Tennessee Titans vs New Orleans Saints: What Titans Fans Should Watch
Thursday night will be the last game time action the players will see before the season opener against the Raiders on September 12.
How fitting that the last preseason game comes against the Saints, the defending Super Bowl champions.
The first round of cuts have already passed with five players being waived on Tuesday, most notably the young wide receiver Bobby Sewall.
This game will be the last chance for many players to show the coaching staff that they deserve a spot on the 53-man roster.
There are still a lot of questions that are unanswered for Titans fans and more importantly the coaching staff.
There will be plenty of things to watch out for in the preseason finale against the Saints, and here's ten of them.
Performance on Special Teams
Jeff Fisher has already said that how the players perform on special teams will be the biggest determining factor in whether they are cut or not.
Special teams was one this team's major weaknesses last season so Fisher wants to make sure that he chooses players that are ready to make a difference on special teams.
That means Marc Mariani needs to have a solid performance in the return game and not just at the wide receiver position.
Another player who needs to perform well on special teams to snag a spot on the roster is rookie linebacker Patrick Trahan, who has just four tackles so far in the preseason.
Forcing a big fumble or returning a kick for a touchdown could win you a spot on an NFL roster, so you know these players will be giving it everything they have on Thursday night, and that means good football.
Will Cortland Finnegan get to play?
Cortland Finnegan has missed the entire preseason thanks to a groin injury and a hip flexor.
He returned to practice on Monday and said he wants to play against the Saints.
Obviously Finnegan doesn't need a ton of reps, but it is important that he sees some action to prepare himself for the regular season.
What better team to prep yourself up against than the passing attack of Drew Brees and the Saints?
It's a possibility that Fisher may keep him out of the game completely to make sure he's 100 percent healthy for the regular season.
Not only is it risky to push Finnegan into a game that means absolutely nothing, but it would also take away valuable reps from Alterraun Verner, Jason McCourty, and Ryan Mouton.
Most likely Finnegan will play one or two series and then ride the pine.
Tony Brown's Return
Tony Brown is another player who has been unable to perform this preseason, and he's a valuable piece to this unproven defensive line.
Barring some kind of huge setback today, Brown will see up to 15 snaps against the Saints.
It'll be important to see how Brown performs on that knee that was injured towards the end of last season.
According to Brown, he's been ready to go for a couple weeks now so we should see the Tony Brown we're use to seeing.
Outside of Brown, the Titans defensive line is very talented, but also very inexperienced. The defensive line will look to Brown for leadership.
Last Rehearsal for Vince Young
It's been rough at times for Vince Young this preseason, but he's also had moments where he has looked like a greatly improved quarterback.
Young won't get a ton of playing time against the Saints so it will be very important that he has positive drives in the small amount of playing time he does get.
The last thing that needs to happen is a couple three and outs and a turnover. We know Young's psyche isn't the strongest among NFL quarterbacks, so he needs to perform well to give him confidence heading into the regular season.
Playing well against the Saints starting defense will be no easy task, but if he manages to put together at least one scoring drive then Young will have plenty of confidence going forward.
The Secondary Against Drew Brees
The young Titans secondary will get its biggest test by far on Thursday night against the Saints.
Drew Brees has shown no signs of slowing down this preseason as he has yet to throw a pick and has two touchdown passes to go along with it.
This will be great practice for all Titans cornerbacks involved.
Alterraun Verner has looked poised to snag the starting cornerback position opposite Cortland Finnegan, and if he plays well against high octane passing attack of the Saints then it will pretty much solidify him starting.
However, if Jason McCourty plays equally as well then he might trump Verner thanks to his experience.
Ryan Mouton has pretty much played his way out of starting, but the battle between McCourty and Verner rests on the Saints game.
Heading back to that unproven defensive line, Titans first overall pick Derrick Morgan will get to see action on the field for the second time this preseason on Thursday night.
Fisher stated how impressed he was with Morgan's performance against the Panthers after participating in just one practice prior to that.
Morgan was consistently in the backfield against the Panthers and came within a half of a second of getting a sack on starting quarterback Matt Moore.
Performing that way against the Saints will be a lot bigger challenge, but getting a sack on Drew Brees would probably cause Fisher to run out on the field and jump in his arms.
Fisher sometimes lives and dies on his defensive line and it's important that young players like Morgan make a difference this season.
Can the offensive line bounce back?
There's no easy way to put this. The starting offensive line has looked horrible this preseason.
It's not fair to put all of the blame on the offensive line for Chirs Johnson's struggles, but Johnson has had very little running room in his 19 rushing attempts this preseason.
The offensive line has to get these kinks worked out against the Saints.
Johnson's success is linked to the Titans' success this season so the offensive line has to perform well.
A running back with the speed of Johnson flourishes behind a good offensive line, and the Titans offensive line has to perform better than they have so far.
Usually when Johnson gets a good lane to run in it leads to at least a five or six yard gain, and sometimes a lot more.
Johnson's long this preseason is only eight yards. That obviously has to change and it starts with the offensive line.
It's hard to find anything negative to say about Javon Ringer since he joined the Titans just a year ago.
He's always performed well when he's gotten the chance and now he's set up to be essentially what LeDale White was playing behind Chris Johnson.
Ringer will get his touches this season. He's too talented to not put him in your offensive arsenal and Jeff Fisher knows that.
The solid numbers are there this preseason as Ringer is averaging almost five yards a carry, including a 46-yard run against the Seahawks.
If he performs well against the Saints starters then we'll know for sure that he's ready to take anywhere from five to ten snaps a game in the regular season.
Most NFL teams have two viable running backs and Ringer is that second option for the Titans.
Marc Mariani's Fight For A Roster Spot
I'm really hoping the Titans find room for Marc Mariani on the roster.
He's tough, has soft hands, and has proven to be a good option in the kick return game. He's also leading the team in receiving yards and tied for the lead in receptions.
Unfortunately coaches have to sometimes cut players that they wish they could keep.
That means Mariani will be poised to play his best game of his football career against the Saints.
We saw glimpses of how good he really is against the Panthers. If he avoids the big mistakek, like a fumble on a punt return, then Fisher will find room for him.
When he got the opportunity to play with an accomplished NFL quarterback like Kerry Collins we saw how valuable he could be to the Titans passing game.
Fisher will give Mariani plenty of opportunities to win a spot on this team against the Saints.
Who's the second option at tight end?
If you're a true Titans fan then you know how important the tight end is in a Jeff Fisher offensive scheme.
Bo Scaife is hands down the number one option at tight end, but it's crowded at this positoin after that.
Craig Stevens and Jared Cook are quietly battling it out to be the second option.
Both players have had good performances against this preseason, with Cook scoring a touchdown against the Panthers.
The second tight end may not seem that important, but Fisher loves getting the tight ends involved in the passing game.
To add to that, Vince Young also loves to check down to his tight ends so it's important that Scaife has a little help at this position.
In the end I think Cook's pure athleticism gets him the roster spot, but if Stevens puts together a great performance against the Saints then it could make things a little more interesting.