Three thoughts out of Andy Benoit’s Titans preview from the New York Times’ Fifth Down blog.
Benoit: “[Jake] Locker is an out-of-the-pocket quarterback. Unrefined mechanics compromise his accuracy at times, and in college he was never comfortable playing a rhythmic brand of drop-back football.
“If Palmer wants his young quarterback to succeed, he’ll have to build much of his offense around moving pockets. That will slice Locker’s field in half, which makes for easier reads -- something he may need -- and allow for more sandlot playmaking opportunities. That’s the value Locker brings to the table. He gives the offense a constant undertone of athleticism -- something [Matt] Hasselbeck can’t offer.”
My reaction: This is Palmer’s primary challenge -- to marry his scheme with what Locker does well. Watching how quickly and effectively the meld happens could be fascinating and tell the story of Tennessee's season.
Benoit: “In order for the updated system to work in normal down-and-distance situations, tight end Jared Cook will have to become a better run-blocker. Cook isn’t nearly as physical as his cut 6-5, 248-pound frame suggests. In fact, he’ll probably share a lot of his reps with fifth-year veteran Craig Stevens, who is a serviceable underneath and between-the-numbers pass-catcher and a more reliable all-around blocker.
“Cook will most likely figure prominently into a lot of Palmer’s passing schemes, as his ability to operate out of the traditional tight end hole or the slot is one of this offense’s few sources of versatility.”
My reaction: Cook in the run game is something we haven’t talked about a great deal. Stevens is a better blocker, but when they run with Cook or two tights on the field, let’s pay closer attention.
Benoit: “Occasionally, on third down, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray will blitz his slot cornerback or line up in a 3-3-5 and rush a linebacker. But most of the time, Gray keeps his men in predictable 4-3 zone looks. This makes Tennessee’s defense one of the easiest to prepare for during the week, but also, when it’s playing well, one of the hardest to manipulate on Sunday. Titans defenders consistently keep everything in front of them and make offenses earn every yard.”
My reaction: I like the concept of lining up to do what you do and challenging an offense to beat you. But whether the Titans have enough talent spread across their defense to pull it off is one of the biggest questions they carry into the season.