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VOL. 7 | NO. 35 | Saturday, August 23, 2014

McCormick

Terry McCormick

Titans Offense Looks Like NFL Product

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Exciting. Now, there’s a word that hasn’t been associated much with the Tennessee Titans in recent years.

But based on the early preseason, Coach Ken Whisenhunt is fielding a Titans team that might actually be worth watching.

Throwing out the rain-soaked preseason opener against Green Bay, the first real look at what the Titans came Friday night in New Orleans.

Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger has given the Titans a spark in the preseason. Starter Jake Locker also looks much improved.

(AP Photo/Bill Haber)

And though there were five turnovers committed by Tennessee – all after the first-team offense had retired for the night – there were enough signs of encouragement to say, for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t the same old Titans.

Jake Locker looked new and improved. Granted, he was running a vanilla version of the offense versus a vanilla version of the Saints defense, but Locker completed 8 of 11 passes for 75 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to second-year receiver Justin Hunter.

And when rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger came in and hit 11 of his first 12 throws, the Tennessee offense looked downright exciting.

Throughout the vast majority of their existence here – save for a four-year stretch from 2001-04 when Steve McNair was at his peak and Billy Volek was lighting it up for a half season in ‘04 – there really hasn’t been a lot of offensive excitement associated with this franchise.

It was forgivable in the early days because there was simply the joy of having an NFL franchise for Nashville and Tennessee to call their own.

Besides, the defense that featured the likes of Jevon Kearse and, later, Albert Haynesworth was pretty good and often carried a point-starved offense to wins of 16-13 or something similar.

But over the past decade or so, the league changed and the Titans tried to stay the same. The NFL became a quarterback/receiver-driven league, but the Titans never really got with the program.

Sure, they caught lightning in a bottle for a few years with Chris Johnson dashing off 80-yard touchdown runs. Then Johnson fizzled, the defense struggled and the Titans overall put a weak product on the field.

Fan interest waned and, while every game at LP Field was technically a sellout, there were plenty of empty seats, especially when there was a little bit of rain or snow or 20-degree weather.

Don’t think new president Tommy Smith, marketing executive Don MacLachlan and GM Ruston Webster haven’t noticed.

You can blame some of the drop-off on the lingering bad economy, but it has more to do with the Titans putting a largely faceless product on the field. And while a scoreless tie might excite soccer fans, it doesn’t impress those paying to watch the NFL.

Now the Titans are hustling up ticket buyers with half-season packages, overhauling the concessions menu, beefing up the Jumbotrons and building new elevators at LP Field, imploring fans to come back and enjoy the game-day experience.

It’s also why Whisenhunt is here.

Whisenhunt has a reputation for being a quarterback guru and having a savvy offensive mind.

In other words, the Titans believe he can finally bring the franchise into the 21st century, an era in which offensive creativity and defensive surprises are necessary to be able to compete and contend.

It’s only the preseason, and there are many fences to mend for the Titans to once again own the town as they did a decade or more ago.

But it’s a start.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.

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