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VOL. 41 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 8, 2017
Raiders at Titans: What to watch
Marshawn Lynch vs. Titans defensive line. The Titans defensive front, led by Jurrell Casey, was stingy against the run last year, second best in the NFL. Oakland has a strong offensive line and now have former Seahawks star Lynch to run the ball a year after unretiring and joining the Raiders.
Titans offensive line vs. Raiders defensive front. The Titan offensive line struggled to run the ball in preseason. Not to worry, we have been told. Once the scheming, film-watching and game-planning start, everything will be fine. It had better be, because everything the Titans do on offense – running with DeMarco Murray and protecting Marcus Mariota, is predicated on a line that was one of the best in the league a year ago.
Brynden Trawick and Daren Bates vs. Raiders special teams. The Titans made a concerted effort in the offseason and in their choices on final roster cuts to upgrade special teams. That includes nabbing Trawick and Bates as free agents away from the Raiders, whose coverage units were among the best in the league last season.
First down: The Fibula Bowl – In Nashville, of course, Marcus Mariota’s recovery from a broken fibula was the talk of the offseason. But Oakland’s Derek Carr suffered a similar fibula break on the same day Mariota did – an injury that derailed the Raiders from what could have been a deep playoff run.
Both QBs will be in the spotlight as they make their way back under center for their respective teams. Mariota must avoid the slow start that plagued him in the first few weeks of 2016.
Second down: Don’t buy the hype – After being in the NFL’s witness protection program for the past several years, the Titans were one of the most-talked-about young teams in the AFC this summer.
As much as the players try to downplay the added recognition, it is there.
The key for the Titans is not to buy into the hype, but use the same formula from last year that created those expectations.
Third down: Can the secondary jell? – The Titans spent a lot of money (Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien) and a first-round draft pick (Adoree’ Jackson) to fix a broken secondary. In the preseason, there will still lots of big plays allowed, leading to questions about whether the problems have really been solved. Chances are the Titans will find out Sunday with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree visiting Nissan Stadium.
Fourth down: Make a statement – The Titans should have beaten the Raiders last season, but that game will be remembered for Taylor Lewan’s penalty that hampered a potential game-winning drive. The Raiders fancy themselves as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
If the Titans are going to be the playoff team that many people believe they should be, then they have to hold serve and give a strong account of themselves at home in the opener.