The Tennessee Titans saw enough in Thursday night’s 30-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers to be encouraged heading into the regular season.
They also saw enough to know that there is still plenty of work to be done before that season-opening game Sept. 9 in Jacksonville.
The first item of business will be to sort out the position competitions and the fight for roster spots, something that could come as soon as today, but no later than Saturday’s deadline to reduce the team to 53 players.
“There are some very, very difficult decisions to make as far as the roster is concerned,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said after Thursday’s preseason finale. “However, we did see some production out of some of the players that we needed to see production from.”
There were plenty of productive Titans on Thursday night, with LenDale White and the Tennessee rushing attack atop that list.
White perhaps solidified his claim on the starting running back job by running for 58 yards on 15 carries, including a 21-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play that set up the Titans’ first touchdown.
“He came right between me and Big Country [David Stewart] and broke it,” right guard Benji Olson said. “It wasn’t a very big crease either. He got skinny and little, as big as he is, he squirmed right through there. It was a big play by him.”
White credited the offensive line with creating an easy path.
“Our offense is on running. You’ve got to pace yourself,” White said. “You can’t just hit the hole. You’ve got to time it up with the guys coming down making their blocks. On the fourth-and-1, there was a whole bunch of green grass. All I had to do was run.”
White did more than run, he also threw a key block that sprung Vince Young into the end zone on Tennessee’s second touchdown and had a 19-yard reception off a screen pass.
As part of Tennessee’s one-two rushing punch, Chris Brown continued his strong preseason as well, gaining 42 yards on seven rushes.
“They’ve both looked good all camp and the preseason games,” Olson said. “They’re both running real hard and proving what they can do. It gives the o-line the motivation to open up the holes for them, knowing they will run well and run hard.”
The Titans, who finished the preseason 3-1, had another solid outing from Young, who completed 11 of 16 passes for 96 yards with one passing touchdown and one run. Young’s only miscue came when Larry Burdine sacked him and forced a fumble that floated into Justin Harrell’s arms on the opening offensive play of the third quarter. Harrell, a former UT star, returned the fumble 18 yards to tie the game at 14-all.
From there, the Titans took control of the game, scoring 16 unanswered points on three Rob Bironas field goals and a 70-yard punt return from Chris Davis that broke the game open near the end of the third quarter.
Davis, the Titans’ fourth-round pick, fielded the short punt from Jon Ryan and split the coverage up the middle and finished the score by diving into the end zone.
“When I saw the ball kicked short, I thought, ‘Here’s my chance. The ball is short, and I can get a head full of steam, and I’m gone,’” Davis said. “It was already a middle return, and it just opened up and I was, ‘Oh, man, I’ve got to hit it.’”
Once cuts are made, the Titans will begin preparations for the season opener at Jacksonville. The team improved throughout the preseason, but there is still work to be done.
“We’ve got to work on stopping teams in the red zone, not letting them score in the red zone and not giving up the big plays,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Calvin Lowry and Cortland Finnegan both started with the first-team defense on Thursday night, but said they don’t know whether or not they will be out there with the first group against Jacksonville.
“It was good to get out there and be on the field with the ones,” said Lowry, who is battling Lamont Thompson at free safety. “Any opportunity I get to make a good impression, I welcome that with open arms. I couldn’t begin to tell you what they’re thinking about. It’s in their hands. All I can hope is that I am being thought about, but if not, I’ll contribute on special teams like I did last year.”
Asked if he had done enough to earn a starting job over rookie Michael Griffin, Finnegan said, “You hope so. Every guy that is out there is very able. Anybody that they line up out there can get the job done, so we’ll see.”
As for the roster spots up for grabs, general manager Mike Reinfeldt said Thursday might have made those decisions tougher.
“I think some guys stepped forward and did some things, and I think it’s kind of a continuation of the whole training camp. I think we had good competition and you saw it continue tonight,” Reinfeldt said. “There are a few issues we’ve got to work through, and there’ll be some differing opinions, but that’s part of the fun of it and part of having a competitive roster.”
SIMONIZED: Corey Simon played a few series for the Titans in his debut after signing with the team on Tuesday. Simon, out all of last season, buried Favre, albeit just after he had released the ball, on his first series.
“I happened to get free and get after it a little bit. Too bad I was a second late,” Simon said.
INJURIES: Tight end Casey Cramer suffered a mild knee sprain in Thursday night’s game.
BIG FAN: Young made sure he watched Brett Favre during the two series the Packers legend was under center at the beginning of the game.
Favre completed 8 of 10 passes and his 6-yard toss to Noah Herron gave the Packers a quick 7-0 lead.
‘Most of the time, you like to sit back and study the defense with Coach Craig [Johnson] and Kerry Collins,” Young said. “That’s the kind of stuff I’d be doing on the sidelines, but today after I finished that, I got up and I was just like one of the fans watching Brett. He’s a great quarterback and I wanted to see how he handles different things.”
COMPLIMENT?: White, asked about Davis’ punt return touchdown, gave him a compliment — sort of.
“He kind of reminded me of Pacman — I don’t know if he wants to hear that — but he definitely reminded me of Pacman running the ball,” White said.