Tennessee Titans: Risk vs rest – starters to play in Thursday’s finale

After a lackluster performance from the starting units Sunday, Tennessee Titans’ head coach Mike Mularkey stated today that everyone will play in Thursday’s preseason finale in Kansas City.

Regardless of how the Chiefs deploy their players.

Mularkey’s comments reignite the age-old debate…is it worth the risk to roll out the starters so close to the regular season opener? Even if they haven’t looked sharp?

In Mularkey’s defense, the starting units on both sides of the of the ball have played below expectations in two of the three preseason games.

The starting offense failed to score a touchdown in their 7-3 loss to the New York Jets in the preseason opener. The offensive line failed to get the run game going, and the unit as a whole gave up an eye-opening eight sacks in the game.

The defense allowed an opening drive touchdown to Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who previously had no real game-speed experience.

Sunday’s performance against the Bears was eerily similar from both sides. The starting offense failed to consistently move the ball the entire day, and didn’t score until the fourth quarter (against the Bears’ backups).

That in itself is enough to keep a head coach with playoff expectations up all night.

The defense gave up a 96 yard touchdown drive in their first series, allowing Chicago to convert several third down conversions in the process.

The Bears converted 50% of their third downs Sunday afternoon, an alarming statistic given the fact that their backup qb’s were just as successful as the starter.

However, when playing devil’s advocate, Mularkey’s move to play the starters Thursday night seems like an emotional knee-jerk reaction to a frustrating preseason so far. After all, the starters rested in last year’s preseason finale. Coincidentally, the Titans were one of the most efficient offenses in the league through three preseason games in 2016.

And let’s not ignore the Titan blue elephant in the room, the potential of exposing starters to injury in an otherwise meaningless game.

The Titans are already down their two of their top receivers in Corey Davis and Eric Decker, and both seem unlikely to suit up Thursday night. Starting running back DeMarco Murray saw his first action of the preseason Sunday afternoon after nursing a gimpy hamstring.

And we all saw Chicago’s top receiver go down with a season-ending injury in the first half of that game, as well as New England’s top receiver in Julian Edelman….who was lost for the season with a torn ACL last Friday.

Is it worth the risk for Mularkey to expose more players to injury just for the satisfaction of stringing together a successful drive or two, presumably against the Chiefs’ reserves?

This is a debate that will rage on all week, but there’s one thing every Titans fan can agree on…

They will all hold their collective breath until Marcus Mariota and company trade their helmets for ball caps Thursday night.

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