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Six Things to Watch in Titans vs. Packers

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GREEN Bay, Wisc. -- The Titans face the Green Bay Packers in the preseason opener on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

Here’s a look at six things to watch:

Mike Vrabel’s debut

We’ve seen new Titans coach Mike Vrabel in press conferences. We’ve seen him on the practice field. Here on Thursday, he’ll make his head coaching debut with the Titans. It’s been fun to watch Vrabel control practices, and communicate with his players. Now he’ll get a chance to run the show from the sideline after running out of the tunnel at historic Lambeau Field. How will he handle in-game situations? What will his plan be out of the gate? Will the Titans have a “clean operation” like he’s looking for? It’s one reason to watch.

Matt LaFleur calling the shots

Vrabel hired Matt LaFleur to be his offensive coordinator, and he’ll call his first game with the Titans vs. the Packers. LaFleur, formerly with the Los Angeles Rams, actually called his first game against Green Bay a year ago – in the fourth preseason game. Chances are LaFleur won’t give away too many secrets during the preseason. But the games will be a nice test on how quickly the plays are called, and what he might allow the first team offense to do.

Marcus Mariota/progress of offense

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota isn’t expected to play much in this one. He’ll be in a baseball cap most of the contest. When he’s out there, he’d like to get into a rhythm and build confidence with some of the team’s receivers. In practices, the offense has made progress over the past few months, but it’s clearly a work in progress. We’ll begin to get some hints on that progress against the Packers.

Harold Landry

First-round pick Rashaan Evans won’t play after being held out of recent practices. Neither will outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. Second-round pick Harold Landry, however, should be fun to watch at edge rusher, in his first NFL game. Landry has lined up with the first team unit in practices, working a lot against left tackle Taylor Lewan. It will be nice to see how he fares against the Packers in his NFL debut.

The "MMCNB" crew

The secondary has been top-notch in practices, recording interceptions while setting a tone with an aggressive style of play. It sounds like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers probably won’t play in this one, so the Titans will instead face backups Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer, and possibly fourth-stringer Tim Boyle. Will the “My Man Catches No Balls” crew wreak havoc from the get-go? I wouldn’t expect to see the front-liners on the field much, so backups will get the most chances.

The rookies

Speaking of back-ups, this will be a chance for some of the undrafted free agents to make a splash. I’m looking forward to seeing how receivers Deontay Burnett, Jordan Veasy and Devin Ross perform, along with running backs Akrum Wadley and Dalyn Dawkins. All have flashed in camp. Tight end Anthony Firkser is one to keep an eye on. Defensively, cornerback Rico Gafford has a chance to help himself if he continues to make plays. Quarterback Luke Falk had one of his best practices in camp last Friday at Centennial. How will he fare on Thursday night?

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