Six Things Standing Out for Titans Heading into Vikings Game

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Three preseason games are in the books, and the preseason finale is scheduled for Thursday night at Nissan Stadium.

Here's a look at six things standing out as the Titans prepare to face the Minnesota Vikings:

Better health

The injury list from Saturday's game at Pittsburgh was a long one. I counted a half-dozen starters who didn't even make the trip. Well, things took a nice turn this week. Not only did tight end Delanie Walker and receiver Rishard Matthews return, but linebacker Brian Orakpo, cornerback Malcolm Butler and linebacker Rashaan Evans all returned in some fashion as well. Some of them, however, still have work to do in order to be ready for the season. And tackle Jack Conklin remains on PUP. But with 11 days remaining until the season opener at Miami, the Titans are at least beginning to look more like themselves again.

Accountability

The most talked about play from Saturday's game was an incomplete pass from quarterback Marcus Mariota to receiver Corey Davis. It was ugly, as the ball landed well short of a wide-open Davis. Both players blamed "miscommunication" for the failed connection, and ultimately coach Mike Vrabel put the blame squarely on him. In a preseason game, I consider it no harm, no foul. As long as things get corrected for the regular season, chalk it up as a learning experience. What I liked in the wake of the play was the accountability shown by the players. Believe me, I've covered some guys in the past who rarely uttered the words, "My bad."

Haven't we see enough?

Sure, it would be nice to see the first team units take the field against the Vikings, and end the preseason on a high note. But in the big picture, is it really worth the risk? While the first team offense looked shaky in Pittsburgh, scoring a touchdown in each of the first two games in brief appearances was encouraging. And the first team defense has held its own for the most part despite playing without a lot of starters. In my mind, what's most important now is getting – and staying – healthy for Week One. When the games really count.

Lots of cuts to be made

As of today, the Titans have 90 players on the team's roster, following the trade for linebacker Kamalei Correa. Vrabel said on Wednesday some roster spots are up for grabs heading into the preseason finale, so some tough decisions are on the horizon. All NFL teams must be down to 53 players by 3 p.m. on Saturday. For some of the back-ups contending for roster spots, staying healthy and available will be as important as making a final good impression.

Spillane and Firkser

Who doesn't love a good underdog story? Well, linebacker Robert Spillane and tight end Anthony Firkser both qualify. Both players initially made the offseason roster after earning spots following tryouts. Through three games, Spillane leads the Titans with 18 tackles (and he has an interception), while Firkser leads the team in catches (9), and he's second on the team in receiving yards (96). They've been fun to watch, and they've done their part to get noticed.

Matthews a big piece

I mentioned Matthews right out of the gate, but I'm circling back here. His return to the practice field came at a good time, and his presence changes the look of the receiving corps. Matthews is a savvy veteran who has built a nice rapport with Mariota over the past two years. He's a tough and steady receiver, and his return takes some of the pressure off the team's young receivers, from Corey Davis to Taywan Taylor to Tajae Sharpe. Sure, he'll have to work his way back into game shape, but he should be able to give the Titans some meaningful snaps in September, and that's big.

Haven't we see enough?

Sure, it would be nice to see the first team units take the field against the Vikings, and end the preseason on a high note. But in the big picture, is it really worth the risk? While the first team offense looked shaky in Pittsburgh, scoring a touchdown in each of the first two games in brief appearances was encouraging. And the first team defense has held its own for the most part despite playing without a lot of starters. In my mind, what's most important now is getting – and staying – healthy for Week One. When the games really count.

Lots of cuts to be made

As of today, the Titans have 90 players on the team's roster, following the trade for linebacker Kamalei Correa. Vrabel said on Wednesday some roster spots are up for grabs heading into the preseason finale, so some tough decisions are on the horizon. All NFL teams must be down to 53 players by 3 p.m. on Saturday. For some of the back-ups contending for roster spots, staying healthy and available will be as important as making a final good impression.

Spillane and Firkser

Who doesn't love a good underdog story? Well, linebacker Robert Spillane and tight end Anthony Firkser both qualify. Both players initially made the offseason roster after earning spots following tryouts. Through three games, Spillane leads the Titans with 18 tackles (and he has an interception), while Firkser leads the team in catches (9), and he's second on the team in receiving yards (96). They've been fun to watch, and they've done their part to get noticed.

Matthews a big piece

I mentioned Matthews right out of the gate, but I'm circling back here. His return to the practice field came at a good time, and his presence changes the look of the receiving corps. Matthews is a savvy veteran who has built a nice rapport with Mariota over the past two years. He's a tough and steady receiver, and his return takes some of the pressure off the team's young receivers, from Corey Davis to Taywan Taylor to Tajae Sharpe. Sure, he'll have to work his way back into game shape, but he should be able to give the Titans some meaningful snaps in September, and that's big.

The Tennessee Titans take the field for practice on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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