It was a slow start for Jake Locker as he misfired on two of his first three throws in Saturday's scrimmage at LP Field.
But the Tennessee Titans quarterback bounced back and found a nice rhythm. Locker ended the day unofficially 16 of 26 with three touchdown throws, not including a fourth one to Kenny Britt that an official ruled a score, but the receiver looked to have only one foot in bounds.
“It felt good. The defense threw some looks at us that we haven't seen yet. They threw a few wrinkles in that I thought we had to get adjusted to,” Locker said. “But we put a couple of good drives together. We did good in the two-minute drill and we were able to come out and almost like a turnover drive to start the second half of the scrimmage and it went well.”
Locker directed the first team offense against the first team defense. He hit Britt with a score on the second drive, and then with the period continuing with the offense and the ball in the red zone, he also hit Taylor Thompson on a rollout, finding him in the back of the end zone from the 1-yard line.
On the second TD/non-TD to Britt, cornerback Jason McCourty told his former college teammate, “Nice catch – out of bounds.”
And even though the official signaled TD and Britt spiked the ball in celebration, it didn't stop Bernard Pollard from questioning the play.
“I think he settled down and starting making plays and feeling comfortable. He ended in the green zone with the touchdown to Kenny Britt. As an offense we played better,” said Titans coach Mike Munchak.
Munchak said that the scrimmage accomplished its mission for the Titans, for both players and coaches as they ready for Thursday night's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.
“I think we got overall what we wanted to get out of it. We wanted a lot of work. We wanted to go through the game situations like we did all day long with the players and coaches on the sidelines,” Munchak said. “There's a lot of things to go through for the coaches with substitutions. I think we got over 40 plays for the offensive guys, which we haven't had that in a while in more game-like situations.”
Locker said Saturday's work was good, and something the Titans can build on for Thursday night.
“There are things we can work on and things we can take from this film. We need to pick up our tempo a little bit in and out of the huddle. We had some mental mistakes and penalties, which we can't have, but if we clean those things up, we can feel pretty good about how we did,” he said.
Receiver Marc Mariani proved to be a crowd favorite, and performed well in his first action at LP Field since suffering a gruesome leg injury in preseason last year.
Mariani ended the scrimmage with a touchdown catch from Rusty Smith, and also had about a 45-yard gain on a dump-off pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Mariani, trying to claim a roster spot, had a number of receptions at receiver and also handled some of the return chores, drawing cheers every time he touched the ball.
“Mariani looked pretty darn good. He just makes plays,” Munchak said.
*It wasn't as good a day for rookie receiver Justin Hunter, who dropped two passes and was on the receiving end of at least one lecture from wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.
*Defensively, Munchak admits it was harder to judge because the defensive players, for the most part, were not allowed to complete the tackle or the hit.
“They get good work, but they don't get to complete the sack. They don't get to complete the tackle. That's the part of the technique that we need that we haven't gotten yet. Just like offensive linemen, we need to be able to cut block,” Munchak said. “We're not chipping each other out here.. So if a guy is getting a good pass rush, we're not having the backs unload on him or do those types of things. There are still phases of the game that will come Thursday night. So there's a disadvantage for the defensive side because you don't know if he had been able to really make that hit we don't know if he would have caught the ball.”
*Blidi Wreh-Wilson made a nice knock-away on a pass intended for Hunter and got some work with the second team defense a right cornerback.
*Running back Jackie Battle, vying for the third running back job, looked really good running against the second team defense. Battle also took a squib kick on a kickoff back for a score.
*Alterraun Verner ran at right cornerback with the starters, while Tommie Campbell, his principle challenger, ran with the second unit..
*At center, it was Rob Turner going with the ones and Fernando Velasco with the twos on Saturday.
The Titans managed to escape the scrimmage injury-free, though there were several players already struggling with injuries that did not practice.
Among those were linebackers Colin McCarthy (right hamstring) and Zaviar Gooden (right ankle, which was in a boot), running back Jalen Parmele (ankle), center Brian Schwenkie (hamstring) and kicker Rob Bironas (back).
Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews left immediately after practice for Canton, Ohio to attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and to celebrate the Hall's 50th year. Curley Culp, who played for the Houston Oilers, is going into the Hall this year, and Matthews and Munchak will help represent the organization.
Defensive line assistant Keith Millard was to join them on the trip, as his former Minnesota Vikings teammate Cris Carter is being enshrined this year.