NASHVILLE -- The Titans face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Ryan Tannehill as the Starter
In case you haven't heard, Ryan Tannehill is the new starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans. The team made the switch this week after Tannehill replaced a struggling Marcus Mariota last week in Denver. Tannehill has plenty of experience, and he's capable of jumpstarting the offense. But he's going to need better protection, and he's going to need guys around him to make plays. How will it go on Sunday? It's the No.1 thing I'm looking forward to seeing.
The Debut of Jeffery Simmons?
So, this is a close No.2. In making the move to Tannehill, Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the team was looking for a spark. Well, it looks like the Titans have already gotten one on the practice field in defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. The team's first-round pick is a disruptive player who should make everyone around him better. The Titans on Saturday added Simmons to the 53-man roster. He'll begin wreaking havoc on Sunday.
As mentioned just above, the Titans are going to have to protect Tannehill better than they protected Mariota, who was sacked 25 times in his six starts. When Tannehill entered the game against the Broncos, he was sacked four times himself in the final 20 minutes, so he can feel Mariota's pain. Some of the sacks in recent weeks, of course, came as a result of Mariota holding the ball too long. We'll probably start to get a sense of just how much of a factor that's been starting on Sunday. But one thing is certain: Pass pro hasn't been good enough so far and it needs to get better.
Kicker Cody Parkey
Well, I mentioned kicker Cody Parkey as one of the things to watch heading into the Denver game, and he didn't get a chance to try an extra point or a field goal. Oh well. But we can't forget this storyline – the Titans signed Parkey to replace Cairo Santos, who missed four kicks in a loss to the Bills. The Titans need some consistency – and accuracy – at kicker, and we'll find out if they have it in Parkey. The hope is he'll be kicking extra points and not field goals.
A Yapping Phillip Rivers?
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is known for his outspoken nature on the football field. He talks trash – sometimes in a playful way, but other times he's rubbing it in after success. I thought Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey provided some funny insight this week when he said Rivers has a tendency to call out his offensive linemen on the field when things aren't going well. If Rivers is directing his barbs at his o-linemen, well, that's a good sign for the Titans.
The Titans have been slow out of the starting gate this season. In the first six games of the season the Titans have been outscored 37-17 in the first quarter, and on too many occasions the opponent has struck first with early touchdown. The Titans need to flip the script early in this one and do like they did in Atlanta when they took control of the game against the Falcons early. It would fire up the crowd and provide some much needed momentum.
Wide receiver Justin Hunter hauls in a game-winning 34-yard touchdown pass from Jake Locker with 15 seconds remaining to defeat the Chargers 20-17 on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013 at LP Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Los Angeles Chargers. (AP Photos)