JOE BIDDLE: Will the real Titans please show their faces?

Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Titans make it difficult for someone to evaluate after three preseason games are in the history books. Three down, one to go.

They had a slow start in Game 1 at Atlanta, made it competitive but still lost, 31-24. Giving up 31 points didn’t make much of an impression concerning the Titans 3-4 defense.

In Game 2, the Titans got off to a solid start against a St. Louis team that was offensively inept, at least in that game. The Titans posted a 20-0 halftime lead, looking sharp on both sides of the ball. They left former Titans Coach Jeff Fisher with a 27-14 loss to gnaw on.

Against the Chiefs in Kansas City, they were playing on a short week. As in the season opener, they fell behind early Friday night and would fall to the Chiefs in a one-sided game. They called the game off late in the fourth quarter when a frog strangler of a storm forced both teams to call it a night.

So now we come to Game 4, thankfully the final preseason game. It will be played Thursday night at Nissan Stadium. Historically, the final preseason games are where the starters have a short night, or sit it out altogether so the coaches can evaluate other players who are trying to prove they belong on the final 53-man roster, or at least a spot on the practice squad.

Titans Coach Ken Whisenhunt is holding his cards tight against his chest. Will starting quarterback Marcus Mariota play a series before taking the night off, or will he sit out the entire game and let backups Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst and Alex Tanney handle the load?

“It’s just an individual preference for what you want to get done,’’ Whisenhunt said Saturday as he played a friendly game of cat and mouse with reporters anxious to find out what Mariota’s role will be against the Vikings. Or if the rookie quarterback will have any role at all.

“We feel good on where he is,’’ Whisenhunt said. “We could give him another chance to get him a little more work, or we could not expose him to something that could keep him out of the first game. Not that you would expect that to happen.’’

Mariota is the least of Whisenhunt’s problems. He will continue to grow and improve as time goes on.

It seems Whisenhunt has put the right players in the right places on the offensive line. Like any new offensive line, it takes time for them to merge as one. There were some false starts and other offensive miscues.

The defense had another bad day at the office against the Chiefs.

There were missed tackles. The Chiefs gained an extra 96 yards after contact.

“That’s too big of a number,’’ Whisenhunt said of the yards after contact. “We took some bad angles. We didn’t do the things we needed to do.’’

He did notice the effect of his team playing on a short week.

“We at times played like a tired team. We didn’t have the same attention to detail,’’ he said.

He also credited the Chiefs’ offense, which was fresh, better prepared and executed noticeably better than the Titans.

“It is a great teaching tape,’’ he added. “We’re not real happy with some of the things that went on in that game.’’

The coaching staff is still playing a numbers game, as in how many running backs, how many tight ends, how many wide receivers, how many defensive backs, how many defensive linemen to keep.

It all has to add up to 53 players on the roster. There are difficult decisions to make.

This is where coaches and General Manager Ruston Webster earn their keep.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at


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