NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has played three series with the first team offense so far in the preseason, and the group has produced two touchdowns.
Mariota played two series against the Buccaneers, completing 4-of-7 passes for 80 yards and one touchdown with a passer rating of 136.9. His touchdown pass was a 47-yard screen pass that receiver Taywan Taylor took to the house.
Mariota's two-game preseason totals include six completions, 122 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 142.5 passer rating on 10 passing attempts.
At his press conference on Sunday, Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the offense didn't get off to the start it wanted against Tampa Bay, but it closed well. It was one of a number of hot topics discussed the day after Saturday's 30-14 loss to the Buccaneers.
"It kind sputtered a little bit, and then we came back," Vrabel said. "Marcus was able to put some plays together, get us lined up, and obviously those explosive plays whether it be Taywan or Dion (Lewis) go a long way. So it was good to see that."
Vrabel singled out good blocks by receiver Nick Williams and guard Josh Kline on Taylor's touchdown.
Some of the other topics discussed on Sunday...
Defense vs Jameis Winston
Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston entered the contest in the second quarter on Saturday, and ended up putting up some big numbers.
Winston completed 13-of-18 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns working against Titans reserves.
On Sunday, Vrabel wasn't making any excuses.
"We didn't cover good enough, we didn't rush good enough, we didn't coach how to rush good enough, we didn't coach how to cover good enough," Vrabel said. "That's how it goes.
"… You saw a couple of play extensions where (Winston) was able to keep the play alive, get a touchdown, or is able to take advantage of an isolation coverage over the top, and they hit a big play. We just need to limit the big plays and penalties which leads to usually scoring opportunities for the offense."
Vrabel complimented for rookie edge rusher Harold Landry, who forced a holding penalty on a rush.
Praise for Jayon Brown
Titans second-year linebacker Jayon Brown played 46 snaps against the Buccaneers, and he was productive.
Brown recorded a team-high seven tackles, and he also had a sack. He also knocked a ball down in coverage.
"I think that Jayon continues to improve," Vrabel said.
Vrabel said there are some things that need to be corrected in the run game, but he said Brown "is active and he has a skill set which allows him to run."
Dion Lewis value
Running back Dion Lewis made an impact on Saturday night, catching two passes for 26 yards.
It was quick work, but he showed why the Titans signed him in free agency.
"That's a matchup we have to take advantage of, and the other team is trying to take advantage of us, too," Vrabel said. "We have to have a guy who can cover that guy and also tackle them when they run it.
"There's a niche for guys like that, defensively and offensively."
Lowering the helmet rule
The Titans were flagged a few more times under the NFL's "lowering the head to initiate contact" rule, including a hit by safety Kenny Vaccaro. Williams was penalized on special teams.
Vrabel said the Titans will continue to practice scenarios where a flag could be thrown. Vrabel said he's not sure Williams even made contact.
"We'll turn these into (the NFL), and they'll explain to us, and we'll show them to the team, show them to the players," Vrabel said. "We'll keep coaching, keep stressing it, and hopefully it doesn't lead to injuries or cost us yards."
Playing time vs Steelers?
The Titans face the Steelers in preseason game No.3 on Saturday.
In Week One, the starters played just a series against the Packers, and the group played two series against the Buccaneers.
Vrabel didn't offer up any hints on what playing time might look like for the starters vs. Pittsburgh.
"I would anticipate the guys that are healthy to be ready to play, and we'll see how long they end up playing as the week goes on," Vrabel said. "The ones that aren't ready, hopefully they're working hard to get back and be available as soon as they can.
"We'll make a decision … on how much they play, how little they play, whether they travel, or whether they don't. Hopefully we can get everybody back and then have the opportunity to make those decisions."
Spain holding it down
Vrabel he's enjoyed getting to know Titans left guard Quinton Spain, and pushing him to improve.
Spain has started 27 games over the past two seasons, and he's been holding his own in camp while looking for ways to improve, Vrabel said.
"Q has been out there every day, and he's working," Vrabel said. "We are pleased with where he's at right now."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 of the 2018 preseason on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)