Preseason Game 1 Preview: New Orlean Saints at Tennessee Titans
By Jeff Fuqua
August 10th, 2006, 07:20
The Tennessee Titans open the preseason Saturday night at LP Field against the New Orlean Saints in an event which will give more attention to three players than the game itself.
This game reunites two of the top draft picks of 2006 and Rose Bowl foes Reggie Bush and Vince Young. It also reunites National Championship USC running back tandem Bush and LenDale White. All eyes will be on these rookies and both teams would like to see their major investments gain some confidence in an entertaining preseason opener.
To those of you who wish to look beyond the hype presented in the first game for these future superstars, here's a few other things to hold your interest during the game:
1. I'm curious to see how the team and fans respond to Billy Volek the first time he throws a pick or takes a sack. Will he be doomed to always be compared to "His Airness" at every turn and spending the season looking over his shoulder? Despite little game planning for Saturday, you know he wants to show well and put any future QB controversies to rest before they begin. Hopefully, Chow will let him air out a ball or two and he's successful in the process.
2. I'll be watching early to see how the revamped offensive line is working together. T Michael Roos moves to the left side to replace Brad Hopkins while the combination of Jacob Bell, David Stewart and possibly Daniel Loper get work on the right. It would be nice to see a little more nasty exhibited by the OL under the leadership of Kevin Mawae. A little smashmouth football Saturday night would be nice.
3. Coach Jeff Fisher has talked returning the running game to the level Titans fans haven't seen since 2000. Can the trio of Chris Brown, Travis Henry and LenDale White team up to give the running game respectability again? Though the Titans offense should be fairly bland on Saturday, establishing the run will be the priority #1 for the offense. And even though this is JUST a preseason game, you wonder if Brown wants to show his stuff to get further attention by teams out there mentioned in recent trade rumors. You know Henry has a lot to prove and White won't want to be overshadowed by his old USC backfield partner.
4. At WR, I'm curious if Tyrone Calico can rise to the occasion and save his career by showing a glimpse of his rookie preseason magic. The guy has to be reading the paper and listening to the coach-speak which all points to impending doom if he doesn't make a move soon. Real soon.
We should have two series in which to get a hint of how David Givens and Drew Bennett work together. It's been rare to see them on the field during the same practice so far. Is Bobby Wade the real deal in the slot? We'll get to see how Roydell Williams and Courtney Roby have matured entering their second season as well.
5. On the defensive line, it's time for the DE class of '04 to make a move. Travis LaBoy ended the season strong and wants to nail down the starting spot as the right defensive end. Antwan Odom teased us last preseason with a big start but dropped back when they counted. Bo Schobel needs a good preseason just to stick over a UDFA or waiver wire addition. It'll be interesting to watch if someone in this group does something special Saturday night.
6. I'll be interested to see if Hayneworth-lite is closer to the unstoppable monster we saw against the Ravens last season or the disappearing act we saw against the Seahawks. I think he's on the verge of a Pro Bowl season if he can stay on the field. I'm excited to see if Jesse Mahelona gives us some flashes of the potential he showed his junior year in Knoxville when he dominated.
7. We may only get a glimpse of it for only a series or two but it will be worth watching how fast the group of Keith Bulluck, Peter Sirmon and David Thornton are moving on the ball. Speed at LB was sorely missing last season and will be one of the key factors for the Titans D in '06. Stephen Tulloch has me very curious after hearing about the wood he's bringing at training camp. He might be worth a peek or two.
8. In the secondary, I'm interested to see if Pacman Jones really is as improved as reports from camp have made him to be. Besides seeing his technique, I'd be pleased to see him not whine if called for a penalty.
Speed at the safety positions is also something to look for with Chris Hope and a lighter Lamont Thompson. We'll get a good look at our secondary depth (or lack thereof) as well.
Remember, no one is destined for the Hall of Fame or a bust based on what happens Saturday night. But it'll be fun to watch the rookies shake the jitters and see how the rest of the team is coming along. Though it doesn't count, Titans football, even the lite version, is better than nuttin' which is what we fans have plenty of since January. Are you ready for some football?
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