rust for him to shake off.

    The Falcons defense isn't exactly top notch, so Jake Locker, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter ought to be able to make life hard on the Falcons defensive backs, though the Falcons do feature some young, promising corners.

    The Titans will want to establish the run as well, and since Shonn Greene is coming off of an injury, expect Bishop Sankey to have a full plate.

    Prediction: Titans 24, Falcons 21