There was certainly a mix of good and bad for the Tennessee Titans as they fell in the 2013 Preseason opener 22-21 to the Washington Redskins.
The good included the look of the rebuilt offensive line as Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene found their way to the end zone on long touchdown runs. Also good was the first look at the Titans returning to traditional tough, power football with a touch of ‘mean’—missing last season.
The bad included the reoccurrence of indecision from Jake Locker, sacked twice early in the game. Also bad was the lack of consistency on defense and the soft pass coverage prevalent in the game.
It was only the first Preseason game. Numbers mean very little but attitude means a lot. The way you do things is center stage, and the tone you set for ‘when the games do count’ is very important. Overall, the Titans did just okay in those areas—and the game was not successful because they did lose. As we were told beforehand, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III did not play, but he did put on quite a show in warm-ups before the game. Griffin, still recovering from the ACL injury suffered in the playoffs, was seen running, flexing, turning and throwing strikes. RG III is expected to be ready, and healthy, for the regular season.
This season is critical for Titans QB Jake Locker. Truly the fortunes of this team ride on him. With the signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick to back him up, and the vocal nature of the Titans shift back to power, it is clear the coaching staff does not exactly have supreme confidence in #10. Locker must improve his accuracy, his decision-making, his leadership—and he must see the game at its proper speed.
In the Preseason opener, Locker took every meaningful snap in the first half. Helped by the running game, Locker completed 7-of-11 for 58 yards, a mediocre rating of 77.1. There was nothing in this performance to ease the anxiety of the coaches or the fans for the season ahead. With improvement, perhaps big improvement at most every other position, Locker must improve if Tennessee has any chance at the Postseason this season.
As for the game: After a Kirk Cousins three-yard pass to Fred Davis put Washington up 7-0, Chris Johnson burst through, put a signature move on, then sprinted 58 yards to even the game at 7-7. Late in the first quarter, Shonn Greene added a 19-yard score of his own to give Tennessee a 14-7 advantage. Johnson and Greene combined for 92 yards on seven carries, encouraging with the Titans plan to feature them.
Rusty Smith was the sharpest of the quarterbacks. He threw a nine-yard TD to Quinn Johnson capping a 94-yard drive to put the Titans ahead 21-14 with 7:48 remaining. Washington then went 80 yards in 12 plays led by former West Virginia QB Pat White, converting a two-point conversion with 2:23 left, for the winning margin.
The Preseason continues for the Titans with a trip to Cincinnati on Aug. 17 before facing Atlanta back at LP Field, on Aug. 24.