In Saturday's preseason opener vs. the Seattle Seahawks, Hasselbeck again received little help from his receivers. On the game's first offensive play, WR Nate Washington bobbled a low throw from Hasselbeck deep in Titans territory. The pass was intercepted by Seahawks CB Brandon Browner and returned for a touchdown.
Hasselbeck, 36, completed five of his next eight passes before Richard Sherman intercepted a deep pass down the right sideline on his final throw of the night. Although Hasselbeck slightly overthrew Damian Williams, the third-year WR could have made a better play on the ball.
Titans coach Mike Munchak downplayed both interceptions. Despite rallying behind two second-half touchdowns from RB Darius Reynaud, the Titans lost 27-17.
“That first play was just one of those things that happens once in a million,” Munchak told WKRN-TV in Nashville. “The second play when he threw it down there is as good as a punt because it was third-and-long.”
Nearly every mannerism by Hasselbeck and second-year QB Jake Locker is being analyzed this preseason in arguably the league's most closely watched QB battle. Game performance is just one of many factors Munchak will take into account when making his decision. He will place as much stock in other considerations such as how the QB's grasp the playbook and handle film sessions.
“I think you have to be real critical of yourself in any game you play good or bad,” Hasselbeck told WKRN. “You're going to get funny bounces, but it obviously wasn't a great way to start.” Locker entered the game midway through the second quarter. Locker's first drive stalled after five plays, but he had better results on the ensuing series out of the hurry-up.
Locker connected often with rookie WR Kendall Wright on an 11-play, 79-yard drive that led to a Rob Bironas 32-yard field goal. Hasselbeck and Locker were out of the game by halftime. Hasselbeck finished 5 of 9 for 45 yards, and Locker was 7 of 13 for 80 yards.
Front four creates pressure early: Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray had to be pleased with the play of the front four in the early stages of the opener. The Titans had three sacks in the first half -- one each from DE Derrick Morgan, DTs Karl Klug and Zach Clayton.
Gray experimented with a new personnel grouping on Klug's first-quarter sack. The defensive coordinator moved LB Akeem Ayers to left DE and Morgan to tackle, while Klug lined up to the inside of right DE Kamerion Wimbley. The scheme enables the Titans to get four pass-rushers on the field simultaneously. Tennessee ranked 31st in sacks per pass attempt in 2011.
Reynaud flashes speed: Reynaud may have entered the game on the bubble to make the 53-man roster but arguably enhanced his stock more than anyone on the roster. The fourth-year RB scored the Titans' first touchdown of the preseason on a 21-yard burst along the left sideline early in the third quarter. Reynaud followed it with an 85-yard punt return later in the quarter. Munchak is enamored with Reynaud's speed.
Offense hurt by drops: Dropped passes are a concern for the Titans. Tennessee had a handful of drops Saturday night, including three from RB Chris Johnson. With more four- and five-wide sets expected from offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, Johnson figures to see added time split out wide. The All Pro RB needs to display more steadiness with his hands.
MLBs swarm to the ball: In Gray's system it's essential for the MLB to display strong coverage skills while dropping into coverage. Seahawks' QBs were intercepted twice by Titans' MLBs. Matt Flynn was intercepted by Colin McCarthy on a short pass in the second quarter, andZac Diles made a leaping interception in the end zone early in the fourth.
Tough opener for rookie: Punter/kicker Will Batson, an undrafted free agent from Northern Alabama, struggled in his debut. Batson's only punt went 29 yards. Batson also missed a game-tying 36-yard field late in the fourth quarter.
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