Tennessee Titans: What We've Learned Through Week 3 of Preseason
Even though the Tennessee Titans were able to win their second game of the preseason, there are still some major concerns looming as we creep closer to Week 1 of the regular season.
A few injuries have also emerged that may affect the Titans into the regular season.
It wasn't all negative, though. The Titans do seem to be making some serious progress on offense.
The Titans moved to 2-1 in the preseason after a 24-17 win over the Falcons, but at what cost? Here's what we learned with one preseason game remaining.
The Defense Further Behind That Previously Expected
It was a scrappy effort against a team they knew very well from an offseason scrimmage just a few weeks ago. The team may have gotten the win, but the Titans defense got punked by the Falcons offense for much of the first half when the starters were in.
You could consider it the third game in a row that the Titans' defensive starters looked mediocre, with just a few glimpses of solid play. Who knows how many points the Falcons would've manufactured if it had been a regular-season game.
The biggest issue I see with this defense right now is being in the right place to make tackles. Some of the open spots on the field were big enough for any quarterback to make throws in, much less Matt Ryan.
Tackling in the secondary looked terrible as well. Coty Sensabaugh whiffed on a tackle of Julio Jones that led to a big touchdown score. Jones does that to a lot of people, but Sensabaugh has to be much better if he's going to be able to play on the outside.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson didn't look much better. It leaves this cornerback battle still too close to call, but Wreh-Wilson should win the job on the outside, leaving Sensabaugh in the slot.
One of the few bright spots on defense was Jurrell Casey. He consistently got pressure into the backfield and looks like he's primed to follow up a great 2013 season that ended in 10-plus sacks.
However, this defense has to get much better if the Titans are going to improve on a 7-9 record. The offense is making progressions, but they're not going to be able to win in shootout fashion very often.
The Passing Offense Is Primed for a Big Year
We could be in store for the best season of production from the passing game since the Titans came to Tennessee over 15 years ago. They're that talented if they can get consistent quarterback play.
If Jake Locker goes down again, then that obviously won't happen.
The Titans desperately need a starting quarterback to make it through a full season. It's been a long time since the Titans avoided making a starter quarterback change in the middle of the season.
Justin Hunter continues to look impressive, and he's going to be a great red-zone target with his tall frame. The Titans haven't had a player of Hunter's capabilities in quite some time.
We know what to expect from the reliable Nate Washington, and Kendall Wright is going to have a productive year despite a quiet preseason.
Marc Mariani also had his best showing of the preseason against the Falcons. He may have won a roster spot.
With that said, Paul Kuharksy of ESPN.com thinks the Titans will turn to the waiver wire to find a player to fill behind the top three receivers of Hunter, Wright and Washington.
The emergence of Taylor Thompson this preseason also gives me more faith in this passing offense to make a huge leap in 2014.
Shonn Greene Looks to Be the No.1 Running Back
The reservations of Shonn Greene's health have been answered this preseason, and he looks to be the safest bet to lead in the number of carries out of the backfield.
Greene is fully healthy, according to Ken Whisenhunt, per John Glennon of The Tennessean.
That's not to say that Bishop Sankey won't see plenty of touches as well.
Greene is the proven veteran who can get tough yards between the tackles. He's also the better blocker, even though this last game was not his best showing in that department.
The Titans running back committee will be a fluid situation, but Greene should be the leader of the group. Sankey could end up catching fire and take over that role at any point, but Greene is the main guy for now.
Greene has seen the bulk of the first-team reps through three preseason games, while Sankey has looked sharp in the second halves of the games. It should be formidable one-two punch for the Titans running game that will leave them in a better place than where they were with only Chris Johnson as the main guy in previous seasons.
Charlie Whitehurst Will Retain Primary Backup Role
Zach Mettenberger had an outside chance to overtake Charlie Whitehurst for the primary backup role, but that competition seems to have been put to rest.
Even though Mettenberger has played about as well as you can expect from a sixth-round rookie, Whitehurst is the trustworthy veteran. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean confirmed Whitehurst as the backup to Jake Locker.
Whitehurst didn't see any action as a precautionary measure after taking a nasty hit in the second preseason game against the Saints. He's seen just one snap in two preseason outings.
It would've been more comforting to have seen Whitehurst in more action, but it tells me that Ken Whisenhunt already knows what he's getting from Whitehurst. Hopefully for the Titans, Whitehurst won't be asked to do much more than carry the clipboard.
For what it's worth, Whitehurst did look solid in his preseason debut against the Packers. He seemed to have a strong grip on the offense.
Pass Protection Still a Work in Progress
A big concern stemming from the third preseason game was the pass protection for Jake Locker. That's the last thing that the Titans can afford to be below average in. With a quarterback situation that is very fragile, the pass protection has to be well above par.
The season could become completely unglued if the pass protection ends up not being as good as advertised.
Whisenhunt was not pleased with the pass protection against the Falcons, according to The Tennessean:
— tnsports (@tnsports) August 25, 2014
The number that really sticks out is the nine sacks allowed through three preseason games. We all expect this offensive line to be one of the biggest strengths of this team, so this is a little concerning with the regular season so close.
If Locker is going to make it through a 16-game slate without missing any time due to injury, then the pass protection has to get much better.