NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans face the Carolina Panthers in preseason game No.2 on Saturday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Marcus Mariota, Take 2**
The Titans quarterback got his feet wet – and on the move – against the Jets last week. I thought he answered a lot of questions in the process. He moved well, took a hit, and he threw the ball accurately on the move. Mariota will look to build on that performance this week against the Panthers, but complicating matters is the health of the team's receivers. Corey Davis remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Eric Decker won't play this week because of a sprained ankle. He'll look to build further chemistry with Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor and Harry Douglas in this one.
From the Captain Obvious Department: The Titans didn't protect the quarterback very well against the Jets. Mariota was sacked once, and Alex Tanney was sacked seven times. There were technique and communication issues between veterans and rookies, linemen and backs. Some guys just flat-out got beat. The Titans need to clean things up here against the Panthers, and stay on the same page moving forward.
DeMarco Murray didn't suit up in the preseason opener because of a hamstring injury, and I can't see him playing much against the Panthers, if he plays at all. On this day, other running backs will get a chance to shine, including Derrick Henry. Akeem Judd has flashed of late, but he's still trailing David Fluellen. Can Khalfani Muhammad make a move?
Pushing and shoving?**
OK, so the Titans and Panthers were on their best behavior this week. They practiced together two days without incident. Yes, there was some pushing and shoving after a few plays, but nothing boiled over to the point where anyone earned a scolding, or a fine. But surely these guys are sick of each other by now, right? They've butted heads in the heat, and the Panthers have been sleeping in hotel rooms on the road all week. It's supposed to be around 90 degrees on Saturday. Will the teams behave? It's worth keeping an eye on.
The preseason opener was pretty uneventful in this category. Eric Weems returned four punts for 15 yards, and the only two kickoffs for the Titans were touchbacks. Titans coach Mike Mularkey didn't reveal his plan for returners this week, but this is an area where jobs can be won. Adoree' Jackson has been electrifying in practices and a scrimmage, while Muhammad is a guy who'd love to prove his worth. This is an area still undecided. Will someone step up and help coaches with the decision?
The more I see rookie linebacker Jayon Brown, the more I like him. Brown performed well in the preseason opener, and he stood out again in practices against the Panthers this week. The fifth-round pick out of UCLA recorded an interception and a forced fumble against Carolina's offense, and coaches are throwing more and more on his plate. Brown is getting primed for the season, and his play is giving coaches plenty of reason to put him on the field as much as possible.
The Titans practice against the Carolina Panthers on Day 20 of the team's training camp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, Gary Glenn)