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Saturday Takeaways: Titans 24 at Saints 31

Posted Aug 16, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite the 31-24 loss to the Saints, The Titans left New Orleans with plenty of new information on their team. There were aspects of the game to feel positive about, and undoubtedly others that will be a focus going forward.

J.A.M (Just.Another.Monster)

After misrunning a route against the Packers, Justin Hunter adorned a jersey this week at practice reading “JAG” – translating to “Just Another Guy.” The receiver was anything but ordinary Friday night against the Saints. The game served as a complete showcase of his potential.

His four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns in just two quarters were impressive, but the numbers don’t truly depict Hunter’s impressive performance. On his first touchdown – a four-yard fade route in the corner of the end zone – Hunter went over the cornerback to make the catch, but also had the wherewithal to keep both feet in bounds as he came to the ground.

The Titans worked tirelessly on fade routes this past week. Time and time again Hunter would rise over Blidi-Wreh Wilson and Coty Sensabaugh, among others. I imagine those guys took pleasure in watching Hunter give similar treatment to another team’s defense.

Hunter might have outdone his first touchdown with the second-quarter encore – a 64-yard score on a Zach Mettenberger pass. Fourty-five of those yards came after the catch when he ran away from Saints defenders with his elite speed.

I’m not saying this means Hunter is going to become Calvin Johnson over night, but there’s no questioning that it was nice to see him show proof that the offseason hype is warranted. There simply aren’t many receivers in the NFL with the skillset to put on the display that Hunter showed us against the Saints.

Locker’s Efficiency

Friday night was our first real glimpse of the return of Jake Locker. A waterlogged game against the Packers hardly counts as true game tape for the Titans QB. His performance against the Saints continued his positive trend in camp.

Locker orchestrated just two drives under center – two drives that consumed 11:32 of game time and resulted in 10 points on the scoreboard. 8/11 for 75 yards, one touchdown, and zero turnovers is promising sign of things to come.

Avoiding the Yellow Laundry

There were flags a plenty on Friday night – 32 total accepted penalties and even more that were declined. The Saints were the culprits more often than not, accounting for 22 of those flags, but 10 Titans penalties showed the team still has plenty of adjusting to do for the league’s new points of emphasis.

Injury Bug Strikes

Last week it was Chris Spencer and Colin McCarthy. This week featured another host of Titans injuries. Charlie Whitehurst (hand), Shonn Greene (knee), and Michael Oher (arm) all left Friday’s contest and did not return. Whisenhunt didn’t seem concerned postgame that any were serious, but the Titans will learn more going into next week.

Review of the 5 Things to Watch

1. Dry Under the Dome

As mentioned above, Jake Locker and the first team offense scored on both of its drives. Tennessee’s offense posted 412 total yards (324 passing, 88 rushing), 14 players caught passes, and the team averaged 4.2 yards per carry – solid numbers and plenty to build.

2. The Kicking Continues

Travis Coons – 1/1 FG (50), 2/2 PAT, 1 KO (TB) – (Also made a 45 yard field goal that was called back due to penalty)

Maikon Bonani – 1/1 PAT, 2 KO (TB, TB)

3. Returners Get Their Shot

Marc Mariani – 3 Kick Returns (30 yard average and a long of 32), 1 punt return for 6 yards

Antonio Andrews – 2 Kick Returns (25.5 yard average and a long of 32)

Khalid Wooten – 1 Kick Return for 24 yards

Until Leon Washington and Dexter McCluster join the mix, these numbers won’t tell much. Regardless, it was a nice showing for Mariani after the weather dampened his opportunities against the Packers.

4. Setting the Tone Defensively

The defense didn’t set the tone, allowing a touchdown again on the games opening possession, but they did respond again getting two stops on the Saints’ ensuing drives.

One number that the team can feel very good about is allowing a mere 2.9 yards per carry on the night.

5. Rookie Encores

Titans rookies once again left their mark on the game. Mettenberger played two-plus quarters, completing 20-of-25 passes for 269 yards and two scores. Running back Bishop Sankey didn’t see as much action as he did a week ago, but still ran for 31 yards on six carries (5.17 avg.).

The downside, the two rookies combined for three turnovers between them.

Rookie linebacker Avery Williamson also made an impact, stuffing Saints running back Derrick Strozier on a fourth down play to give the Titans the ball back.

Quote of the Night

“Yeah, I don’t think he has to worry about that anymore on his jersey, but I think we have to keep it in locker so he’ll remember. Justin did a nice job. We all understand what he can be. We need to see that consistently and it was nice to see that tonight.”

– Ken Whisenhunt  on Justin Hunters performance and the “Just Another Guy” jersey he wore during practice last week

The talk of Hunter’s abilities is a broken record that doesn’t get old. It was fun to see him take center stage Friday night.

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