JOE BIDDLE: Titans offense shows improvement - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Titans offense shows improvement

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

It was a horrific start for the Titans offense.

The starting unit went three and out against the Redskins in the first preseason game Thursday night.

Chris Johnson gained two yards on first down. Quarterback Jake Locker threw an incompletion, hitting a Redskins defensive back, on second down. Locker was sacked on third down.

Everyone at LP Field had seen that movie all too often last season.

Ah, but the Titans showed the promise everyone had been waiting to see on their second possession as they trailed 7-0.

On first down, Chris Johnson went off left tackle, made a great cut and outran the Redskins pursuit. Fifty-eight yards for a touchdown.

It might not have been good enough to beat a cheetah, but it sure left the Redskins secondary flat-footed.

It was vintage Chris Johnson, a Chris Johnson we saw too infrequently last season. Free agent left guard Andy Levitre teamed with tackle Michael Roos to make the hole for Johnson. He did the rest, cutting back and juking a would-be tackler.

"It's very encouraging,'' Johnson said of his two-play night. "My offensive line, they got a great push on it, and they pushed those guys to the right side and gave me a cutback lane.  "We basically had the outside zone play stretch. They were running real hard on the outside, so I cut it back.''

It was good enough to earn Johnson a seat on the bench. No use putting more miles on his odometer in a preseason game.

Locker played into the second quarter, handing off to running backs Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle. Battle was listed on the Titans depth chart as the fifth running back.

Greene showed why they picked him up as a free agent from the Jets. He has power and speed. Greene picked up 32 yards on five carries. One of those was a 19-yard touchdown run that put the Titans on top, 14-7.

It was at that point that Coach Mike Munchak started substituting some of the offensive starters, but he left Locker in. Locker can use all the repetitions he can get, even if they are in preseason games.

While it is no use to evaluate preseason games, especially the first couple of them, the Titans offense did show promises of becoming an improved unit. The reconstructed offensive line will become more cohesive and provide the missing link to the running game from the past two seasons.

Johnson will be the biggest benefactor. The last couple of years, Johnson has been hesitant with the ball, running into his own blockers, dancing too much at the line of scrimmage.

Munchak wants to put a power running team on the field this year and the parts are there. It will give Locker more time to gain confidence, recognize blitzes, learn what defenses are trying to do to take him out of the game plan.

"We moved the ball well, we overcame some tough down-and-distances and converted on some big third downs,'' Locker said. "I thought our run game looked really good. It was really good for our first time out.''

Locker finished his night seven of 11 for 58 yards. He stuck with the short and medium range passes for just over 8 yards per completion average. His longest completion was 19 yards. The Redskins put him on his back on two occasions for minus-10 yards. He managed the game -- nothing more, nothing less.
 
The teams retired at halftime with a 14-14 deadlock. Reserves flooded the field for both teams after that. There were names you have never heard of before, some of them you will never hear again.

But the Titans offense has more competition than it has had in recent years. Greene will push Chris Johnson for playing time. The receivers are jockeying for playing time. Preseason games are where the no-names on both sides of the ball must make a name or themselves and catch the coaches' eyes.

All in all, it was a promising start. We will see more as the preseason moves along.

Then the teams start using real bullets.

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

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