Finally! Titans' Preseason Over, Now We Can Focus On Football
Nashville, Tenn — The photo shown here is truly the only thing worth watching in the preseason.
Honestly, I know there is a purpose to it. It gives the veterans a chance to knock the rust off and get back into the flow of the game; although, for many of them, the preseason is just an additional opportunity for them to suffer a needless season or career-ending injury playing in a meaningless contest.
The preseason gives the rookies and free agents the opportunity to justify the grotesque millions of dollars spent on them in the draft and on the open market.
$7 million a year is nothing to sneeze at; dropping passes, throwing interceptions, and getting dropped in the backfield is no way to guarantee that state of affairs will continue.
Yes, the preseason does on occassion feature an interesting position battle; it occurs a lot less often than we might like to think, and anyone who doesn't think that, before the season even starts, the head coach already has it in his mind who he wants in the No. 1 spot has no grasp of human nature.
I will grant that without the preseason, at least in the last couple of years, we would have no idea when Brett Favre came out of retirement and which team he is supposed to be saving this year.
And the preseason does give the fans the opportunity to check out the new "talent", i.e. who is returning on the cheerleading squad this year, and who the new girls are (unless you live in Pittsburgh, where their sidelines are woefully bereft of any such decoration).
But other than that, the preseason is nothing but a teaser.
None of the games matter when you get down to brass tacks. Identified first stringers play a few series in the first half before handing the reins over to the backups. Their stats are nothing spectacular; as long as they don't make collosal mistakes or display immense lapses in judgement, their positions are relatively safe.
Once the backups hit the field, the most they can likely hope for is a permanent slot on the travelling squad, in a secondary role, and they realize that the preseason action they see is probably the most time they will spend between the hash marks all year.
Worst case scenario in their minds is that they get cut and re-signed to the practice squad, which allows them to say they are members of a professional football team without actually having to admit that they really don't play much at all.
It would be utterly foolish of them to NOT take full advantage of the opportunity to showcase what they have, albeit against decidely lesser talent than they will see once the score starts counting.
In short, the preseason amounts to taking your hot cousin to the prom; yeah, she might be a looker as far as your friends are concerned, but we all know nothing is really gonna happen.
So, the Titans have now trimmed their roster to the requisite 53-man squad, including a seven-man practice squad led by erstwhile wide receiver Paul Williams.
Those of you who follow draft picks with the reckless abandon of a teenager with a brand new driver's license know that Williams was the Titans' third round pick in 2007, but has thus far failed to live up to expectations (yet another example of the fact that playing with the big boys is a world apart from college football).
As expected, there was absolutely ZERO shakeup in the starting lineup on offense; Collins starts, Vince Young fills the No. 2 spot, and Kenny Britt's performance throughout the entire preseason relegated him to a backup role behind newly acquired Nate Washington, late of the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Chris Johnson and LenDale White, with the newly acuired moniker of "Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside" —thanks go to former Titans turned broadcaster Eddie George for that one — maintain their hold on the top two running back positions; however, in one of the only big showings of the preseason, Jevon Ringer showed enough mettle to shove Chris Henry to the bottom of the running back gene pool.
The defensive lineup also escaped the preseason without any major moves; Jason Jones stepped up as expected and filled the extra large shoes left behind by "Big AL" Haynesworth, and Sen-Derrick Marks will watch from the sidelines most of the season as he continues to learn the game.
Yes, I know he had some solid tackles during the preseason; he was playing against equal or lesser talent, remember? Against starters he wasn't so hot, ergo he gets to spend this year learning and growing.
On special teams, Ryan Mouton made enough good moves to lock himself into the punt and kick return positions; although another school of thought would say he didn't do well enough anywhere else, and was thereby relegated to the return positions. You decide.
All in all, the Titans who take the field Thrusday agains the Pittsburgh Steelers are exactly who should have been expected to take the field. 20 of 22 starters returned to the lineup this season. Nate Washington is new, Jason Jones is new but expected. Other than that, the Titans who start this year are the same ones who finished the season last year.
This is the bigtime, folks. There is so much more to this game, at this level, than many young players realize, which would explain the rather high washout rate for professional football players throughout the league.
Once you get here, it's man-up time. No one there for you to do your homework or help you cram for the test. It's all on you, and for the majority it takes a lot longer than one preseason to take it all in.
So don't take it personally, new guys, but do take it to heart. If you are strapping up come Thursday, you've impressed the right people and can honestly say you made it to the big time. Now, sit back, watch the old guys do their thing, and when your chance comes, take it and run with it.
Because you may only get one shot. If you blow it, it may never come around again.
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