Tennessee vs. Atlanta: Report Cards for Each Titans Unit
The Tennessee Titans may have come away with a win, but a win in the preseason and a win in the regular season are two very different things. There was a lot to like about their performance, but there was at least as much to be worried about.
Still, a victory is something to be happy about, even if it doesn't come about in the best way.
Here are grades for each of the units' performances against the Atlanta Falcons.
Jake Locker made a couple of bad decisions, but he looked solid overall and had the numbers to back it up. Locker completed 12 of 17 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. He also had one 12-yard scramble.
Locker looks like the solid starting quarterback he was pre-foot injury in 2013, so the question will be whether or not he can stay healthy.
With Charlie Whitehurst sitting out due to a pinky injury, rookie Zach Mettenberger saw a lot of playing time. He didn't look as sharp as he did against the Saints, but he still had a good showing, completing 11 of 19 passes for 147 yards.
He threw bullet passes, but his two scrambles reminded everyone that he is a pure pocket passer. He lost a yard on each of them.
Overall, between Locker holding steady and Mettenberger showing a ton of potential, the quarterbacks had a great game.
The running backs didn't have as good an outing as the quarterbacks did. There was certainly no lack of effort, but the only running back to average three yards per carry or better was Antonio Andrews, who only did that with the help of a 47-yard run at the end of the game.
Shonn Greene got the majority of the carries for the starters again, taking six handoffs for 15 yards.
Dexter McCluster was the only running back with any receiving yards (one catch for eight yards), and he had a meager three carries for eight yards. That said, he wasn't afraid to make a north-south run like a power back. For a speed back who will probably play as big a part in the passing game as he will in the rush, he laid some hits on Falcons defenders.
Bishop Sankey saw a ton of action in the second half, and he made something out of nothing an awful lot, but he still only had 44 yards after 16 total carries. It'll be intriguing to see how he does when the first-team offensive line is in front of him.
Overall, while there was no lack of effort, it didn't translate to results.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Wide receivers Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright both look like they're ready to be nightmares for opposing corners, and Nate Washington looks as reliable as ever.
Both Hunter and Wright were covered with defenders all night. Wright is a known entity, and Hunter's 48 receiving yards may not sound impressive, but he drew multiple penalties from corners who simply couldn't cover him.
Washington had the play of the game when he got open deep and snagged a 63-yard touchdown. He almost had another touchdown earlier in the game, but Locker's throw was off after he took a hit.
Tight end Delanie Walker was quiet this game, with only four catches for 35 yards. On the other hand, Taylor Thompson, who took the field with the second team, was one of Mettenberger's favorite targets.
Thompson caught three of the five passes tossed his way for 39 yards, and Mettenberger looked like he went to Thompson as a first option more than once.
However, depth at the receiving position is a problem. After the top three receivers, there's a huge drop-off, and neither Walker nor Thompson are the kind of tight end who can take the top off a defense.
The offensive line's performance was a little tough to evaluate on this go around. It seemed like a lot of the struggles that the running backs had were on the line, but at times, the line seemed to manhandle the defense. It also provided solid protection for the quarterbacks all game.
Michael Roos drew a rare penalty, and Taylor Lewan made some rookie errors, but other than that, there were no blatant problems.
Lewan showed great promise, dominating his blocking assignments on more than one occasion, but the run blocking doesn't seem to be all the way there for the unit.
It blows my mind that this was the strength of the defense in 2013, because it was the worst unit on the field against the Falcons.
Jurrell Casey saw double-teams all night, so he got little done, but I can't help but think that if he were playing more 4-3 defensive tackle, he'd be getting more done. He did have three tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss, but that's par for the course for Casey, especially since the sack came against second stringers.
Sammie Hill got the only other sack of the night, but the edge defense was awful the entire game. With players like Ropati Pitoitua and Derrick Morgan present, who were excellent in edge defense last season, I have to assume that the unit is still having some problems with the system.
Linebacker play was a mixed bag. I loved the aggressiveness that Zach Brown and Wesley Woodyard showed, but I was definitely not a fan of their many missed tackles.
Kamerion Wimbley had a particularly good game, made all the better by the fact that he was more or less an afterthought in 2013. He only had two tackles, but he was constantly around the ball.
I picked Morgan as my difference-maker for the week prior to the game, but I'm not even sure he played. He was listed as a starter, but he was invisible this game.
Another problem was that defensive backs kept having to come up and make plays because the front seven wasn't getting it done.
The Falcons didn't have much success running the ball, but that probably had more to do with them sitting Steven Jackson than anything the linebackers did.
Like the linebackers, the defensive backs were a mixed bag. While Julio Jones only ended up with two catches, one was a 52-yard touchdown.
Coty Sensabaugh, 25, got burned by Jones for both catches, but it's hard to hold much against a young corner going against one of the best receivers in the NFL.
There weren't a lot of deflected passes, but with the new rules in place, that may just be the new normal for defensive backs. To the credit of the unit, Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin came up and bailed out the front seven on multiple occasions.
In fact, after Brown, Pollard and Griffin were the top tacklers on the Titans defense.
George Wilson, 33, had a very good showing with the second-team players, so even though he's getting on in years, it's good to see that he's still a valuable depth player.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson finally saw some action this game, but even after Sensabaugh's bad game against New Orleans, he got the start. That tells me he's won the competition for all intents and purposes.
To me, the defensive backs were the best defensive unit, but they still have work to do.
Special teams had some issues. One of the issues was playing against arguably the best kick returner in the history of the game, Devin Hester.
The Titans wisely booted it away from Hester once, but on two returns, they let him return it, and the results were 73 return yards.
Special teams play also saw fullback Jackie Battle get injured. He suffered "a stinger in the neck/shoulder area," according to John Glennon of The Tennessean. He was a pretty valuable veteran backup, and kickoffs are well known to be the most injury-inducing plays in the game, so the coaches' choice to not simply kick out of bounds was an odd one.
The play of this game didn't make it any clearer who the favorite kicker was either. Maikon Bonani made both field goals he attempted, and he even got first bite at the apple. Travis Coons missed a 63-yarder, which no one will hold against him, and made the other attempt.
Overall, the play on special teams was more or less average. That is an improvement from 2013, but there's still plenty of room for more improvement.