NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans continue their preseason schedule today by hosting the Arizona Cardinals at recently enhanced LP Field. Here are four things to watch in Tennessee's first home appearance of 2012.
TEST DRIVES: Titans coach Mike Munchak handed the keys to the offense to second-year QB Jake Locker this week. Tonight's game will offer coaches and fans the opportunity to see how the offense drives the football with Locker behind the wheel. Munchak said he thinks Locker will play 40 to 50 snaps, start and finish the first half and possibly play the first offensive possession of the third quarter.
Locker logged significant action in three games that Matt Hasselbeck left with injuries in 2011 and completed 34 of 66 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns. He added 56 rushing yards and a touchdown on eight attempts. Hasselbeck started the Titans' first preseason game at Seattle, and Locker made his first start at Tampa Bay last week.
With the Titans' first regular season game a little more than three weeks away, Munchak and offensive coordinator Chris Palmer want to see the offense establish rhythm that produces points.
CHALLENGE FOR DBS: Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said he expects Arizona QBs John Skelton and Kevin Kolb to approach most snaps as pure pocket passers with great weapons at receiver.
Led by Larry Fitzgerald, who has 693 catches for 9,615 yards and 73 touchdowns in 124 games, the Cardinals receiving corps also includes Early Doucet, Andre Roberts and first-round draft pick Michael Floyd.
This could be a tougher test for the Titans secondary than last week when the Buccaneers' longest pass completion gained eight yards and Tampa Bay finished the night with minus-1 passing yards after losing 39 on sacks.
TITANS PASS RUSHERS: Tennessee's defensive line and linebackers pressured Tampa Bay from the first play of the game last week, recording four sacks and forcing two turnovers. The Titans mostly utilized their front four to make Bucs QBs uncomfortable and had substantial success in winning one-on-one matchups.
Teams usually record more sacks when they play at home then on the road because they are helped by crowd noise. Tennessee is tied for fifth in the NFL with 270 sacks in home games since 1999, and the Titans have made a large commitment to improving last year's season sack totals.
NEW BEGINNINGS: In addition to the changes at the stadium that include some of the largest HD video screens in the world and Locker's first start, there will be many beginning moments for players in Titans uniforms at LP Field.
First-round draft pick Kendall Wright and the rest of the 2012 NFL Draft class will make their home debuts after two weeks on the road, and veteran free agent signees Steve Hutchinson and Kamerion Wimbley will hit the field in Titans blue for the first time. Hutchinson, a seven-time Pro Bowler, is expected to positively impact the offensive line, and Wimbley is expected to by dynamic on the defensive line.