JOE BIDDLE: Titans suit up for dress rehearsal - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Titans suit up for dress rehearsal

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

I have forever espoused, both in print and radio, my opinion that NFL Preseason Games are the biggest rip-off of all the major sports leagues.

Season ticket holders are forced to buy tickets for four games that don't count. Four games that are for the most part vanilla dress rehearsals for the 16-game regular season. A preseason ticket cost is identical to a regular season game. Do the math.

That being said, I have more interest in seeing Thursday night's preseason game against Washington.

For one thing, it is the first football game of the season at LP Field. I want to see, even if it's a limited amount of time, what this overhauled Titans roster will look like.

In training camp, it's almost impossible to get a credible read on them as they have yet to tackle anyone, or get tackled. I do like the fact that this has arguably been the most competitive training camp in recent years.

In most cases, it is legitimate competition, which should bring out the best in a team that finished a dismal 6-10 and out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

This roster is definitely more talented. It seems to have players who have more fire in their bellies than the players a season ago.

Third-year head coach Mike Munchak appears to be more energetic. OK, he's not in Mike Ditka's territory yet, but he likes this team.

"We need to come out and play with great energy and great effort and not worry about how long you are playing and know we're going to play as long as we need to play,'' Munchak said earlier this week.

Look for Munchak to take a longer look at the offensive line, a line that suffered injuries last season and a line the will likely start newly acquired guards in free agent Andy Levitre and first-round draft pick Chance Warmack. It's too early to predict how much the new faces will add, but the Titans spent a lot of money to find out.

"In practices, there are times where they look really good,'' Munchak said. "They look physical. We run the ball well, have (made) some good holes, good protections. Other days our defense gets the better of them and comes back with some different ideas and different blitzes, so we have to go back and forth.

"Now it's kind of to see Thursday where we are a little bit. Like Chance, the rookies might have never played. It's different.''

It has been made clear that they expect more out of quarterback Jake Locker. They have surrounded him with a higher grade of personnel. They expect the offense to be physical in the run game with a one-two punch of Chris Johnson and free agent Shonn Greene. The more they produce, the less pressure Locker will have.

The wide receivers position is as strong on paper as it has been since the Titans moved to Tennessee.

If Kenny Britt can stay healthy and Nate Washington and Kendall Wright can be consistent, it will allow free agent Kevin Walter and second round draft pick Justin Hunter to blend in the mix.

Don't forget Marc Mariani, who broke his leg in a preseason game a year ago. All he does is run crisp routes, catch the ball and make yardage. Mariani is competing for a job both at wide receiver and as a punt and/or kick returner.

The defense has nowhere to go but up. I like the passion veteran safety Bernard Pollard brings to the table. He reminds me of former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck, who always came to play.

With former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams teaming with Jerry Gray to help make fans forget last year's pathetic excuse for a defense, it has to be improved.

It's a no-name defense that wants to make a name opponents will respect.

The Titans did not have one Pro Bowl starter last season. We'll see how much impact all the new players and coaches will make.

After four preseason games, they better have the pieces in the right place.

They will be underdogs in road openers at Pittsburgh and Houston. But to be the best, you have to beat the best. Bring it on.

Contact wkrn.com. Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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