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Titans-Packers Game Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Posted Aug 9, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Football returns to LP Field tonight as the Tennessee Titans open the preseason at home against the Green Bay Packers at 7 p.m., CT.   

Among the storylines – Ken Whisenhunt making his Titans head coaching debut at LP Field. Whisenhunt’s proven success and first few months on the job have drawn praise from Titans players and fans alike as he looks to turn the franchise back into a consistent playoff contender.

Tonight begins the next chapter for Whisenhunt , who gets his first chance to evaluate his players in game action.

”There’s no question, I’m going to be excited about it,” said Whisenhunt, who has 17 seasons of NFL coaching experience, including six years (2007-12) as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. “This is a new situation for me. I’m really excited about it. Our guys are working hard. The fans have been fantastic when I’ve been out and seeing people. I know it’s a preseason game, and it will probably be a little bit different four weeks from now when we play the regular season, but it’s fun. We’ve got so many questions that we have to get through the process of trying to answer before we pick our 53, and this is the first step. Naturally, you’re going to be excited.”

Whisenhunt said Thursday no decisions had been made in terms of playing time across the board. Those decisions, he said, could be fluid based on how the game is going.  The head coach stressed tonight’s game will be more about improving as a team since little time has been spent prepping for the Packers.

Playing against another team will give the coaching staff a better opportunity to learn about the personnel on their roster and give the players needed reps as they reacquaint themselves with the game at full speed.

5 Things to Watch:

With a 90-man roster, this list could be longer, but here are five things worth paying attention to tonight:

1. First look at Bishop Sankey

The Titans made Sankey the first running back off the board with the 54th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The rookie ball carrier has had some catching up to do after missing the early portion of OTA’s while finishing classes at the University of Washington, but has shown flashes of what he is capable of. Whisenhunt has continued to say that Sankey is the proper fit for the team’s offense and figures to be an important piece to the expected running back by committee. Saturday night will be his first taste of NFL action and first chance for Titans fans to see what he is capable of in this league.

2. Crowded competition at Wide Receiver

Beyond Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, the remaining roster spots at wide receiver are up for grabs. Michael Preston and Marc Mariani have been with the organization, but veterans Derek Hagan and Brian Robiskie have been impact players thus far in training camp. Isaiah Williams, Derel Walker, Jaz Reynolds, Julian Horton and Rico Richardson will also look to stand out in this crowded position that could prove to be one of the most difficult roster spots to claim

3. The kicking battle continues

“I haven’t seen enough of either of those guys yet to say that I’m impressed or displeased with them. It’s still a process with them. We haven’t decided how we’re going to do it yet. Nate (Kaczor) and I haven’t even talked about it yet, and I know that (Steve) Hoffman will have some input on it as well.”

That’s what Whisenhunt had to say Thursday when asked about his two kickers. Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons have both had their moments, but Whisenhunt has said all along that game situations will likely separate either player in the competition.

4. New 3-4 Defense

Tonight gives defensive coordinator Ray Horton the first chance to evaluate his players in his hybrid 3-4 defense in live game action. How players like Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan adjust to their new roles as hybrid linebackers/defensive ends will be interesting to watch.  Also keep an eye on linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Shaun Phillips as new, veteran members to Tennessee’s defense.

5. A Healthy Jake Locker

Tonight marks Jake Locker’s first return to game action since suffering a season-ending foot injury against the Jaguars at home in November. Locker led the Titans to a 3-1 start before being injured in Week 4 against the Jets. At the time of being played on injured reserve, he ranked sixth in the AFC with a 86.7 passer rating, third in the AFC (eighth in the NFL) with a 105.9 passer rating in the fourth quarter and second in the AFC (fourth in the NFL) with a 103.7 passer rating on third down. Now fully healed, Locker has looked sharp in training camp and is looking forward to picking up where he left off last season.

Where to watch:

Fans not able to make it to LP Field can watch the game locally on WRKN, Channel 2 in Nashville. WKRN sports director Cory Curtis and former Titans running back Eddie George will handle the broadcast with Audra Martin reporting from the sideline. “Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith will be joined by former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck and game day host Rhett Bryan on the Titans Radio Network and Nashville flagship 104.5 the Zone.

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