Mariota and company disassemble Tampa Bay

Marcus Mariota looked like a seasoned veteran in his first NFL game, as he led the Titans to a convincing 42-14 win over the Buccaneers.

From the first drive of the game, the Titans and Mariota looked prepared for a better 2015 campaign. Mariota passed for 74 yards on his first drive as a pro, which was finished off with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright.

Image by "theSuperStar" courtesy of creativecommons.org.
Image by “theSuperStar” courtesy of creativecommons.org.

The No. 2 overall pick looked comfortable under center, which was encouraging to see because the offense he mastered at Oregon had him operating mostly out of the shotgun. By halftime, Mariota tied the record for the most touchdown passes in an NFL debut with four.

The Titans quickly jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and led 35-7 at halftime. Tennessee’s 35 first-half points are the most points the Titans have scored in a single game in over a year.

While Mariota shined in his first game, the same could not be said for the No. 1 overall pick, Jameis Winston. On his first pass attempt, Winston threw an interception to Coty Sensabaugh, who returned it for a touchdown.

Mariota was pulled in the third quarter to rest. He finished 13-of-16 for 209 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Titans to their first victory since Oct. 12, 2014. Winston played the whole game and finished 16-of-33 for 210 yards and passed for two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Mariota’s favorite target was Wright, who caught four balls for 101 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Delanie Walker also had three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Austin Seferian-Jenkins led Tampa Bay with five receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

Bishop Sankey led the rushing attack for the Titans. He had 74 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. He also scored once through the air. Tampa Bay struggled to get anything going on the ground, recording only 92 rushing yards.

The Titans travel to Cleveland to face the Browns next week, who lost 31-10 to the Jets today.

Edited by Cody McClure

 

Tennessee Titans vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview

It is difficult to envision a matchup between two 2-14 teams from a year ago being so anticipated. However, with the Tennessee Titans season opener on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that is exactly the scenario.

The headline

The reason this game is garnering so much attention is because of the rookie quarterbacks. Tampa Bay and Tennessee had the top two picks in the latest NFL draft, and with those picks they selected quarterbacks. The Buccaneers selected Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, while the Titans grabbed Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. While both quarterbacks are more focused on facing the opposing defenses, the intrigue in this game purely rests on how both quarterbacks perform.

Photo Courtesy of Casey Fleser
Photo Courtesy of Casey Fleser

Keys to victory for Tennessee

The key to the game does not rest on Mariota’s shoulders, rather, it rests on the Titans’ ability to put Mariota in comfortable situations. After a preseason that saw Mariota complete 70 percent of his passes, the Titans will now see how their rookie quarterback will adjust to regular season speed. Luckily for the Titans, Mariota’s ability to run will help him avoid possible pass rushes. But in terms of passing plays, the Titans may call plays that reduce Mariota’s chances of making rookie mistakes.

As for the defense, applying pressure on Winston is crucial. With Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as reliable targets, if Winston has any time in the pocket, he has the arm and the football IQ to get the ball in the places it needs to be. Luckily for the Titans, the Buccaneers’ offensive line has been suspect and struggled heavily throughout the preseason.

Players to watch

The obvious choice is Mariota, with many experts and fans claiming him to be a definitive franchise quarterback. While much should not be made of a single game, especially his first career start, Mariota’s arrival has brought a considerable level of excitement to the franchise.

The combination of Bishop Sankey and rookie David Cobb in the backfield will also be a fascinating development to keep an eye on. The Titans are high on Cobb, but he and Sankey both had their moments of prominence during the preseason, as well as their struggles. Sankey’s elusiveness and Cobb’s power present versatility at the position the team has not had since Chris Johnson and LenDale White were in the Titans’ backfield.

The impact of Brian Orakpo and Perish Cox on the defensive side of the ball will also be key. Both players hope to help improve a defense that finished No. 27 in yards allowed and No. 29 in points allowed last season.

Most significant match-up

Seeing the Titans’ defensive line against the Buccaneers’ offensive line will be a treat for fans. Last season, the Titans were No. 31 in the NFL against the run. If Doug Martin can remain healthy for the Buccaneers, he presents a litany of issues. The Titans will have to control the line to prevent Martin from taking over the game, and as mentioned before, they have to put pressure on Winston. Even though the Buccaneers were 2-14 last season, they have the offensive talent of a playoff team.

Prediction

The Buccaneers have significant issues on their offensive line, meaning Orakpo could potentially spend much of the day bothering Winston. Mariota will be solid and safe against last year’s No. 28 ranked pass defense. He won’t take a lot of downfield shots, but he will deliver short and accurate passes. Tampa Bay also finished last season with an 0-8 home record. The Buccaneers do have the weapons to put up a ton of points against a shaky Titans defense, but for the first week of the season, both teams are at their early stages of development. The Titans, at least for now, appear to be further along. For these reasons, Tennessee wins 24-14.

Edited by Cody McClure

Titans acquire Terrance West in trade with Browns

The Tennessee Titans have acquired former Browns running back Terrance West for a conditional seventh-round 2016 pick.

West is a former third-round pick who averaged almost four yards per carry his rookie year last season. He rushed for 113 yards on 31 carries this preseason and showed qualities of a productive back, but was stuck sharing carries with Isaiah Crowell as well as Duke Johnson.

He has been fairly inconsistent on the field, though, and has some growing up to do off the field. But the Titans were able to acquire him for virtually nothing, giving him a chance to finally get his career on track. The Titans decided to make this move after they placed rookie David Cobb on short-term injured reserve. Since Cobb will miss at least eight games, West will get plenty of action if starting back Bishop Sankey struggles or gets hurt.

Takeaways from Titans second preseason game

Tennessee took care of the St. Louis Rams Sunday night in Nashville, recording their first win of the 2015 preseason. Offensive skill positions and a valiant defensive effort stood out in the Titans’ 27-14 victory.

Mariota, other quarterbacks shine in Nissan Stadium debut

From the first offensive play of the game, the Titans’ quarterbacks seemed in complete control of the offense. After what some would call a subpar debut, Marcus Mariota impressed in his first home game and showcased what he can do as a quarterback in the NFL. His first throw was a confident strike to Kendall Wright for 16 yards. Later, he was flushed out of the pocket and patiently waited for things to develop downfield where he found tight end Craig Stevens for a gain of 35 yards. The play looked almost Steve McNair-esque in that it was a great throw down the field while on the run, something that Mariota appears to already have a handle on. In three series, he finished 5-8 for 59 yards. Zach Mettenberger had another impressive performance behind center. He completed his first six throws and finished with 91 yards. Included was an impressive touchdown strike to tight end Chase Coffman, who split two Rams defenders en route to the back of the end zone. Charlie Whitehurst completed his only attempt for 12 yards and Alex Tanney went 7-9 for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Starting defensive line dominated trenches, stopped the run

Jurrell Casey, Al Woods and newcomer Brian Orakpo were flying to the ball in their limited number of plays Sunday night. The Rams’ top two running backs, Isaiah Pead and Tre Mason, had a combined six carries for 17 yards and could get nothing going with the ball against Tennessee’s defensive front. The defense as a whole was reading and reacting better than they had all of last season, which had to have been a great sight for fans and a morale boost for the team.

Running back battle far from over

Head coach Ken Whisenhunt shuffled some of the offensive linemen Sunday night and it appeared to help the running backs. Starter Bishop Sankey was feeling the heat after the Titans’ first preseason game last week in Atlanta, where he rushed for only 15 yards on eight carries. Rookie David Cobb amassed 53 yards on 11 carries. But Sankey came out with energy on his first attempt against the Rams, opening up the defense for 18 yards. He finished with 45 yards on six carries. Cobb ran eight times for 26 yards and Antonio Andrews contributed another 24 on the ground. Sankey will likely start the regular season, but that doesn’t mean Andrews and Cobb will not get carries. The trio has shown positive signs in training camp as well as in the two preseason games. Whisenhunt will take advantage of his personnel by giving the defenses he faces different looks in the backfield.

Featured image courtesy of creativecommons.org

Edited by Cody McClure