The first taste of live football for Titans' fans will come this Friday night at the Georgia Dome against the Atlanta Falcons. There are tons of new faces on the roster who will get their first action as Titans, but none come in with more expectations and fanfare than that of Marcus Mariota. He will be the main attraction on Friday night, but he isn't the only player worth keeping an eye on. Here are the main three things I'll be watching for.
Mariota vs. Dan Quinn
Marcus Mariota will hit the field in two tone blue for the first time, facing what should be an improved Falcons' defense. Mariota will get thrown into NFL action facing the man responsible for the Seattle Seahawks' championship caliber defensive schemes, Dan Quinn. This won't be the same Atlanta defense that gave up the most total yards last season.
Mariota, in my opinion, will face the best rookie pass rusher in the league in Vic Beasley. Quinn will most likely use Beasley like he used Bruce Irvin, lining him up all over the field and looking for favorable match-ups. This will be a great test for Mariota -- we'll see how he handles pressure and whether or not he can diagnose it pre-snap. Quinn is sure to throw multiple fronts and looks at Mariota.
Right Tackle Battle
Byron Bell returned to practice this weekend after sustaining a jaw injury early in camp. Jeremiah Poutasi filled in for Bell, taking reps with the first team offense. Whisenhunt noted that Poutasi "had his moments" during his first experience with the first team.
Whisenhunt told TitansOnline's Jim Wyatt, "He needs reps; he is young. Just understanding the techniques (is important). You can watch the 1 on 1s and see how athletic he is, and the thing that you like about him is he has an anchor. So when guys try to bull (rush) him he can set it down."
Bell figures to be the leader in the clubhouse for the job simply because of his experience, but a couple of strong preseason starts from Poutasi could change things quickly.
Running Back Snaps
The running back situation has been a widely discussed topic since David Cobb was selected in the fifth round earlier this year. Now it's time to see how it shakes out. I'm betting that Sankey gets most of the work with the first team, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The real question is what happens behind him.
Antonio Andrews appears to at least have somewhat of a lead over David Cobb for now, but that could change fairly easily once Cobb gets more comfortable with pass protection. Cobb and Andrews may be similar in stature, but they have differing styles as runners. Andrews is more north-south, while Cobb has better feet and is more lateral. If you're looking for one guy to emerge, I don't think you're going to find one. Each guy appears set to get opportunities.
Don't forget that Dexter McCluster has some say in this too. I don't think he will steal too many carries, but he's going to be a decent space player that could help out in the short passing game which should offer him a nice amount of snaps.