Tennessee Titans: Stock Up – Stock Down

Training camp is officially in the books for the Tennessee Titans, and now they prepare for their dress rehearsal preseason tilt with the Oakland Raiders Saturday night.

As we look back on this year’s camp, which included two preseason games, we’ll discuss where the team is trending up…and where their stock is falling.

Stock Up

Run Game

After finishing 25th in rushing last season, the Titans’ revamped ground attack is off to a good start in 2016.

Thunder (DeMarco Murray) and Thunder (Derrick Henry) are second and third in the league in preseason rushing yards…and they play on the same team.

Murray and Henry combined for 166 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago against San Diego, and averaged a respectable 4 yards per carry against the Panthers’ stout front seven last week.

The re-tooled offensive line is opening some holes, and Tennessee’s stable of backs are pressing through them. Let’s keep an eye on this trend going forward as tight end Craig Stevens, one of the Titans’ best run blockers, announced his retirement today after eight seasons with the team. Cornerback Jason McCourtey is now the longest-tenured Titan.

Tajae Sharpe

The rookie fifth round pick out of UMASS has been Tennessee’s number one wide receiver since he set foot in Nashville a few months ago.

Last year’s NCAA leader in receptions is having no problems adjusting to the speed of the professional game, and he is already penciled in as a starter for the regular season.

After two preseason games, Sharpe is the leading receiver for the Titans, hauling in 8 receptions for 103 yards. Two of which were critical third-and-long conversions. After Saturday’s game, quarterback Marcus Mariota said that Sharpe has made it easy to have chemistry with him.

No Huddle Offense

With all of the smash mouth football talk in Tennessee, the no huddle offense has actually been the most productive weapon for the Titans.

Both touchdowns scored by the starting offense this preseason have come out of the no huddle offense. Marcus Mariota earned a Heisman Trophy at Oregon by leading an up tempo no huddle attack, and looks extremely comfortable running it today.

Head coach Mike Mularkey hinted that you may see more no huddle from his offense, and not just in two-minute situations.

Stock Down  

Starting Defense

The most surprising development to come out of camp has been the play of the starting defense. In the preseason opener, Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ first team offense moved the ball with ease on their way to an opening drive touchdown

Last Saturday, Cam Newton followed his blueprint and led his first team offense on a 5 play, 93 yard touchdown on their opening drive.

Zero sacks and zero turnovers from the strength of the team, and that has to be a little alarming.

Yes, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is using a “vanilla” game plan, but by and large, so are the offenses they are playing. Everyone was…and is expecting a big year from this unit.

Exotic

Tennessee’s new “exotic” smash mouth football philosophy has been their leading story all training camp. The smash mouth part looks good, but the exotic part?

Not so much.

In the first preseason game, DeMarco Murray ran the ole’ Statue of Liberty play with little success. The Titans’ starting offense have also ran end-arounds with Tajae Sharpe and tight end Delanie Walker. Sharpe was stuffed for a huge loss and Walker eeked out six or seven yards.

My question is…why?

All three plays were slow-developing, and were recognized and snuffed out fairly quickly. I hope that Mularkey is not running gadget plays just to be “exotic”.

Maybe there is a rhyme to his reason, but I say shelf it for now.

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