With preseason over, the Tennessee Titans can now turn their attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But before that can happen, the team will first have to make roster cuts on Saturday, a task perhaps made a bit more difficult by the play of some backups in Thursday night’s 27-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
“We have a difficult couple of days ahead of us as we work the roster down to 53,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
Starting quarterback Kerry Collins and running back Chris Johnson and a few others retired to the sideline after just one series. Likewise, most of the starting defense became spectators early on as well for Tennessee.
Given extra work, several Titans backups turned in solid performances, including second-team quarterback Vince Young, who finished off the first half in relief of Collins and responded by leading a pair of touchdown drives. Young scored on a 6-yard run to cap a 13-play, 80-yard march, and later lofted an 8-yard touchdown pass to rookie Dominique Edison with 1:04 to play in the half for another score.
“We went into the game expecting to sub early,” Fisher said. “We got a three-and-out, and so we made the subs. The guys that replaced the starters did a good job. Vince was running and throwing and having fun out there, which is what we wanted to see. That was a great throw on the fade route to Dominique for the touchdown.”
In all, Young completed 7 of 12 for 85 yards and rushed five more times for 38 yards, including a 23-yard scramble, in what was probably his best all-around game of the preseason.
Young attributed that to a greater knowledge of Mike Heimerdinger’s offensive system in year two.
“Last year it was a new offense for me, and I was kind of learning on the run,” Young said. “Now I’ve had time to sit back and learn the offense, and when you learn the offense, you can showcase your talents and read the defenses back there.”
The other star of the night was Edison, a sixth-round pick from Stephen F. Austin, who likely solidified himself a roster spot on the same day the Titans brought in former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Matt Jones and two other wideouts for a look-see.
Edison not only caught the touchdown from Young on a nice fade pattern, but also made a nice diving catch of a Patrick Ramsey pass in the front corner of the end zone for a 31-yard TD in the third quarter. The rookie had five catches overall for 90 yards.
Asked if he believed he had made the 53-man roster with his play Thursday night, Edison replied, “I hope so. I can only control what I can do.”
On the fade route, Edison and Young had nearly hooked up on the play before, but the rookie could not come up with an underthrown ball.
“I didn’t get the ball outside, so coach called the same play and told me to get the ball outside,” Young said. “It was just a little technique thing, and I took care of my responsibility and got the ball outside for him.”
Edison was happy to see the same play called again and executed to perfection the second time.
“It was the same play. The first play, he kind of underthrew it a little bit, so the second time, Vince put it in a perfect spot so only I could make the play,” Edison said.
Elsewhere, it appeared that on his second try that Mark Jones probably secured both the kickoff and punt return duties. Jones opened with a 21-yard punt return and later added a 44-yard kickoff return, and handled all returns Thursday night.
“I felt good out there. I felt more relaxed. I felt like myself. I felt like I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I was just being patient and let the returns come,” said Jones, who helped atone for a lost fumble last week against Cleveland. “I know what I put on tape last week wasn’t my best effort, and I just wanted to have a complete game and make the best of it.”
While backups were fighting to showcase themselves in the preseason finale, the Titans starters were already gearing up for next week’s opener against the Steelers.
“I’m ready. It’s here, and I’m glad the preseason is over,” Collins aid. “It’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere up there next week. It’s going to take a lot of preparation on our part, but I believe we’ll be ready to go.”
Safety Vincent Fuller summed up the magnitude of things like this.
“It’s the kickoff of Kickoff Weekend. It’s primetime, it’s lights on, and it’s exciting,” Fuller said.