The Tennessee Titans kick off the 2013 preseason tonight at LP Field against the Washington Redskins. The game begins at 7 PM CT and will be on the air wherever the Titans and Redskins have local preseason affiliates. Non-local viewers will have to wait for the NFL Network's re-air on Sunday afternoon or subscribe to the NFL's Preseason Live service (or find some other way of watching).
Since it's the first preseason game, that the Titans are playing the Redskins instead of some other team doesn't matter that much. What the Titans will be doing tonight will be a function of what the Titans want to see and do much more than gameplanned responses to particular things the Redskins do. With a new offense and a modified defense, there will be scheme things of interest, but preseason is more about personnel.
Here are the things I'll be focusing my attention on as I watch tonight's game:
1. Chance Warmack. This is our first chance to watch every rookie, but it's an especially big deal for Warmack, who absolutely has to not just start but play well if the Titans are to have much of a shot at being who they want to be this season. As I noted in my look at the guards, he worries me a bit.
2. The center battle. I noted this in my centers look, but this is a three-way fight that right now is a two-way right. Fernando Velasco and Rob Turner both have an opportunity to both get ahead of the other and get a step up on Brian Schwenke, whom Dowell Loggains forcefully noted is still involved in the center battle notwithstanding his current hamstring injury.
3. Receivers making plays. There's a crowded depth chart here, with a lot going on. Kenny Britt's return to full health. The arrival of Justin Hunter. Players like Marc Mariani and Michael Preston battling for a roster spot.
4. The alignment of the defense. Jerry Gray's comments about running a 3-4 instead of a 4-3 raise an obvious question-just how will the Titans line up? Preseason will be vanilla and only minimally schemed for the opponent, but do the Titans really come out and line up with three defensive linemen and four linebackers when they're in base personnel? We will get our first chance to see. Also, how often do the corners actually play press?
5. The defensive line rotation. The Titans are carrying a passel of players with different strengths and weaknesses, like wide receiver too many to keep for the regular season. Who plays first, most, and best, and how do they line up? In last year's first preseason game, Shaun Smith was the seventh player to make an appearance at defensive tackle, a good sign he would be on his way out in the near future.
6. The cornerback battles. Jerry Gray indicated Alterraun Verner will get the start on the outside opposite Jason McCourty. Tommie Campbell should play after him. Coty Sensabaugh seems likely to start in the slot, moving to outside when McCourty goes to the bench. Are those the top four? Just how much and how well will Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Khalid Wooten play?
7. The rookies. I've hit on Warmack, Hunter, Wreh-Wilson, and Wooten. Zaviar Gooden is out. That leaves only Lavar Edwards and Daimion Stafford, but there are a whole bunch of other players who'll be taking their first NFL snaps and desperately need to impress the Titans (or some other team) to earn an NFL paycheck. Can any of them manage it?
8. The return battle. Who gets the opportunities, and how do they do? Preseason returns and coverage are pretty vanilla, but Darius Reynaud managed to look good given the same constraints last year.
9. No injuries. First, foremost, and most important.
I'll probably be yapping about the game on Twitter, so follow and chat with me there if you like. We'll have a recap up after the game, and in the coming days I'll have a more in-depth post or two looking at the things I highlighted in this post and whatever else stood out to me.