NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The offensive line the Tennessee Titans expect to lead their revitalization worked (mostly) together for a bit over a quarter Thursday night.
The identity change is underway, but hardly complete.
The offensive line is going to be the backbone of this team, but in its work with four of five starters in place, it had mixed results against Washington in what wound up being a 22-21 loss at LP Field.
The line freed Chris Johnson for a 58-yard touchdown sprint and Shonn Greene for a 19-yard scoring run. But it also allowed for two sacks of Jake Locker, as Chance Warmack was badly beaten on Locker’s second drop back and Michael Roos later gave up a sack to Brian Orakpo, who had an easy time dipping past the blocker and getting to the quarterback.
Warmack pulled and made a nice block on a defensive back on Greene’s score -- "an RBI block,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains called it. Warmack looked good when he got to the second level. But he was frequently pushed back by Washington defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins and looked to be flat-footed and too high too often on other plays where his man didn’t necessarily wind up doing any damage.
He’s certainly allowed time to settle in. And he was playing beside tackle Mike Otto, not David Stewart, who was rested in his first chance at game action since he suffered a broken leg late last season.
“There were some things I did that I thought I could get away with in terms of technique and I learned that you’ve got to use it a little bit differently,” Warmack said, specifically mentioning one play, 22-Power, where he didn’t approach the nose tackle correctly.
Tennessee’s still got a lot of room for improvement before it earns that ID.
“I think we took a step in that direction,” Roos said. “We had some big runs, we had a lot of short-yardage second downs, third downs and shorts where we’re running power or whatever we need to run and getting those first downs.
“That’s part of the identity, knowing we want to run it, they know we want to run it, and being able to do it and getting that first down. We were better running than in the pass, we’ve been working on it so much, making it back to our identity, smash mouth. First preseason game, usually the pass game is a little rusty. I think it was not great. We’ll have time to keep working at it and keep the chemistry moving in the right direction.”
Some other observations ...
Locker’s night: Locker’s decision-making was OK, but the two sacks in 25 plays didn’t help him get anything going. I don’t know that he could have done much to avoid either as they developed so quickly. His first pass, down the middle to Kenny Britt, should have been picked off by rookie cornerback David Amerson but bounced off his forearm. Kendall Wright hurt him with a drop (see more in a bit).
Seven completions in 11 passes for 58 yards and a 77.1 rating. Hopefully he picks up on the practice progress he’s been making and is able to do more in Cincinnati on Aug. 17th.
Loggains said he was pleased and that Washington’s soft zone forced the Titans underneath and Locker didn’t force things.
CJ’s home run: Johnson found open field when he cut back from right to left and then inside rookie safety Baccari Rambo, who wobbled at the move.
“I think last year [Johnson] was trying to make too many big plays, bouncing it,” Loggains said. “When he got in the open field on the rookie safety Rambo, he got vertical. He put his foot in the ground and he just outran everyone.
"That’s the CJ we know, the speed that he showed he still has. As long as he does that and continues to take coaching, he’s going to have a big year.”
Run defense: The Titans' run defense is another element of this team that is supposed to be a lot better. It wasn’t very good in this game. Defenders were pushed around at times and didn’t seem to consistently and collectively fight off blocks to get free and get to the ball carrier.
Roy Helu had a 4.4-yard average as the primary Washington running back in the first half with 13 carries.
“That’s too much,” Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan said. “ We have to do a better job of fitting up and tackling.”
Drops: Wright killed a drive with a drop in the flat when Locker delivered the ball in a spot where the receiver was going to have a lot of room to run with it on a third-and-3 from near midfield.
Loggains had given Locker and Wright advance warning that they’d use that play on an upcoming third-and-short.
“[Wright] took off running before he caught it,” Loggains said. “That’s not going to happen very often.”
Off coverage: I look forward to seeing the increased press coverage the Titans have talked about from their corners. They didn’t use it in the first half of this game, largely lining up off.
It doesn’t mean anything more than it’s what they decided to use on this with their starters. They were tighter in second half. But Tommie Campbell was nothing special, off or on.