Titans vs. Raiders: Six Things to Watch


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans face the Oakland Raiders in Week 3 of the preseason on Saturday at Oakland Alameda Coliseum.

Here's a look at six things to watch…


Can Mariota stay hot?**

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and the first team offense will play roughly a half vs the Raiders. It's been so far, so good for Mariota this preseason. He's completed 14-of-15 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, with a completion percentage of 93.3 and a passer rating of 102.5. In their most extensive action of the preseason, the starters – and Mariota – would love to keep the momentum going.

Left guard spot

Quinton Spain has worked with the first unit at left guard throughout the offseason, and in the first two preseason games. He'll start again on Saturday night. Coach Mike Mularkey challenged Spain after what he called an "average" performance last week, however, so Spain is on the spot. By playing with improved technique, Spain could convince coaches to stop looking around. But rookie Sebastian Tretola is expected to get reps with the first unit as well, and he could make a case for himself.


Kevin Dodd's debut**

Outside linebacker Kevin Dodd, a second-round pick, didn't play in the first two preseason games as he worked his way back from foot surgery. But after being taken off PUP and practicing all week, he'll get a chance on Saturday night. The Titans won't overwork Dodd as he works himself back into football shape. But the sight of him in uniform for the first time should provide some early hints about how much he'll be able to help at the start of the season.

Defense's first series

Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau isn't panicking, and he shouldn't be. Yes, the Titans have allowed touchdowns on the opening possession the first two weeks of the preseason. But the unit settled down after that, and keep in mind the defense was without it starting cornerbacks last week vs. Carolina. Still, defenders say they'd like to put an end to the slow starts, and set a tone. Having cornerback Jason McCourty back should help.


Running game**

The Titans hammered their way to 288 rushing yards in the preseason opener against the Chargers, with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry having big success. They found running room tougher to come by last week against the Panthers, but still average 4.0 yards per carry. The Titans will try and flex their muscles again against the Raiders, who are pretty stout up front. When Murray and Henry are on the sideline, keep an eye on the other backs. The Titans have to make a decision on them soon, and now would be a good time for someone to emerge.

The Titans are high on rookie safety Kevin Byard. No one has made this a secret. A third-round pick from MTSU, Byard will get more chances in the return game at Oakland. Mularkey said Byard might also get some early reps with the first-team defense as well. What happens if he keeps picking off passes? Byard had an interception in the preseason opener against the Chargers and two in practice the next week. He's been making a lot of plays.

The Tennessee Titans take on the Oakland Raiders Week 12 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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