NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Here's a look at six things that stood out for the Titans in Saturday's preseason win over the Panthers:
Marcus Mariota's performance**
Each week, Mariota does something else to show he's on the right path in his return from last year's fractured fibula. In fact, the injury probably shouldn't even be a topic much longer. Mariota has proven during the first two weeks of the preseason he has few limitations, if any. Against the Panthers, he showed off his speed on the run, and he displayed accuracy throwing the football. So far, he's 8-of-11 for 76 yards, with a 72.7 completion percentage and a 121.8 passer rating. Not too shabby.
It's Flu season**
Fans who attended the first few weeks of training camp were probably impressed with running back David Fluellen. He looked good while getting extra reps with DeMarco Murray sidelined. Listeners to 104.5-FM's 3HL have likely heard Mickey Ryan rave about Fluellen in the past as well – he's been pumping Fluellen for a while now. Well, Fluellen opened some more eyes with his 76-yard, 1 TD performance against the Panthers, when he ripped off a 53-yard run. Fluellen has put himself in great position to win the No.3 RB job behind Murray and Derrick Henry.
It's no secret the Titans have more playmakers compared to previous years on offense, and that was on full display against the Panthers. Receivers Rishard Matthews (excused), Corey Davis (injury), and Eric Decker (injury) did not play against Carolina. On the first day of camp, those receivers lined up with the first group when the team went three-wide. But the Titans made plays anyway. Rookie Taywan Taylor (3-41) continues to impress, and Tre McBride (4-73) also made plays. One of the bright spots in this one came from rookie tight end Jonnu Smith, who caught five passes for 47 yards while showing some pretty nice moves along the way.
The coaching staff has been preaching creating turnovers, and the Titans did it against the Panthers. The Titans teamed up to create three turnovers. Safety Kevin Byard recovered a fumble caused by cornerback Logan Ryan. Linebacker Justin Staples picked off a pass tipped by linebacker Jayon Brown. And defensive lineman Jimmy Staten jumped on a ball knocked out by linebacker Aaron Wallace. The Titans want to create a feeding frenzy-like effort while going after the football this fall, and defenders were flying around against the Panthers.
Special teams improvement**
Adoree' Jackson's punt return for a touchdown didn't count because of a penalty, but it still made a lasting impression. Jackson's playmaking ability was on full display at Nissan Stadium, and it provided further proof he's going to be fun to watch this year. But other areas also stood out on special teams. Brynden Trawick, an early offseason acquisition, got down the field in a hurry to make a tackle on kick coverage. Da'Norris Searcy has been good on special teams in the preseason, and tight end Jace Amaro also made a pair of special teams stops against Carolina. Punter Brett Kern averaged 50.5 yards per punt, and Ryan Succop nailed a 50-yard field goal.
I mentioned Wallace previously while discussing the turnovers, but I thought he deserved his own category because of his play. Wallace, a seventh-round pick from UCLA in the 2016 draft, has been one of the team's best defenders in the first two weeks of the preseason. Wallace tallied three tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble against the Panthers. He recorded four tackles, a half-sack, and two tackles for loss in the first preseason game against the Jets. Wallace is making noise at just the right time for the Titans.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the preseason on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, AP)