The preseason is finally here for the Tennessee Titans. Former head coach Ken Whisenhunt returns to Nashville with the San Diego Chargers for a 7:00 pm kickoff at Nissan Stadium tonight.
And while preseason openers feature players that people don’t know or care about, there are some key names and familiar faces that Titans fans should keep an eye on tonight.
Matt Cassel – QB
The backup quarterback position burned the Titans the last two seasons, thanks in large part to Zach Mettenberger’s 0-10 record as a relief starter.
Backup qb Matt Cassel fared no better in Dallas last season, going 1-6 while filling in for Tony Romo. He was benched for the third-stringer late in the season.
With Marcus Mariota only playing a series or two at best tonight, it will be interesting to see how Cassel performs against the upper echelon of San Diego’s defense.
Did last season affect his confidence? Was it an anomaly…or an early sign that he’s done?
Third-string qb Alex Tanney will get plenty of work tonight, and will have plenty of chances to push Cassel throughout the preseason.
Tennessee will be hard pressed to keep three qbs on the final roster, so Cassel will need to make the most of his opportunities…starting tonight.
Tajae Sharpe – WR
Rookie fifth round pick Tajae Sharpe has been just that throughout mini-camp and the early part of training camp.
He’s already been touted by respected veteran receiver Andre Johnson as the best route runner on the team. He’s consistently standing out in practice, and he even returned kicks in Monday’s scrimmage.
Now his coaches and colleagues want to see him do that at game speed, and he will get his chance tonight. Keep an eye on Sharpe this preseason. If he lives up to the hype, then the Titans may have finally found their go-to guy on the outside.
Dorial Green-Beckham – WR
Titans fans need to keep their eye on second year receiver Dorial Green-Beckham as well, but for a different reason.
According to head coach Mike Mularkey, DGB is no further along this training camp than he was in last year’s. Even worse, Mularkey openly questioned his practice habits and work ethic.
Green-Beckham got better as the season progressed last year, and started showing signs of becoming a big play receiver late in the season.
He will need to pick up where he left off tonight, because there are new receivers on the roster…and they have been out playing him in practice.
David Cobb – RB
This time last year, rookie rb David Cobb was working his way back from injury, only to be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He didn’t make his NFL debut until November.
Today, he is essentially fighting for a roster spot after starting last year’s season finale.
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will get the lion’s share of the carries this season, leaving a critical spot open for third on the depth chart.
Cobb, along with Antonio Andrews and Bishop Sankey, are all vying for that spot.
I expect Cobb to get the first crack at it tonight, and I look for him to play with a chip on his shoulder. Antonio Andrews led the team in rushing last season, and will be hot on his trail.
Kevin Byard – S
Like Sharpe, rookie Kevin Byard is also turning heads and impressing coaches so far in training camp. Coach Mularkey recently praised this year’s third round pick for his confidence and maturity.
And like Sharpe, the Titans can’t wait to see what Byard does against game speed competition tonight.
Playing just 30 minutes up the road from his alma mater, MTSU, expect Byard to have a large cheering section tonight in Nashville. And expect him to want to make a play or two for them.