ATLANTA – After two weeks of training camp, the Titans kick off the preseason here tonight against the Falcons.
Here's a look at five things to watch:
The Titans quarterback has been close to perfect in his first few months on the job. After a solid offseason, he's thrown 186 passes without an interception in camp, and displayed plenty of poise along the way. In the pocket, he's looked comfortable. He's made good, quick decisions. But his work will be put to the test against the Falcons, when he'll shed the red jersey and open himself up to being hit. Mariota has a chance to keep the momentum going with a solid performance, but don't tune in late – he won't play long.
Green-Beckham hasn't played in a football game since the final game of the 2013 season. He's worked off some of the rust during training camp, but the talented receiver won't really be tested until he gets jostled around and is forced to make catches going across the middle. Green-Beckham is very much a work in progress, but he's caught the ball better – with fewer drops – in recent practices. How quickly he gets up to speed will determine how much he'll be able to help the Titans early this season.
Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are the team's starters on the outside, this much is certain. But it's wide open after that with a handful of players competing, and trying to earn roster spots. Keep an eye on Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil and J.R. Tavai, a pair of undrafted free agents who have performed well in camp and will get a chance to play plenty tonight. Deiontrez Mount, a sixth-round draft pick, is another player battling here. Veteran Jonathan Massaquoi, meanwhile, is trying to hold the young pups off.
Byron Bell has worked with the starters at right tackle a good portion of camp, although rookie Jeremiah Poutasi has gotten his share of opportunities as well. Bell has the experience – he started 56 games with the Panthers over the previous four seasons. Poutasi is raw and lacks great technique at the moment, but he has good size (6-5, 335) and athleticism, and is improving. A solid preseason could make the youngster a solid contender at RT.
The starters are only expected to play a series or two, so the back-ups will be in the spotlight for most of the game. Cornerback Cody Riggs has played well in camp, and he'll be on the field a lot tonight. Reserve tight end Phillip Supernaw is another player who has enjoyed a solid camp and has a chance to convince coaches he's worth keeping around. Across the board, starters will give way to back-ups early.