The Tennessee Titans' third preseason game is typically considered a dress rehearsal for their regular season opener. Jake Locker, for instance, is expected to receive roughly 40 snaps and play into the third quarter of Thursday’s matchup vs. the Cardinals.
Still, it represents a critical juncture for several players on the bubble of the 53-man roster. Close position battles at running back, wide receiver and cornerback remain. A host of veterans hope to turn in solid performances to bolster their chances as an Aug. 31 deadline for the Titans’ final roster looms.
Here’s a look at three veterans who are squarely on the bubble:
- Javon Ringer (RB, 4th year, Titans’ second-string running back in 2011) --Ringer has been a dependable runner early in his career and excels in the Titans’ one cut and go zone-blocking scheme. The former Michigan State running back averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his first two seasons, but averaged just 3.1 in 2011. He appeared to be a lock to make the team early in camp, but running backs Darius Reynaud and Jamie Harper have had strong preseasons. Of the three, Ringer is the best receiver out of the backfield. The jury is still out.
- Ryan Mouton (CB, 4th year, veteran nickel back) -- Mouton has more experience at the nickel than rookie cornerback Coty Sensabaugh -- his chief competitor. The Titans may decide to keep two cornerbacks among the trio of Mouton, Sensabaugh and Chris Hawkins. Either Mouton or Sensabaugh will likely become the backup nickel behind Alterraun Verner. If Hawkins makes the roster, he will likely stay on the outside. Mouton (5-9, 187) plays bigger than his size and makes reads quickly to jump short routes on the inside. The Cardinals’ talented receiving corps will provide a test.
- Marc Mariani (WR, 3rd year, former Pro Bowl returner) -- Mariani had a feeling his job would be on the line after the Titans selected Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright with the No. 20 overall pick in this year’s draft. The third-year receiver from Montana has responded with a stellar training camp. Mariani has given his all on virtually every snap, earning praise from the coaching staff for his work ethic. He has also stretched the field on deep routes. On Thursday night, he could help his cause with several big returns. Reynaud has averaged more than 44.0 yards per return through two preseason games.