Sealing The Deal: Titans Aim to Finish Preseason Strong

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Sealing The Deal:  Titans Aim to Finish Preseason Strong

The dress rehearsal is almost over.

The starters are playing for more than one or two series at a time.  

Pink slips are flying around locker rooms like post-Super Bowl confetti, with the rosters getting leaner as coaches whittle their way down to the maximum 53 man limit.  

At 2-1, with no star players sporting any major injuries, the Tennessee Titans find themselves in decent shape, on the whole.  

However, the preseason isn't so much about the win-loss column as it is talent evaluation, real time practice and, to an extent, scouting.  For instance, in 2006, not one of the division winners had a winning summer time record.  

But the Music City has much to be excited about--along with a few obligatory red flags--as the story lines develop in home stretch leading up to the regular season kickoff against Pittsburgh.  

Here's a look at some of the more noteworthy areas to keep an eye on as Cleveland and Green Bay loom large.

Quarterback

Thus far, the 36-year-old Kerry Collins has looked sharp and worth every penny of the arguably questionable contract he signed.  True, he's been wearing a light knee brace as of late, but chalked it up to his age's routine maintenance.

"It is nothing I can't handle," he told the Nashville Tennessean earlier this week.  "I'm 36, something is bound to pop up from time to time."  

Conventional wisdom says that coach Jeff Fisher will maintain a 'steady as she goes' policy, giving him enough reps to have him ready for the season, but not wearing him out, either.  

The Vince Young saga has maintained a low profile, relatively speaking.  His performance has been consistently mediocre.  Crisp and efficient at best; interception-prone and tentative at worst.  But most would take that kind of second stringer over an all-or-nothing, loose cannon starter.

Patrick Ramsey has played about like one would expect a failed starter with gas still in the tank; solid.  He's been nursing sore ribs as of late, but it doesn't appear to be of too much concern to Tennessee's staff.  

Barring injury to Collins, both he and Young will look to shine and prove their worth in these last two games.

Running Back

While Chris Johnson and Lendale White have had their minimal flashes of brilliance thus far, but the general consensus is that they've underperformed, given their paltry yards per carry averages.  

Yet coach Fisher knows what they're capable of, and seems to trust in their ability to 'turn it on' during the season.  That said, look for an even more steady dose of pleasant surprise Javon Ringer.  

The Titans took a chance on the fifth round pick (steal, perhaps?) who has power and deceptive speed, despite his high mileage in college and injury history.  Anything can happen, but he looks have all but locked up the final number three running back slot.

Receiving

What was once a stacked position for Tennessee now looks a bit more dire.  

Nobody's hitting the panic button yet, but injuries and roster cuts have notably diminished the corps.

Yet by extension, it should make for a more entertaining preseason, from a fan's perspective, anyway.

First off is the hamstring injury to speedy new addition Nate Washington, whom the Titans picked up from Pittsburgh this past offseason to bolster their downfield scoring ability.  

While not out for the season, he definitely will miss the final two preseason games, which would have been good for him in terms of team chemistry, timing and continuity.

In addition, third year pro Chris Davis was released this week, with the team citing his injuries as the reason.  However, many are speculating that it had to do with his recent DUI arrest; kind of an unspoken "zero tolerance" policy on Jeff Fisher's part.  

At any rate, his strong offseason led to much optimism that he would enjoy a break out year.  Not so any more.  

As mentioned, however, all is not lost.  Justin Gage is still his consistent self, and return man Mark Jones looks to make some noise to perhaps nab himself a number three or four spot.  

Kenny Britt (WR) and Jared Cook (TE) are two very promising rookies who will get that much more reps and playing time in the upcoming games.  

At tight end, Bo Scaife and remains solid, but with age of Alge Crumpler and the promise of Cook, the next two games should be intriguing.

Defense, Special Teams and Other Intangibles

Simply put, most of the "who's gonna beat out who" drama is on the offensive side of the ball.  The good majority of the other units remains in tact, with the big (pun intended) exception being Albert Haynesworth, of course.  

2008's surprising rookie Jason Jones and free agent newcomer Jovan Haye (Tampa Bay) look to both see ample time at filling his shoes.  

Regarding the secondary, most anticipate coach Fisher to test out conerback rookies Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty along with free agent signee DeMarcus Faggins to see who works best in which particular personnel package.  

Veteran punter Craig Hentrich nursed a minor hamstring problem in training camp, but like Collins, it proved to be harmless.

If Tennessee stays on the same course they've been on, they should be in excellent shape for the September 10th showdown with the Steelers.  

Yet as even the most casual fan knows, one snap can render everything moot, even in the preseason.  

Just ask Trent Green and Kurt Warner.

 

 

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