Time to open another Titans mailbag. Thanks again for all the questions…
Name:Roy Jones from Nashville, TN
Question: Jameis Winston and the Bucs got kudos over Marcus Mariota and the Titans from Around the NFL for allowing their rookie quarterback to get more practice during the preseason. Will Mariota get the chance to play two quarters versus the Rams?
Jim: Hey Roy. The Titans planned on playing Mariota roughly 20 snaps against the Falcons, so they hit their number. Against the Rams, I can't guarantee he'll play longer. I think it will probably depend on how the game is going early, and whether or not the Rams are aggressive on defense with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The last thing the Titans want to do is have Mariota take a bunch of hits. In preseason openers of the past, the Titans have used their starters for only 10-12 plays before pulling them, so they feel good about what Mariota was able to get done in the opener. His most extensive action will come in Week 3 of the preseason at Kansas City. The starting offense will likely play into the third quarter at Arrowhead Stadium.
Name: Braulio Cardenas from Saltillo, Coahuila, México
Question: I'm fan of the Titans since 1973, when there were still the Houston Oilers. The offensive line is vital to protect Mariota and to open holes for the runners. Do you see improvement? And do you tag them as playoff class?
Jim: Thanks for the question, Braulio. The first-team unit is very much a work in progress. Left tackle Taylor Lewan has a chance to be an elite player, and he performed well in the opener. Guard Chance Warmack was solid as well. But the team is still experimenting with different players at left guard and right tackle, and how that plays out remains to be seen. Byron Bell worked at guard and Jamon Meredith worked at tackle on Monday. Against the Falcons, the second-team offensive line played better than the first team group, but keep in mind the first-team group was going against Atlanta's first-line D. If the starting group the team eventually decides on can stay healthy, it should be an improvement over last year. But I'm not ready to call them playoff class at this point.
Name: Jacoby Covington from Reno, Nevada
Question: Hey Jim. I hope all is well. I have a question regarding the receiving corps. Since we drafted Kendall Wright, I have always imagined him being best utilized in the slot for the majority of the formations. I know last year, he was used in the slot in several formations. Do you think with the depth that we have this year, Kendall will be placed predominantly in the slot?
Jim: Wright has looked really good this preseason. What makes him so dangerous is he can line up all over the field. The Titans will look to get Wright in favorable matchups. While he'll see a lot of time in the slot, some others can work there, too. And when the Titans are in the base offense with two receivers, Wright will be on the outside, of course.
Name: Wallace Taylor from Antioch, Tennessee
Question: *Have the Titans decided what color their home jersey will be this year? Dark or light blue? What jersey will they be wearing for each home game? *
Jim: The primary home jerseys will be the dark blue ones the team wore during the 1999 season, and during the glory days in Nashville. The light blues have been faded out. But look for the Titans to wear white against Indianapolis (Sept. 27) and Buffalo (Oct.11) early in the season so they can put the visitors in dark on a potentially warm day. That line of thinking works both ways, of course – expect the Titans to be decked out in the navy blue uniforms in the season opener at Tampa Bay.
Name: Ty Wurth from Newton, NC
Question: Which undrafted free agent(s) have impressed you the most throughout camp, and which ones could you see making the final roster?
Jim: Several guys have stood out. Linebackers Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil and J.R. Tavai both played well before their injuries, and the team will have a tough decision to make on whether they can afford to keep them on the 53-man roster out of camp. Guard Josue Matias has been impressive, along with cornerback Cody Riggs, who has a solid chance of sticking. I like the looks of receiver Andrew Turzilli, who made a nice catch that was called back on Friday, but the Titans have numbers at the receiver position.
Name: Jon Kerlikowske from Franklin, TN
Question: Is Dexter McCluster a luxury the Titans can afford? Bishop Sankey and Jalston Fowler catch the ball well out of the backfield. McCluster is too small for pass protection so when he is in it will either be a draw or pass dump off that defenses are aware of. We have a better than average group of receivers so he is not needed there. Last year he was underwhelming on returns and there would appear to be many alternatives in camp. How about we turn the page and trade him for a draft pick?* *
Jim: Hey Jon. Don't bet on that happening. The Titans plan to use McCluster as their punt returner, and with his touchdown run on Friday night he showed he can be a weapon with his speed. Barring an injury, McCluster's going to be on the roster.
Name: Julie Crenshaw from Newport Beach, Ca
Question: Hi Jim. Who calls the plays for the offense? Coach Whis or OC coordinator?
Jim: Whisenhunt calls the plays for the offense on Sundays, but OC Jason Michael is very involved in the plan each week.
Name: Terry McCoy from Hendersonville, TN
Question: Coach Whisenhunt has said that Marcus Mariota will be the starter at QB no matter what.* If you're trying to field the best team, wouldn't you want competition at every spot? **Does this hurt the morale of the team when they know that the best players don't necessarily play? *
**Jim: I personally liked the way the Titans approached things this offseason. After picking Mariota in the draft, they immediately named him the starter and began taking the steps to get him ready for the season. Players who might've been skeptical about Mariota or perhaps felt loyalty to Zach Mettenberger after last season have since gotten on board with Mariota. Do some quietly wish Mettenberger had gotten more of a chance to be the starter? They'll never say it now. But Mariota's been the best quarterback in practices, and the Titans need to give him as many reps as possible in practices.
Name: Adam Close from Charleston, SC
Question: Jim, Obviously this is not something that we can hang our hat on yet, but is it possible that hitting rock bottom (2-14) could turn out to be the best thing that has happened to this team in many, many years?* Squeezing out 7, 8 or 9 wins with a bad team usually leads to a draft pick around 10 and we all know the chances of drafting an elite player falls considerably after the top 5. **In other words, if Mariota pans out, could we be looking back at 2014, as painful as it was, as the turning point for this franchise? *
Jim: Hey Adam. I agree. And even before the draft, I know a lot of others in the organization felt the same way. Of course everyone was sickened by the 2-14 finish a year ago. It was a brutal season no one enjoyed. But looking back, squeezing out some late-season wins to finish 4-12 would've cost the Titans a chance at Mariota. If all goes well, he'll help turn things around and cause folks to forget about the miserable 2014 season before too long.
Name:Bill Bohall from Portland, Tn.
Question: Haven't heard much about Andy Gallik. With Schwenke injury last year, concerned about that position. Was hoping we would find help there besides Velasco. Your thoughts of looking elsewhere at cut down time…
Jim: Gallik played just one snap in the preseason opener. The Titans plan to give him more opportunities moving forward. Brian Schwenke is locked in at the starter at center, but the team is certainly keeping its options open behind him.* *
Name: Brian Moore from Soper, OK
Question: Running away from Jurrell Casey seemed to be the way to go last year. Is defensive lineman Angelo Blackson playing DE looked at as the cure there? He's awfully wide for a DE.
Jim: DaQuan Jones is the guy who should make the Titans sturdier opposite Casey. He's big, and should make a difference in the run game. The team named him the starter instead of Ropati Pitoitua earlier in the offseason. As for Blackson, he'll make a difference as well. He's big and athletic, and has had a good camp.