Locker/Fitzpatrick Sharp, Titans Drop Second Straight
Another week another lose as the Titans drop their second straight game against the Bengals 27-19. Preseason football is all about improvement and weeding out the top 53 players that will be the 2013 edition of the Tennessee Titans. After this week the picture is slightly clearer. Here are some of the positives and negatives I took away from week two’s action.
Jake Locker/ Ryan Fitzpatrick:
After coach Mike Munchak revealed that Locker’s lack luster game last week was scripted, this was our real first taste of what Locker will be bringing to the table. Locker went 12-for-20 with 116 yards, but ore importantly he didn’t turn the ball over. The Titans want to control the ball and the clock and ball security is a big factor this season. Locker threw low difficulty throws all night, but also was handicapped by drive ending drops by Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright. With so much to prove it was, at least, encouraging to see Locker protect the ball and have a good, not great, night throwing. Ryan Fitzpatrick on the other hand looked very good, although he played against second and third sting defenses. Fitzpatrick, 9-for-13 with 136 yards and 2 touchdowns, looked like he will be a great insurance policy if Jake Locker does not pan out. Fitzpatrick has played like he could be this years version of Matt Hasselbeck, a relable veteran who could spark a win streak. It will be interesting to watch as the season progresses if the Titans will give Fitzpatrick a shot if the season doesn’t go their way. If they are disappointing out the gate, what do you have to lose before pressing reset in the 2014 season?
The Titans new and improved offensive line looked the part for a second straight week as they handled a very good and underrated Bengals defensive line. David Stewart got his first start at right tackle since his broken leg last season and center Fernando Velasco got his first start after Rob Turner started last week. The run game averaged 4.4 yards per carry and Velasco and Chance Warmack faired great against a top five tackle in Geno Atkins. As the center position battle heats up, it is great to know that the loser of the Velasco/ Turner battle could fill in at guard if something were to happen to Warmack or Andy Levitre. I am curious to see what rooking Brian Schwenke brings to the table in the coming weeks. Titans drafted him to be the heir apparent at center.
Chris Johnson had seven carries for 30 yards, Shonne Greene had six carries for 29 yards and Jackie Battle had 12 carries for 58 yards. The run game is something the Titans want and have to establish to have success and for the second week in a row they pass the test. This three headed run attack looks to be one of the best in the league through two games. If the offensive line and running backs can stay healthy, this could be one of the more dynamic run offenses in a league dominated by the passing game.
The defense looked like the 2012 version and that is not a good sign. New defensive assistant Gregg Williams and the new free agent signings, such as Bernard Pollard and George Wilson, have had little to no effect in the first two games. Tommie Campbell has been mediocre at best these two weeks and cannot be the starting cornerback week one. The team should really consider settling him into the nickel position where he thrived last year. Old problems like tackling and pass rush has to become more consistent to be considered an improved quality for this team going forward. As a whole, it could have been worse, but with the historically bad season this unit had last season, it would have been nice to see some improvement. On a positive note defensive tackle Jurrell Casey looks like a monster this season and should be considered a player to watch going forward.
With a quarterback like Jake Locker, it should be blasphemy to drop passes that are right on the money. Locker needs all the help he can get and Wright and Britt didn’t make Locker’s job any easier by ending two different drives with dropped passes. Wright sprained his knee and should be ready to play by week one, but it isn’t encouraging to see him drop passes in consecutive weeks and now having to miss two weeks of practice. Look for Damien Williams to take Wright's spot in the coming weeks.
As far as kickers go, Rob Bironas has been a blessing to the Titans. Every kick he has been asked to attempt has been either automatic or very close, but this weekend his lack of practice showed. After slamming home a 44-yard field goal, Bironas went wide on consecutive 37-yard and 38-yard field goals. Bironas has missed plenty of practice this season and it showed. I expect a veteran likr him to bounce back, but it is a little alarming for a guy so automatic to pull two straight kicks. Maikon Bonani also missed a 47-yard field goal and later hit a 26-yard chip shot.
The Titans next game is against the Atlanta Falcons Saturday at LP Field.