The offensive line, sans David Stewart, played its best game in years, I thought. Mike Otto filled in for Stewart at RT. The stats credit the Titans with 198 yards rushing, and there's no telling how many more they could have gained with Chris Johnson.
In his game preview, Tom identified the interior line as one area he wanted to see improvement in. They did improve, and more, I thought. I was particularly encouraged by the one-yard TD run up the middle. Last year, any play up the middle would more than likely have been stuffed. Even more likely was the probability of Mike Heimerdinger calling an off-tackle play, a run outside or even a pass play. I loved seeing Chris Palmer call the play to punch it in and watching Leroy Harris and Eugene Amano open a wide hole.
Tom also included good showings by Jamie Harper and Stafon Johnson on his wishlist. Harper, getting the start with CJ's absence and Javon Ringer's injury, responded with 83 yards and the TD on just 11 carries. Several things Harper did impressed me. Early in the game, he made a great cutback, which I made a note of. Later, he made another. Harper has made good cutbacks several times in training camp and now exhibited that ability in a game situation.
Another thing that impressed me was his harder running. I get the feeling someone said something to him after he ducked out of bounds a la Franco Harris last week instead of putting his head down and trying to pick up a first down.
Finally, Harper displayed his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Again, he's done that in camp but it's more meaningful to see it in a game situation.
I am unsure why Stafon Johnson was the third RB last night, since he's been right behind Harper on the camp depth chart. The only reason I can think of why Herb Donaldson was the #2 back last night, is because he's from St. Louis. Maybe Mike Munchak threw him that as a bone. FWIW, Johnson gained 68 yards on 11 carries and Donaldson had 31 on 10.
A few other notes:
- The halftime score was 16-7, as the Titans starters outplayed the Rams starters.
- Both of the Titans starting lines controlled the line of scrimmage.
- Michael Griffin appeared to be the guilty party on the busted coverage which yielded an 83-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage.
- Red zone efficiency was not good, with more FGs than TDs.
- I hope to see the screen pass utilized more often this year than it has been in previous seasons. So far, it's on track, and that will be great when CJ returns.
- We also saw a reverse and a bubble screen to Marc Mariani. As I've been reporting in my updates from camp, the Titans have been practicing both of these on a regular basis, so they should both be occasional features this year along with the screens.
- Ditto with the blitz from the slot by Finnegan.
- Jake Locker made a rookie mistake with his interception. Not a good moment but hopefully he gets a lot of these mistakes out of the way during the preseason.
- If not for Jared Cook, the receivers would have looked awful.
- Panel Egboh made some good plays but I still have him facing tough odds to make the roster.
- There wasn't much of a pass rush last night and this could become an area of concern. Jason Jones was injured early, and Derrick Morgan didn't get a lot of snaps. Without them, I don't know where the pass rush is going to come from when rushing only four men.
- The second o-line was shuffled a little, necessitated in part by Kevin Matthews' injury. For a while, it was Stingily, McQuistan, Velasco, Durand and Terry, left to right. Durand also got some time at RT. It's going to be one heck of a battle as these six guys, plus Otto and Troy Kropog, will compete for either four or five roster spots.
- There were too many injuries for comfort but hopefully none of them are serious. The biggest concerns are Hasselbeck and Jones.