Buck Reising, Tennessee Titans reporter and host of Tackling Music City, provides five observations from the team’s second preseason game of 2018.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Through two preseason games, the Tennessee Titans (0-2) starting offense has looked promising and the depth, as a whole, has looked suspect. Such is the nature of these exhibitions. But, with Tennessee falling to the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-14 Saturday night at Nissan Stadium, here is what stood out:
- Starting Offense’s Night
- Quarterback Marcus Mariota’s night was about as solid as one could ask for in limited action. Through two series of work in the first quarter, Mariota completed four of his seven passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. The score came on second and nine from the Tampa Bay 47 yard line. Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur dialed up a bubble screen pass for wide receiver Taywan Taylor, who took it for six points. Nick Williams threw an exceptional block to take corners Marko Meyers and Brent Grimes both out of the play and spring his teammate free.
- Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe were the team’s starting wideouts when the offense came out in base and Jonnu Smith started for an inactive Delanie Walker at tight end. Walker left practice on Thursday with an apparent injury. The Titans starters generated 89 total yards of offense in 12 plays through the two sets and Taylor’s touchdown. The passing game carried the load with running backs Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry and Mariota combining for only nine yards on five carries between them.
- In Davis’s first action of the preseason, his lone target came on the Titans first possession. Mariota heaved a pass up to a streaking Davis down the field but missed him by a substantial margin. Mariota did not step into the throw but the severity of the miss implied miscommunication between quarterback and receiver.
- “I’ve got to give (Davis) a better shot,” Mariota said of the incompletion. “They showed kind of a look that they were going to bring pressure. Really was kind of a one-on-one match-up. I’ve just got to give him a shot. “
- Taylor caught two touchdown passes on the evening: the initial one from Mariota and a three-yard grab from back-up Blaine Gabbert early in the third quarter. The second-year player worked into the second half with the reserves and finished with four catches and 95 yards in addition to the two scores.
- “When you throw those routes at the line of scrimmage that go for 47 yards, there is a lot of extra-effort blocks that go into that,” coach Mike Vrabel said of Taylor’s first touchdown. “I know that (right guard) Josh Kline was out there for straining. You know, we talked about straining for your teammates and I know that he was doing that along with some other guys. Because there’s a lot of bodies in there that have to be blocked for Taywan to get on the safety and outrun him. Certainly, it was good to see Taywan be able to outrun the guy but, I think to get him to that point, there’s a lot of extra-effort blocks that go along.”
- Taylor received reps with the starting unit in the preseason opener at Green Bay but ran with the reserves primarily this week in practice. After a slower start to his offseason this spring, the Western Kentucky product appears to be gaining the trust of his coaching staff and confidence in LaFleur’s system. His skill set will provide a much-needed boost to a unit presently devoid of proven play-makers if he can continue to improve his awareness and execution.
- Jaboo Wins
- Bucs signal-caller Jameis Winston did not get the start for his team against the Titans but put on quite a show. With a looming four-game suspension to begin the 2018 regular season, back-up Ryan Fitzpatrick led the first team offense for Tampa Bay.
- Winston played the entire second quarter for his team and racked up yards through the air against Tennessee’s secondary depth, passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-18 passing in three offensive series.
- “He did a nice job,” Vrabel said of Winston. “We weren’t able to tackle him when we had a chance to get him in the backfield and that’s something that, this is what the quarterbacks in this league are like. We have to be able to take advantage of the opportunities when he throws us one into a crossing route, you know, there’s a guy sitting there. We have to be able to make the plays when they are presented to us and, you know, then we have to coach better. It was a good opportunity for a lot of those guys to play against an NFL starting quarterback and, really, their first unit. Gives us a chance to evaluate some of those guys that are fighting for (roster) spots.”