By the time August comes around, football junkies are already salivating by the mouth to get a real excuse to sit down, drink a beer and watch their pro team. A team that might not have played since February, January, maybe even December? We are all ready to get back to watching some real action, and subsequently by the time the first action does come around, many of us jump to make over-analysis on everything that happens to our team during training camp and preseason. Training camp and preseason are the days for such cringe-worthy statements as:
“Jake Locker was lighting it up today in practice! We might have actually found something.”
“Kevin Dodd made a nice sack last preseason game, maybe this will be the year he develops.”
“We went 4-0 this preseason, which means we will probably win our division pretty easily.”
Please refrain from making too much out of what you see on the field right now. If you saw a player make an amazing play, it was most likely on a second or third team scrub. If you are seeing really poor play from your team, you should have patience as they may be learning a new system, chemistry, techniques, etc. Over-generalizing everything you see this time of year in professional football will only make your head hurt, and also lead you to believe things that are just flat out wrong. Instead, I focus on a few specific things in key players to track throughout training camp and preseason. Replacing your fandom’s big picture thinking of a Super Bowl run year with this almost coach’s mindset of tracking the progress of the important players will help you maximize the amount of real analysis you can divulge from preseason.
Therefore, I will not over-generalize anything I’ve seen thus far from the Titans in their scrimmage against Green Bay and today’s one practice with Tampa Bay, but I will give a few notes of what I have picked up so far since training camp has begun:
- Marcus Mariota’s mechanics look to be improving.
A lack of sounds mechanics, along with a terrible scheme fit, led Marcus to his worst season in the pros statistically last year. Ever since coming in the league, Mariota has struggled with jumping to the run too quickly, and never patiently waiting to read his options through. While he has shown improvement over these three years, his 18 interceptions last season highlight his inability to have consistent form in his throwing motion. This inconsistency has to have been priority number one of new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. So far, I’ve definitely seen a more consistent wide base in his throws, which should help increase accuracy. Will Mariota be able to keep this up once the pressure of real games come around?
- Who can play receiver?
One of my biggest questions coming into this season would be who would take over at the slot position. Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor have both shown flashes since joining the team, but I can’t say that I fully trust either to play consistently this season. Much of this offense’s success hinges on the ability of Corey Davis to make a leap forward. Davis has shown glimpses of why he was taken at #5 overall in the 2016 draft, but injuries have held him back from playing in much of our action. Even to this point in training camp, Davis has been sidelined several days for “scheduled maintenance”. Especially with a mobile quarterback who has a history of injury himself, can these two find enough time on the field together to build chemistry?
- Still much unknown about our defense.
We signed Malcom Butler. We drafted Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry. Mix this in with a new coordinator in Dean Pees and a lot of questions can arise about what our defense will look like come regular season. Early on, Malcom Butler has quickly emerged as a leader of this group, often serving as a spark plug in practice when our energy seems flat. Rashaan Evans has been out of practice the past two weeks since a “heat exhaustion” issue so very little can be made of his time on field. Harold Landry on the other hand has actually seen fair time with the 1st team defense as Brian Orakpo comes back from his own injury. In the time Landry has seen, he’s shown some ability to translate his tools to the next level. I wondered if he would be able to retain his bend and burst technique that helped him set sack records at Boston College, and so far I have seen promise. Can he keep this up as the weeks progress?