Titans at Saints: 5 Things to Watch


NEW ORLEANS - The Titans (1-0) take their preseason show on the road tonight against the New Orleans Saints (1-0) from the Mercedes Benz Super Dome at 7 p.m., CT.

The Saints held off the St. Louis Rams last weekend for a 26-24 victory in the team's first preseason game. Running back Mark Ingram paced the Saints 83 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Wide receiver and 2014 first-round pick (20th overall) Brandon Cooks has been one of the Saints' training camp standouts. The rookie hauled in five receptions on six targets for 55 yards and one touchdown in the win.

Saints QB Drew Brees is expected to sit out tonight's contest after suffering a strained oblique on Aug. 1, marking the second straight week Tennessee's first-team defense will not face the opposing team's starting quarterback.  Aaron Rodgers sat out last week's contest against the Titans. Brees, meanwhile, has not participated in a full practice since the injury.

Although he would like his team to go against Brees, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said whether or not the QB plays wouldn't change Tennessee's defensive goals.

"We want to measure ourselves based on playing better and starting better than we did last week," said Whisenhunt. "Do we want to see Drew Brees? Sure. You get a good gauge of where you are, but these guys are pretty good in this league so we'll get a good test."

5 Things to Watch:

With so many roster spots under competition, this list could go on and on, but here are five things that Titans fans can look forward to most.

Dry Under the Dome

After last week's water-logged victory against the Packers, the Titans offense will have the opportunity to show its true colors Friday night in New Orleans. It's a near certainty that Jake Locker will attempt more than two passes and throw for more than five yards.

More importantly, that means Titans receivers are going to have a chance to make plays, including Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, both of whom have enjoyed outstanding camps. Whisenhunt still hasn't decided how much the first-team will play, but it should be more than what the Titans were limited to in last week's downpour at LP Field.

It's also a guarantee that Locker and company won't play the whole game, meaning there will be plenty of opportunity to go around. In a crowded group of receivers, Friday's game against the Saints is another chance for players to stand out on a bigger stage than the practice field at Saint Thomas Sports Park.

The Kicking Continues

Until the coaching staff picks a winner between Travis Coons or Maikon Bonani, this will be on the watch list. Friday's game should provide more opportunities for both players in a controlled environment. They won't have rain to worry about, but a noisy Super Dome will prove to be a test for both kickers.

Returners Get Their Shot

Titans returners were also affected by last week's weather conditions. Marc Mariani was given a majority of the kick and punt return duties but ended up with just one kick return for 13 yards. The positive – he didn't turn the ball over. The negative – it's hard to make any sort of evaluations based on his performance.

Mariani will likely see some action on Friday but Whisenhunt alluded that all of the team's returners need reps before the regular season. That means Leon Washington and Dexter McCluster (among others) could be in line for return duties as well.

As is the case with numerous other positions on the field, the coaching staff hasn't revealed who will handle the return game come the regular season.

Setting the Tone Defensively

The Titans defense settled down nicely and finished Saturday's win with an impressive stop, but the first unit still allowed the Packers to march down the field and score on the game's opening possession.

The talk of the players this week was consumed with needing to improve. That started with an all-out assault on the offense for the duration of Monday's practice. Pass breakups, fumble recoveries, and interceptions were a constant.

Jason McCourty said the defense was thrilled with Whisenhunt's decision to defer last Saturday and put the defense on the field first. Now they want to fulfill expectations and reach the potential of Ray Horton's 3-4 defense. Look for a unit that plays like it's the regular season Friday night.

Rookie Encores

The newest members of the Titans left their mark against the Packers. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger led the game-winning drive. Running back Bishop Sankey led the team in both rushing and receiving yards, including one touchdown.

Those two weren't the only rookies to impress against the Packers. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones had an impressive tackle at the line of scrimmage stuffing a run, and defensive back Marqueston Huff recorded a sack on the last play of the first half.

That's part of the intrigue during the preseason. Unknown players have the chance to make plays and step into the forefront.

Where to watch:

No changes from last week here. Fans can watch the game locally on WRKN, Channel 2 in Nashville. WKRN sports director Cory Curtis and former Titans running back Eddie George will handle the broadcast with Audra Martin reporting from the sideline. "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith will be joined by former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, game day host Rhett Bryan, and sideline reporter Jonathan Hutton on the Titans Radio Network and Nashville flagship 104.5 the Zone.

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