The Tennessee Titans play their second game of the 2013 preseason tonight in Cincinnati against the Bengals. The game kicks off shortly after 6 PM CT and will be on the air wherever the Titans and Bengals have local preseason affiliates. Non-local fans like yours truly will have to wait for NFL Network's re-air on Sunday night/Monday morning or subscribe to the NFL's Preseason Live service (or find some other way of watching).
As with the first game, this second preseason contest will be much more about who the Titans want to be and what the Titans want to do than any specific stratagems that are designed to be successful against the Bengals specifically. The Titans may do and show a little more against the Bengals than they did against the Redskins, but only the third preseason game is something like a dress rehearsal for a regular season game.
Here are the things I'll be focusing my attention on as I watch tonight's game.
1. Does Jake Locker throw the ball downfield? By including this, I think it makes it unanimous among people who post regularly about the Titans. Locker in particular dinked and dunked his way through basically his entire stint against the Redskins. I speculated, and Dowell Loggains at his weekly media session confirmed, Locker's numerous short passes were largely the result of the defense played by the Redskins. As Paul Kuharsky noted, the Titans will want to throw the ball downfield. I want to see them do it, since an effective deep passing game is a good complement to the sort of run-based offense they want to run. Will they do it against the Bengals?
2. How does the offensive line fare against a big, deep, and talented Bengals defensive line? Geno Atkins may be the headline name, but Domata Peko, Robert Geathers, Brandon Thompson, and Devon Still all look like players, Wallace Gilberry is at least a solid rotational guy, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer isn't the only person who's compared second-round pick Margus Hunt to J.J. Watt, at least physically. At least in Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap the Bengals will be missing their two top ends. This is an interesting and difficult challenge for the Titans' offensive line, both on the ground and protecting the passer.
3. Kendall Wright. Should be starting in his second season. Will he be more than a backup to Nate Washington? Washington's been a valuable player for the Titans the past two seasons, but I've seen Nate Washington. If Wright's not starting over him, something's wrong with him.
4. The defensive line mix. There are still too many parts here, few enough of them good, that the Titans can line up plenty of ways. They very well may not line up particularly like the way they did against the Redskins, particularly in terms of which players play first. With the Bengals likely playing their starters a half instead of two series like Washington did, we should get some good 1v1's matchups and action.
5. Tommie Campbell and Coty Sensabaugh. If he plays soft man like he did against the Redskins, why should the Titans keep him around? I know, he said afterward he had a groin injury and he tried to battle through it, but perfect health is a chimera in the NFL. As I just wrote in the cornerbacks positional analysis, I still want to see if Sensabaugh can involve himself in the battle to start opposite Jason McCourty.
6. The surprises. Between the shaping of the roster and special teams, there's a job out there for a borderline roster player to earn a job with a couple impressive performances. This is audition under the lights number two for that chance.
7. No injuries. First, foremost, and most important.
I'll 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 an in-depth post or two looking at the things I highlighted in this post and what else stood out to me in the game.