The Titans will wrap up a week spent with the defending Super Bowl champs tonight at Nissan Stadium at 6pm CT. It’s unclear how many starters we’ll see from both sides tonight, and for how long, but any time your team gets to use the New England Patriots as a measuring stick for an entire week, it’s a great opportunity. A few things stood out to me during the two joint practices this week, and a few questions remain from last week that you should be looking for tonight.
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Joint Practice Recap:
It’s unfair. I’m fully aware that I shouldn’t do it.
But it’s just so hard to watch the winningest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady practice for two days, and not compare him to the home team’s quarterback. And that comparison doesn’t typically bode well for the other quarterback, and Marcus Mariota is no exception to that.
In his four-year career, Mariota has shown flashes of being great. After throwing 26 touchdowns in 2016 with minimal weapons around him, it seemed like the Titans had found their franchise quarterback. But injuries and general inconsistencies have put Mariota in a situation where he must play his way into a contract extension. During Wednesday and Thursday’s joint practices, over 4,000 Titans and Patriots fans got to see what the model of consistency looks like up close and personal.
Mariota by no means had a bad two days of practice this week. He actually looked sharp during most team periods. But he also looked lost at points. Which pretty much sums up his career thus far. Too often during these practices we saw Mariota miss open guys or turn easy completions into difficult catches with no chance to gain any extra yards. It was a little concerning to watch the Titans go stretches without being able to move the ball effectively. It’s only week two of the preseason, but take that for what it’s worth.
And then there’s Brady. Now, I didn’t get to watch every single throw Brady made, but from the throws I saw and from the buzz around the media, almost every incompletion was dubbed a “good play” by a defender, not a “bad throw” by Brady. It was what you would expect out of a four-time Super Bowl MVP, but it still surprises you when you see it in person.
Again I’ll say, it’s completely unfair to compare anyone to Tom Brady. Nobody is Tom Brady. But after bringing in Jon Robinson, Mike Vrabel, Dion Lewis, Logan Ryan and Malcom Butler, all of whom spent multiple years in the Patriots’ organization, it’s obvious the Titans are trying to bring a bit of that New England magic to the southeast. If Mariota can’t show that he can get back to his 2016 form (26 TDs, 9 INTs), the Titans might be looking for quarterback consistency elsewhere in 2020.
Joint Practice Quick Hits:
-After a disappointing Preseason Week 1, Taywan Taylor had his two best practices of the year. He made two deep catches Wednesday, one from Mariota and one from Ryan Tannehill. Taylor consistently got open and made some contested catches, drawing some “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd.
-In the absence of Adam Humphries, who left Wednesday’s practice early, AJ Brown showed why he was a second-round draft pick in April. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but his ability to fight off defenders and make catches in traffic is impressive. He also didn’t back down from veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the two had to be separated after some pushing and shoving.
-After practice on Wednesday, the Patriots’ quarterbacks stood in the endzone and worked on their deep balls, throwing to a coach along the sideline 50-60 yards down the field. It was cool to see Brady still working on every facet of his game. Not sure if there’s anything to take from this, but I thought it was interesting.
-After getting roughed up by Brady and Co. on the first day of joint practices, the first-team defense came out on day two and had a much better showing. Kevin Byard and Adoree Jackson in particular made a few good pass breakups on good throws from Brady.
Preseason Week 2 Preview:
What To Watch For:
-Second-round pick AJ Brown had missed all but the first day of training camp before coming back and practicing in full this week. After a good showing in practice, Titans’ fans will be looking for Brown to make an immediate impact on the field.
-After a week in which the Titans were only able to hit the Eagles’ quarterbacks twice (one sack, one QB hit), fans will want to see a little more pressure be applied this week from the defensive front. Yes, Cameron Wake and Harold Landry didn’t play in Philadelphia, but you’d like to see some of the rotational guys win one-on-one matchups and get to the quarterback.
-Even before he had six catches for 80 yards in his preseason debut, Kalif Raymond had been a bright spot in the first two weeks of camp. The third-year receiver out of Holy Cross showed his grit against the Eagles last week, and after a quiet week of practice, he’ll look to give the coaches more reasons to keep him around.
-Jurrell Casey was taken off the PUP this week, but it’s still unclear if we’ll see him make his 2019 debut Saturday night.
-Ryan Succop (knee) and Jonnu Smith (knee) remain on the PUP, but both did work on side fields during/after practice this week.
-Nate Davis (undisclosed) didn’t practice this week.
-Adam Humphries left practice Wednesday with an undisclosed injury, but Vrabel seemed to think it wasn’t a big deal.
By: Matt Gray