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Thoughts on Titans at half in Green Bay

8/28/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The first surprise of the night for the Titans came in the broadcast booth of Nashville's ABC affiliate. Eddie George got caught up by travel delays from California to Green Bay and Keith Bulluck was called out of the bullpen. He was held out with a calf injury.

Bulluck, a consistent quote machine for reporters who cover the team, had some good moments of insight and candor, especially considering the last-minute notice.

Some notes from my first half viewing as I tried -- without a lot of success -- to shuffle back-and-forth from the Jaguars-Redskins game.

-- The Titans have to like the aggressiveness of their young players in the secondary, but both free safety Michael Griffin and corner Cortland Finnegan probably need to pull it back some when the games start counting.

Griffin cut too hard to the sideline of the first play from scrimmage, and when Nick Harper skied and failed to get Aaron Rodgers' pass for Greg Jennings, he was counting on Griffin behind him. But Griffin went right by Jennings, who raced to a 68-yard touchdown.

Finnegan was flagged for a facemask on running back Noah Herron at the Packers' sideline, then jawed with Vernand Morency at the bench. Finnegan's feistiness is one of the qualities that makes him an excellent player, but he needs to keep it in check and not be in the middle of something so often. (Big story on Finnegan coming soon. Have I advertised it enough?)

-- Even against the Packers' second-teamers, the Titans could not cure red-zone issues that linger from last year. Four first-half trips, four field-goal attempts, three field goals from John Vaughn.

-- Jeff Fisher likes to run a trick play every preseason, and called a beauty in this game with a direct snap to Vincent Fuller on a punt. Fuller made a nice cut to evade the return man and score a 40-yard TD.

And all of Nashville took note of the preseason touchdown tally: Special teams 1, first-team offense 0. The offense finally got one on the first drive of the third quarter, on a short plunge by Chris Johnson to finish a drive engineered by Kerry Collins.

-- The danger of juggling games on TV is the potential for distraction. As I logged on to AOL I got a big one. The Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville won the America's Best Bathroom Award. Been there. Would have gotten my vote. I did not get a ballot.

-- Vince Young made some good throws and his receivers made some better plays than they've been making. Exhibit A was a 50-yard gain on a roll-out to the right and nice, arching pass to Justin McCareins between two defenders. Odd play by Packers DE Cullen Jenkins, who was picked up by Chris Johnson as Young rolled the other direction and made absolutely no effort to get around him and chase the quarterback down. Was that him holding contain?

Several other pass plays, though, have featured the lack of separation that's been an issue for the receivers. While they did better to try to go up and fight for balls, they wouldn't have needed to if they had actually gotten away from defenders or if Young had placed some balls more accurately.

A slant was behind McCareins; Young hung in the pocket to deliver a ball under pressure to Alge Crumpler, but it was a bit long and led the tight end out of bounds; an underthrown ball to McCareins drew a pass interference call as he fought to get back to it; A fade pattern to McCareins at the end of the first half was too wide, out of the end zone's left side; A slant to Justin Gage in the red zone short of the goal line had no chance if Gage couldn't catch it smoothly on the move, and he couldn't since he had to reach behind him. Lack of help was an issue, too: Ahmard Hall and Bo Scaife had drops.

Young didn't come out for the first drive of the third quarter as was the plan, perhaps because of a hand contusion suffered earlier.

-- Young ran great. Three takeoffs for 57 yards.

-- Bulluck's best moments:

On the subject of the Titans playing starters into the third quarter tonight:

That's what Jeff does. I don't necessarily agree with it... Since it's the last game the guys who are trying to make the team should play more. But I understand he wants everybody to get out there, hit the field running so we can get out there next week and get ready for Jacksonville.

On his replacement's Stephen Tulloch's fumble recovery, on which Tulloch beat a running back to the ball:

Of course if I was out there I would have tried to pick it up and score.

Bulluck's worst moment:

On Jevon Kearse:

It's hard to play this game when you're not 100 percent.

Really? C'mon KB, I've heard you say plenty of times how no one is ever 100 percent and guys have to find ways to deal with it.

Credit Jeff Fisher for his halftime interview: Before he answered a question he asked how Bulluck was doing upstairs and waved hello.

-- Roydell Williams moved from showing nothing to showing bad things with an offside penalty.