The Tennessee Titans came out on top during their preseason game in Tampa Bay vs. the Buccaneers, but none of it stemmed from the Titans passing game, sans Rusty.
Jake Locker was the big story heading into this game. It was his first “start” and most of us expected him to take it and run, winning the QB competition and being named the starter for regular season shortly after. As we all know, that’s not how it happened.
Locker struggled, going 4-for-11, including one interception. In his defense, there was some great pass coverage by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who had S Mark Barron and CB Aquib Talib both return from injuries that withheld them from the previous preseason game. They gave solid performances. Another critique of Locker’s performance comes via MusicCityMiracles:
"I came into this analysis fully expecting a train wreck. However, that’s not what I saw. The game will hardly be a highlight of Locker’s career, but it’s not as if the play was so poor that it indicates he doesn’t have the tools to be the starter for this team. He’s making the right reads. Footwork is much improved. Accuracy to the edges looks good. Locker’s stat line isn’t totally reflective of his performance. It shouldn’t be dismissed, either. There needs to be better production in order for this staff to put Hasselbeck on the bench."
There’s a great play-by-play breakdown that precedes this, which is worth the reading.
Some were quick to say Locker had just lost the competition and it was all Hasselbeck’s after that game, but Hasselbeck didn’t prove anything during his short stint on the field, and the competition will be stretching out longer.
To be noted, Craig Stevens, a TE I always say is underrated as a pass-catching TE, put up a couple solid catches during the game. Unfortunately, that’s more than I can say for Cookie, who had a couple of very catchable balls fall through his hands.
Running back Darius Reynaud continued to impress in both the run and return game. The Titans will probably be giving him some more first team reps during this next preseason game. He’s been too successful not too and the Titans are trying to figure out what exactly they’ve got on their hands, and how they’re going to make space for him on the final roster.
Speaking of running backs, Chris Johnson put up a solid performance against the Buccaneers defense, slipping through them for a couple of TD’s. People on Twitter were quick to exclaim, “CJ’s BACK!.” As anyone who listens to Titan Sized Radio knows, we were saying that before this game. I bring that up because I don’t think this game is real proof of CJ still being himself.
Remember that god awful season last year? Well one of the few defenses CJ was effective against was the Buccaneers, who he ripped up for a whopping 190 yards. True, the Buccaneers line is a lot healthier now then it was last year, but it’s still worth noting. Temper your expectations people, he’s only able to do that when the o-line can let him get to the line of scrimmage. We all saw what happened against the Seahawks just a week ago.
The Titans defense was truly the highlight of the game; specifically, the d-line. Sen’Derrick Marks came out of nowhere and caused chaos the entire time. It was hard to cite specific highlights from specific players because every time Josh Freeman hiked the ball, the entire o-line was bumped back and shredded as the Titans fought to get to the QB.
The Titans ended the night with four sacks, one of which came from DE Derrick Morgan and another from DT Sen’Derrick Marks. It was fun to watch as the Titans forced three-and-outs.
Safety Robert Johnson started in place of Babineaux, who didn’t suit up. Johnson had a pretty quiet game, due somewhat to the Buccaneers being shut down by the defensive line. His only play that stuck out to me was a missed tackle on a backup running back. Despite that, Munchak said he received a passing grade for the game.
The final score was 30-7, in the Titans favor.
We’re waiting to see what this next game has in store. I’m guessing the Titans give Locker another start. It seems like they wanted to hand the reins over to him before he stumbled in the last game. He’s going to have to really do some impressive work in this next game to show the coaches that he should be the starter.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the starter come game one, but I’m not as sure of that as I was a week ago.
You can find me on Twitter @JustinLStewart