On Saturday night, the Tennessee Titans took the field at Nissan Stadium for an intra-squad scrimmage, a great opportunity to prepare for the preseason. Here are four things that stood out.
1. Bad day for Alex Tanney.
Last season, the Tennessee Titans gave quarterback Alex Tanney a raise so that he would remain on their practice squad instead of joining the Cleveland Browns’ active roster. Because of that, and the fact that Tanney is out of practice squad eligibility, plenty of fans and media members have wondered whether or not Tanney could challenge Matt Cassel for the backup QB job.
Prior to Saturday, Tanney was having a really nice camp. On Monday specifically, he made several nice throws and moved around well in the pocket. The success came to an abrupt end, though, as his performance during Saturday’s scrimmage was forgettable.
Lowlights for Tanney included several errant passes, multiple sacks, a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage, an interception to Denzel Johnson, and another throw that should’ve been picked by Demontre Hurst. In a single drive during the two-minute period, Tanney was sacked twice by LB Daren Bates and was involved in a fumbled snap.
If he wants to finally crack the final 53, Tanney needs to quickly rebound from the miserable product he put on the field on Saturday.
2. Plenty of pressure.
It’s hard to know just how hard the offensive linemen were trying since it was just a scrimmage, and several plays were quickly blown dead when quarterbacks saw pressure since it was non-contact. Regardless, the Titans’ front seven consistently brought pressure, gave quarterbacks trouble, and kept a lid on the running game.
There were eight total sacks in the Titans’ scrimmage on Saturday. Jurrell Casey, Daren Bates, Jayon Brown, and Erik Walden were among those who got to the quarterback. Additionally, safety Curtis Riley made two nice stops in the running game, including a nice tackle of Derrick Henry during the live-tackling period.
At times in 2016, the Titans went through a few slumps in which the defense failed to bring successful pressure. Even Dick LeBeau, one of the most successful defensive coordinators of all time who specializes in exotic blitz packages, couldn’t get adequate pressure with his personnel. That needs to change if the Titans expect to live up to expectations.
3. Sloppy offense.
From the beginning of Saturday’s scrimmage until the very end, the Titans’ offense was unacceptably sloppy and, at times, embarrassingly disorganized. By the end of the night, the offense accounted for a total of eight penalties.
One was a procedural foul (illegal formation), one was an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Taylor Lewan, two were holding penalties, and a whopping FOUR of them were false starts. Murphy’s Law seemed to take over the offensive line specifically, as they committed pretty much every penalty imaginable.
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Training Camp is meant to be the time for working out kinks, so having a few pre-snap bumps in the road should be expected. Because there were so many kinks, however, it seems to be something that the Titans need to explicitly address. The 2017 Titans will go nowhere if they can’t even manage to snap the ball without losing yards.
4. Eric Decker continues to impress.
Wide receiver Eric Decker wasn’t your typical mid-June free agent acquisition. Usually, guys who sign at that point of the offseason are older veterans who get a chance because of an injury or because they decide to take less money than they initially wanted.
Unlike those players, Decker wasn’t left unsigned by a team following a contract expiry. Instead, he was released by the New York Jets as a part of their rebuilding project. He was healthy and the Jets knew he had plenty of fuel left in the tank, but they owed him a good chunk of money. So, by releasing Decker, they both saved money and freed up a spot on the depth chart for younger players.
Throughout Training Camp, Decker has been the most consistent and reliable weapon for Marcus Mariota and the Titans’ first-team offense. From the slot, he’s shown that he can use his size and veteran prowess to get open on hard-breaking routes and make the catch if the ball is anywhere near him. He’s also made plays in the red zone, catching a touchdown in the back of the end zone during Friday night’s practice at Centennial High School.
Sportswriters in middle Tennessee are surely running out of adjectives to describe Decker. He’s been called a bargain, reliable, explosive, sure-handed, strong, big, and just about every other modifier used to describe receivers. Decker certainly has been all of those things thus far in camp. Now, we see if he can continue to impress once real football begins in the preseason.