NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With half of the Titans' preseason schedule in the books, only a week remains until NFL rosters must be trimmed from 90 to 75 players by 3 p.m., CT on Tuesday, Aug. 26.
For the Titans, one of the most notable off-season battles has been at wide receiver, a position that features veteran Nate Washington and young stars in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. Beyond the third spot, however, the position has been up for grabs throughout OTAs and training camp.
Michael Preston and Marc Mariani are two incumbents, but veterans Derek Hagan and Brian Robiskie have also had their moments during camp. That doesn't include Julian Horton, Jaz Reynolds, Rico Richardson, Derel Walker and Isaiah Williams, all of whom hope to be in the mix.
Getting playing time for all 12 Titans wide-outs is a challenging task for head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who will be looking at each player's entire body of work, including practices and the limited game action some players have received.
Beyond Justin Hunter's five receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns, the Titans have seen balanced receiving numbers spread across several players through two preseason games.
The weather didn't do the group any favors in the preseason opener – a game that saw a downpour of rain virtually nullify the passing game. That makes each practice rep even more valuable to players trying to survive the first round of roster cuts next Tuesday.
"I did mention that in the meeting today," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. "I said, 'A week from today, we're going to be looking at making some cuts.' I said, 'What you have to understand as a player is recognize what your role's going to be, and you have to be really good at your role, and if you're that, you're going to get other opportunities.' A lot of these guys are going to get a chance to make this team on special teams, so hopefully that message will sink in."
Players like Mariani and Preston have been in this situation before. Both know it's about doing their job to the best of their ability without pressing too much.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself anyways so it's never easy," said Preston. "I've come through it before, so it doesn't hurt to have that to fall back on. I'm very confident when I go out in these games."
Mariani said he won't allow the competition come to the forefront of his mind.
"I've been through it before," Mariani said. "If you let the competition get to you, then it's trouble. I just control what I can control and that's me going out and working hard on the practice field and on game day. I think everything will fall into place after that."
Both players might be known commodities to Titans fans, but Whisenhunt and his staff are seeing them for the first time this season. There are benefits of a clean slate, but also a downside to having a resume they aren't as familiar with.
Titans Online looks back at the career of WR/KR Marc Mariani. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
"You have to show something and be productive every game and every practice and that's what I try to do," said Preston. "I'm hoping to make it a big one and keep moving forward from there."
A point of emphasis in camp is to keep players competing without allowing anyone to get comfortable. At a position as crowded as wide receiver, Preston says the group has done a great job of not letting the competition get ahead of their roles as teammates.
"We look out for each other," said Preston. "We're a close-knit group, but we understand that this is a business at the end of the day. We all want to compete and help each other out, but we understand what's coming down the road ahead."
"This is a great room," Mariani stated. "I love coming to work every day with these guys. There's a lot of talent and a lot of playmakers in that wide receivers room. It's going to be a tight crunch when the numbers come out, but the competition in camp is breeding all positives and everyone is pushing each other and getting better individually."