If their first performance is any indication, then consider the Tennessee Titans' revamped offensive line a success.
The Titans eventually lost, 22-21, to the Washington Redskins in their preseason opener Thursday night, as reserves played the entire second half.
But there were enough signs from the first team in the first half for the Titans to at least be encouraged.
The starting offensive line, minus right tackle David Stewart,who was held out of the game, helped spring Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene for easy first-half touchdowns, and rolled up 103 yards on the ground in the first half.
After the Titans yielded a touchdown to the Redskins on their second series, CJ took the handoff on the first play of the next series, and found daylight on the left side of the line. With only Bacarri Rambo standing in his way, Johnson gave a juke move – similar to the one he gave teammate Michael Griffin in practice two weeks ago – and rolled untouched into the end zone for the tying touchdown.
“We basically had the outside zone play stretch,” Johnson said of the call. “They were running real hard on the outside, so I cut it back. When I got through the line, I was either the corner or he safety, and I just gave him a move. My offensive line, they got a great push on it, and they pushed those guys to the right side and gave me a cutback line.”
It was a cutback block from new acquisition Andy Levitre, that helped to open the backside of the play for Johnson.
“If we can get him to a one-on-one matchup between him and the safety, the odds are in our favor. As much as we can do that, I think we're gonna be pretty good this year,” Levitre said.
Speaking of untouched into the end zone, after Johnson was finished for the night following his score, it was Greene's turn to find paydirt. Like Johnson, Greene found an opening on the left side of the offensive line, and cruised for the touchdown that put Tennessee ahead 14-7.
“It was executed very well, and I just ran,” said Greene of his 19-yard score that put the Titans ahead.
The only negative for the offensive line in the first half was allowing Jake Locker to be sacked twice in the first quarter.
Still, Locker, who played the entire first half at quarterback, mostly played it safe with short throws. He completed 7 of 11 throws for just 58 yards.
“We started off on our first drive a little slow (three-and-out), but I thought we had three really good drives after that,” Locker said. “We moved the ball well, we overcame some tough down-and-distances, and converted on some big third downs. That was our goal, just to come out and build some momentum, have some drives and put 14 points on the board.”
Most eyes may have been on Locker, who was efficient as a game manager, but it was the run game and the offensive line that proved to be the stars for the Titans on Thursday night.
“The run game looked good,” Coach Mike Munchak said. “I thought CJ had a nice run and made a guy miss for a big run. I think Shonn Greene came in and did a nice job also.”
Dowell Loggains, the Titans offensive coordinator who called the game from the sideline, was pleased with his unit's first effort.
“I was happy with the way Jake managed the game. I was happy with the way the offensive line played, and I think CJ did a great job and Shonn Greene did a good job. I was pleased with that part,” Loggains said.
As for the defense, it wasn't spectacular, as the Titans gave up a touchdown in each quarter in the first half.
“We had the one penalty that hurt us,” Munchak said of a personal foul call on Bernard Pollard that aided the Redskins' scoring drive. “After that, I thought the first group settled down. We go a three-and-out twice, and gave the offense the ball in good position.”
Pollard said that, other than the penalty, he thought the defense did well in the first half.
“For us, we're a defense and we've got to react. We can't worry about that,” Pollard said. “I thought as a defensive unit, we played good. We gave up a couple of plays. The penalty, you don't want that. We gave up a lot of penalties, but for the most part, I thought we came out and competed.
“Just as a team, I thought we showed what we were about. The first unit played really well. The second unit played well. We've just got to keep building on that.”
The Redskins tied the game just before halftime, when Rex Grossman connected with Leonard Hankerson for the tying touchdown.
Tennessee regained the lead when Rusty Smith found Quinn Johnson for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
But the Redskins answered back with a TD run from Pat White, who then passed to Emmanuel Ogbuehi for the winning two-point conversion.