NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans wrap up the preseason tonight against the Vikings at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at five things to watch, beginning with quarterback Marcus Mariota…
It's been so far, mostly good for Mariota through three preseason games. On Thursday, the rookie quarterback is expected to get his fourth preseason start against the Vikings, but don't get to the game late -- he won't be in there long. After starting slow last week against the Chiefs, the Titans would like to finish the preseason on a positive note on both sides of the football. Look for Mariota to play maybe a series against the Vikings before the starters give way to back-ups.
The Titans want to see even more from an offensive line that's featured Byron Bell at left guard and rookie Jeremiah Poutasi at right tackle the previous two weeks. Another opportunity will come against the Vikings, and another solid showing by the current five-some could help solidify the starting offensive line for the regular season opener at Tampa Bay on September 13. The Titans need to make some tough decisions on back-ups as well, so this game provides the final chance to make an impression.
In the words of coach Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans receiver took a step back in last week's game against the Chiefs. Hunter was targeted on four occasions, and didn't catch a pass. Of course some of the throws looked like uncatchable balls. Nonetheless, Hunter needs to build confidence heading into the regular season. After missing practices on Monday and Tuesday, will he be sharp – and rebound – on Thursday?
The events of Friday night in Kansas City -- when the Titans fell behind 17-0 -- hardly sent anyone into panic mode. Still, the Titans' first-team unit would like to get a turnover or force the Vikings into punting before an early exit. The final preseason game also offers a player like linebacker Zach Brown an opportunity to clean things up before the start of the regular season. Brown missed two tackles early against the Chiefs, and he was stewing earlier in the week.
The Titans have limited the snaps for veteran outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan during the preseason, so don't be surprised if neither plays against the Vikings. The Titans need to take a long look at some of the outside linebackers behind them to find out exactly what they have at the position. It's a big game for players like Jonathan Massaquoi, Deiontrez Mount and Andy Studebaker, among others.