Preseason football is here, baby. The Tennessee Titans are back in action Saturday night in New York, against the New York Jets. The Jets are expected to be one of the league’s worst teams in 2017, especially offensively. Dick LeBeau and the defense should get a nice confidence boost facing Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Chrisitan Hackenberg.
With the season nearly here — and frankly less question marks on the roster than ever — here are five things I’m looking for the Titans to accomplish on Saturday night.
Get Henry acclimated on passing downs
Derrick Henry may very well be ready to assume the role of a workhorse type back in the NFL. But with DeMarco Murray in the fold, he’s going to have to wait his turn. Henry will continue his role as the number two option in the Titans backfield this season, but what happens if Murray gets hurt this season? Can Henry handle passing down work?
It’s something we’ve seen in limited form (13 receptions, 32 pass protection attempts per PFF) from him in his one season as a pro. Let’s change that. If it were up to me, I’d have Henry work quite a bit in the first quarter or so as a passing down back. After all, the Titans don’t have much in terms of insurance behind Henry. I’d have him ready to handle anything this year.
Speaking of that...
Who is the RB3?
I took some heat for saying the Titans needed a running back after the draft, but the simple fact is that two is not enough in the NFL. Sure, Khalfani Muhammad is there along with David Fluellen (and now Brandon Ratcliff), but are either of those guys capable of being the guy if an injury comes about to Henry or Murray? I guess we’re about to start finding out. I could see Jon Robinson hitting the waiver wire for a back if he isn’t satisfied. The options are less than proven and I’m not sure a few preseason games can change that.
So far it seems pretty clear that LeShaun Sims and Logan Ryan are two of your starters. But Brice McCain and Adoree Jackson are right behind, battling for nickel work. I’d guess we see plenty of Ryan in the slot as well. You definitely want Jackson winning the battle for the third cornerback, but I’d guess all four are going to play in 2017. I’m interested to see the early rotation and where everyone fits initially.
Show us something, Dodd
Kevin Dodd was selected with the 33rd overall pick in 2016, but lost most of his rookie season due to a nagging foot injury. All reports say he’s hungry to prove his worth in camp this year, however. Veteran Erik Walden was signed to add depth to a unit that badly needed it last year. I’m interested to see how they work in Walden and Dodd into their sub packages. You can never have too many pass rushers, so getting a healthy, productive Dodd would be a huge win for Dick LeBeau and Mike Mularkey.
Get Marcus Mariota outta there
Marcus Mariota is going to play, but for how long? Entering his third season, he hardly needs the reps. I’m guessing the team will allow him to go shake the rust off in a game environment, but not too much more. And that’s how it should be. I’d give Mariota a series and get him out. There’s nothing to be gained out there for No. 8.