NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Here's a look at six things that stood out from the Titans preseason opener against the Jets:
I was at practice the day Marcus Mariota rolled out on a scooter last December, a sweatshirt hoodie over his head, his right leg in a cast and along for the ride. He'd just had surgery. And I've seen his progress on the field along the way, starting with the first day of OTAs in May. Like a lot of observers, I critiqued his every move while coming back from the fibula injury. Mariota's performance on Saturday night was the most encouraging to date. He moved well, ran with speed, threw the ball on the run, and he took a sack and bounced right up. It was a good sign.
Something I hadn't seen in a while: Titans quarterbacks getting sacks with great regularity. Remember, the team allowed just 28 all of last season. But it wasn't a pretty sight against the Jets. Mariota was sacked once, and then Alex Tanney took a beating. I was busy writing stories during portions of the second half and it seemed like every time I looked up Tanney was getting sacked. Some veterans – linemen and backs – played a role. The offensive linemen – and their coach – take a lot of pride in keeping quarterbacks clean. They're not happy about giving up eight sacks.
Logan Ryan's debut**
There's no getting around it: Logan Ryan's first game in a Titans uniform wasn't what he or anyone else had in mind. Ryan struggled out of the gate, including a deep ball that set up a score. I've been surprised with some of the feedback on Twitter, however, from some folks already writing him off. Ryan was hard on himself after the game, giving himself an "F" for his Tennessee debut. Keep in mind this guy was good enough to start 27 games for the Patriots over the past two seasons, and he was a part of a few wins. Yes, Ryan got beat badly on a deep ball. But it came on the first drive of the first preseason game. It's early.
Kevin Byard's aggressiveness
In an effort to get better, the former MTSU safety spent a good chunk of his offseason watching some of the best safeties in the game. Heading into Year 2, he believes it made him a better player. In run defense, Byard was impressive from the get-go against the Jets. He was in the backfield for two stops, without hesitation. I'm expecting Byard to create turnovers on the back end this fall, but in Week 1 of the preseason his aggressiveness in run defense stood out most to me.
Jayon Brown shines**
I'm sure you heard a lot about Brown leading up to the preseason opener, based on coaches raving about his speed and smarts from practices. Well, it was on display at MetLife Stadium, and it was encouraging. Brown was quick to the ball while making a number of tackles, and he used good tackling technique when he got there. The rookie is going to play a lot in the defense this season, and he's going to help on special teams as well. Other young guys like linebacker Aaron Wallace and defensive back Kalan Reed got my attention as well.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey is a no-nonsense guy. While he's good to his players, very aware of the rigors of the job and training camp, he also expects things to be done the right way. Mularkey wasn't happy with the overall performance against the Jets, and he let his players know about it after the game, and had plans to remind them again today. I've seen plenty of coaches quickly dismiss poor preseason performances, writing them off to back-ups playing most the game or the fact there was no game-planning. Mularkey called Saturday a "wake-up call." He doesn't want the team's mindset to slip. The mood should fuel some pretty intense practices against the Panthers this week.
The Tennessee Titans take on the New York Jets in the preseason opener for both teams on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 at MetLife Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, AP)