By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Titans truly hope that preseason play means nothing, because they ended it 0-4 following their final 13-3 lackluster loss to Minnesota at Nissan Stadium August 30. Fortunately every game from this point counts, and the Titans announced the 53-man roster last Friday with a couple of surprises, both in terms of those who made it, and those who didn’t.
The Titans won’t go with three quarterbacks, an unstated assumption that their offensive line will be able to prevent another injury to starter Marcus Mariota. Blaine Gabbert didn’t overwhelm anyone during the preseason, but he gives them a veteran backup and someone the team feels can also be valuable as another set of eyes seeing defenses unfold during the season.
David Fluellen made the team as a third running back with some strong performances, and the Titans are only carrying three. Derrick Henry will start, and Dion Lewis will get lots of time, both as a runner and receiver. One of the surprises came in the wide receiver corps, where Nick Williams was NOT among the six who made the team. For Tennessee to take the next big step and really contend for a Super Bowl, there needs to be big improvement at that position, with Corey Davis number one on that list. Jake Conklin also was activated among the nine offensive linemen, a pleasant surprise, as some thought he might not return from injury till October.
Defensively, more big things are expected of Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones. In addition, there’s hope new linebacker additions Harold Landry and Rashard Evans are going to have immediate impact this season, rather than down the line. Malcolm Butler didn’t have a particularly good preseason, but he’s expected to be the Titans’ top corner this season. They also look for improvement from Adoree Jackson and LeShaun Sims, with Logan Ryan the other starter at corner. If Kenny Vaccaro proves as good as advertised, his joining All-Pro free safety Kevin Byard makes Tennessee as good as any NFL team at that position. The same is true if kicker Ryan Succop and punter Brett Kern repeat their performances from last season.
Now that everyone’s thoroughly disenchanted with preseason football, the real thing begins Sept. 9 at Miami.