NASHVILLE -- The Titans face the New England Patriots on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium.
Here’s a look at six things to watch:
By now, we all know what happened in the preseason opener in Philadelphia. Marcus Mariota played one series, and he completed just 4-of-8 passes for 24 yards. Then, quarterback Ryan Tannehill came off the bench and threw for 130 yards and two TDs with the 2s, and some folks started talking about a QB controversy. Well, coach Mike Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson have been clear from Day 1 the starting job belongs to Mariota. In preseason game No.2, Mariota should get a little more playing time – and another chance to prepare for Week One of the regular season. But I still wouldn't expect to see No. 8 long -- Mariota played just two series in last year's second preseason game.
Delanie Debut, and A.J. Too?
Titans tight end Delanie Walker hasn’t played in a football game since breaking his ankle in the season opener at Miami last September. After sitting out last week’s preseason opener vs. the Eagles, Walker said he expects to play on Saturday night against the Patriots. Coming off a solid practice against New England on Thursday, Walker’s return should make a lot of Titans fans feel a lot better heading into the season. Another guy who could make his debut after returning to practice this week: Receiver A.J. Brown, the team's second-round pick.
The Titans and Patriots were on their best behavior in Wednesday's joint practice. In fact, I didn’t notice any pushing and shoving after plays. But things got a little feistier on Thursday. On several plays, there was a little extra talking and jostling after the whistle, and it eventually led to a skirmish that was quickly broken up by Vrabel and Robinson. I suspect cooler heads will prevail in Saturday’s preseason game, but after a few days of banging heads this week, some personal battles could get a little extra juicy under the lights.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady probably won’t play much, if at all, in this one after getting some good work this week in practices against the Titans, so we’ll probably see a lot of back-up quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham. The Titans defensive backs played well against the Eagles, but a bigger test will come in this one. The Patriots made some big plays against the Titans late in Thursday's practice, so they’ll be looking to clamp down on Saturday night.
Taywan Taylor Bounce Back
In preseason game No.2 last year, Titans receiver Taywan Taylor took a screen pass from Mariota and sprinted 47 yards for a touchdown. Even LeBron James gave Taylor a shout-out for his speed on social media. Well, Taylor is coming off a tought night in Philadelphia, when he was guilty of a pair of drops and some bad footwork technique on the sideline. Taylor responded with a good week of practice, and he’ll look to change the conversation on Saturday night.
The game will eventually turn into a showdown of back-ups, and the Titans have plenty of guys who would love to continue building momentum, including No.3 quarterback Logan Woodside. Receiver Cody Hollister has turned into a contender – he had a TD catch last week in Philadelphia – and defensive players like defensive tackle Isaiah Mack, safety Amani Hooker, cornerback Kareem Orr and safety JoJo Tillery would love to put together another nice outing vs. the Patriots. Same goes for receiver Kalif Raymond, who had a big night in Philadelphia. The spotlight will be back on at Nissan Stadium.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the New England Patriots. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)