In the days and weeks leading up to the Tennessee Titans’ preseason opener, most of the questions surrounded the offense.
And rightly so.
Tennessee had the third worst offense last season in yards per game, and led the NFL in sacks allowed. The run game never got going, and the receivers were the least productive unit of any team in the league.
The defense avoided such scrutiny heading into camp, also rightly so.
The Titans’ defense finished 27th in total yards allowed in 2014, and improved to 12th last season. They return 10 starters from last year’s unit, and added quality depth to their secondary.
Not to mention Dick LeBeau being the lone voice of the unit this season, calling plays for the first time in Tennessee.
Things went according to script when camp started. The defense was clearly ahead of the offense in terms of execution, and dominated them in their annual scrimmage at Nissan Stadium ten days ago.
But when the opponent changed, so did the fortunes on both sides of the ball.
Tennessee was dominant on offense in their 27-10 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers last weekend.
The exotic smash mouth era got off to a rousing start in that game as the Titans rushed for over 280 yards as a team. The new-look offensive line allowed just one sack, and none to Marcus Mariota…who played virtually the entire first quarter.
DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry made their presence felt right away. Thunder and Thunder combined for over 160 yards on the ground and two touchdowns in limited work.
As for the starting defense….well….
Philip Rivers and the San Diego first team offense shredded through Tennessee’s starting defense for an easy 7 play, 75 yard touchdown drive.
The Titans got zero pressure up front, were pushed around in the run game, and gave up a critical third and long to keep the Charger’s scoring drive alive.
The starting defense looked out of sync, out of sorts, and out of whack. Had that been a regular season game then my money would have been on the team who had the ball last.
Now just days away from their Saturday afternoon preseason tilt with the Carolina Panthers, it seems that the roles have reversed.
This week it will be the defense that will be answering the questions. Rehashing what went wrong last week, and what they can do to fix it this week against a Carolina team that had the second best rushing attack in the league last season.
Meanwhile, on offense, there is only one question. Can you duplicate those efforts against a much tougher defense this week?
The offense answered the bell last week, and delivered an encouraging performance given the vast number of changes on that side of the ball this offseason.
This week it’s the starting defense’s turn.