The Titans are back in preseason action tonight as they host the Buccaneers at Nissan Stadium following a couple joint practices during the week. As always, the primary objective is to get out of the game with no major injuries, but here are a few other storylines to keep an eye on during the game.
The preseason debut of Corey Davis
Corey Davis seems to be on track to take the field in a preseason game for the first time tonight. We don’t know how long Davis and the other starters will play, but even seeing him work with Marcus Mariota for a drive or two would be a very positive step. The Titans need their 2017 first round pick to play like the star they drafted him to be this year. With Rishard Matthews’ status still up in the air and Eric Decker dropping balls in New England, the Titans are putting a lot of eggs in the Corey Davis basket.
The good news is that Davis has looked like one of the best players on the field during training camp. He still has moments of inconsistency, but he’s also making a ton of plays and has turned in some truly unbelievable catches while working against a very good group of cornerbacks. The Titans offense targets him frequently in the passing game in practices and I would expect that to be the case tonight as well. Davis turning in a strong performance and helping the first team offense click like it did in Green Bay would be a great first step for the second year wide receiver.
Taylor Lewan vs Jason Pierre-Paul
During the Titans-Bucs joint practices this week, Pierre-Paul got the best of Lewan in a couple reps, including one that the Bucs’ Twitter account put out from a one-on-one pass rush drill.
Pierre-Paul then scoffed at Paul Kuharsky when he asked him about competing against Lewan, acting like he dominated the Titans left tackle. JPP is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL so there is no shame in getting beat by him on a couple reps, but knowing Lewan’s personality I wouldn’t be surprised to see 77 come out with an extra large chip on his shoulder when he lines up against Pierre-Paul tonight. This should be a fun battle to watch.
Wide receiver rotation
We know that Corey Davis will likely get the start at one wide receiver position, but I’ll be interested to see who is taking the first team reps opposite him. That had been Taywan Taylor’s role for the majority of the offseason, but Tajae Sharpe has reportedly gotten some reps there this week as well. I would still expect to see Taylor open the first drive with the starters, but it’s possible that Sharpe gets a reward for a strong week of practices.
In the slot, I would still expect to see Nick Williams working as the top option inside with Michael Campanaro continuing to deal with whatever injury is holding him out of practice, but it will be interesting to see if Deontay Burnett gets any run earlier in the game. Burnett continues to make plays in practice and looked pretty good with limited opportunities in Green Bay, but he’ll need to show more to truly get in the mix for a 53-man roster spot.
The other guy I want to see more of is Devin Ross. He’s another undrafted receiver that has shown some promise in camp and had a nice catch and run on a WR screen against the Packers. I think he’s most likely competing for a practice squad spot rather than a 53-man roster spot right now, but he’s been good in camp.
Will last week’s stars shine again?
The way to earn a role — or a roster spot — during training camp and preseason is to bring it every time out. It’s not enough to just flash once and then coast. Coaches want to see consistency and for bottom of the roster players, they want to see if they can do it against better competition.
That will likely be the test for the stars of the Titans first preseason game. Players like Harold Landry, Sharif Finch, Corey Levin, LeShaun Sims, and Jayon Brown will be looking to stack another strong performance as they make a case for a bigger role. Landry, Sims, and Brown are all going to make this roster, but could earn more playing time. The stakes are higher for guys like Levin and Finch who are fighting for roster spots.
Jackson has been one of the stars of training camp and he may have had his biggest day during Thursday’s practice against the Bucs. He recorded three interceptions during that practice, including this pass in the endzone that he tipped to himself and then celebrated with a casual flip.
The flip is cool, but the coverage here is fantastic as he mirrors DeSean Jackson’s route and makes it look easy. I get that his first preseason game wasn’t great. He gave up a couple catches and missed a tackle during the Packers opening drive, but I really think Jackson is going to have a Byard-esque breakout campaign this year. We saw him start coming on late last season and he’s picked up where he left off this year. Keep an eye on 25 tonight.