The Titans enter week three of the preseason with a 0-2 record, but there have been some good flashes for the team. The first team offense has produced two touchdowns in just three games. These both came from quarterback Marcus Mariota, one in the first game and one last Saturday. The first team defense hasn’t looked bad as well, but the subs on both sides have struggled mightily. The backup offense has only put up 17 points total after the starters were removed from the game. While the first team has produced 14 in only three drives. The second and third teams on defense have given up a total of 51 points after the majority of starters exited the game. The depth will have to look better in game three because it also seems the injury bug continues to bite the Titans.
Injuries for Tennessee
Besides the two players on the PUP list, wide receiver Rishard Matthews and tackle Jack Conklin, it has been the defensive side that has been battered by injuries. The secondary that was expected to be so deep has taken a few hits. Backup corners Tye Smith and Kalan Reed both hit the IR, leaving the team with only four truly viable options. Starting corner Malcolm Butler has also been missing from practice.
The position group that has been affected the most by injuries, however, is the linebackers. Three of the four assumed starters have not been practicing at least for the past week. Rookie inside linebacker Rashaan Evans is suffering from an undisclosed injury but looks to be close to returning. Outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan have both been out and it is unknown whether they’ll be ready Week 1. This will lead to a lot of opportunities for rookie standout Harold Landry as the number one pass rusher.
Dress Rehearsal Game
The third preseason game is often referred to as the dress rehearsal game. The starters should get an extended amount of time, possibly the entire first half. This will allow the first team offense to work for more than one or two drives. Also giving a better example of how Matt LaFleur will use Marcus Mariota and other weapons.
The defense will get a large test in the Steelers’ high powered offense. Pittsburgh put up 40 points on the Titans last November on Thursday Night Football. The unit may be depleted, but Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees will be looking to contain Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Offensive Player to Watch: WR Corey Davis
The 2017 fifth overall pick has not been used all that often this preseason despite impressing in camp. With the first team offense getting more opportunities in the third game, expect Davis to get a lot of looks. He is looking to explode this season and become a true number one wide receiver. That should start Saturday afternoon. Mariota and Davis have developed good timing in training camp. Fellow second-year wide receiver Taywan Taylor had a big game last week, Davis should be next against the Steelers.
Defensive Player to Watch: CB Adoree Jackson
On the other side of the ball, the player to watch is the Titans other first-round pick in 2017. Jackson had a great rookie season and looks ready to become a star in 2018. He will be tested on Saturday night. With Malcolm Butler most likely not playing, Jackson will be expected to make an impact against a good Steelers receiving corps. Look for Jackson to get early reps against Antonio Brown while he is in the game. He gave up a touchdown to him last year when the teams met. However, Jackson will be looking to prove he can cover elite wide receiver talent like Brown on Saturday. Brown’s injury status is still up in the air, but Smith-Schuster and rookie James Washington also present a good test.
The Titans were embarrassed last time they stepped onto Heinz Field last November. Although it is just a preseason game, the team will be looking to prove they can match up with perennial AFC contenders like Pittsburgh. Especially Marcus Mariota who threw four interceptions in that game. This is the closest we will get to Titans football in the preseason, then just two more weeks until the opener in Miami.