Game-planning could make offense run smoother

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 at 9:28pm
Justin McCareins and the Titans are focused on better offensive performance this week against Atlanta. Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

Somewhere between “The sky is falling” and “Remain calm, all is well” lies the Tennessee Titans offense.

As the Titans head into their third preseason game, and first road trip Friday night in Atlanta, much of the pre-game conversation will be centered around how the offense performance, and specifically how it performs under the direction quarterback Vince Young.

The Titans said several times after Young’s 4-of-13 effort against Oakland last week that part of the problem was simply a very minimal amount of game-planning for the preseason meeting with the Raiders.

So, expect the Titans’ offense to step up the game-planning just a bit this week, as they hopefully step up the offensive production as well.

“We have to execute. We don’t have a full-blown game plan going into this week,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We only have one day to prepare for them. I think we should see more production out of the offense overall, although they’re a much improved defense.”

Young agrees saying that the Titans are deliberately holding back a lot of the playbook, which he says has contributed the lackluster performance last Friday night.

“I feel like we’re all right. To everybody else, we’re probably not looking all right, but to this team, the things we’re working on and the things we’re trying to get done, and some of the things we’re trying to get done with our receivers on the outside, it’s going good,” Young said.

He is well aware of the criticism that came his way after the struggle against the Raiders.

“In your eyes, you probably say it’s bad, but in our eyes, it’s going all right. … When we bring everything into the offense and we start game-planning guys and different things that we take with us and get better that, you’ll understand where we’re coming from,” Young said.

It won’t be the full effect, but the ramping up of the preparation will be interesting to monitor against the Falcons.

“It can only help, to prepare a little more getting used to preparing for a real opponent is only going to help us in the long run,” receiver Justin McCareins said. “We’ll study a little bit more film and get to know our opponents on defense.”

Still, it is easy to understand the frustrations over the lack of production early on.

“We know we have things to clean up, but we have to move past it and watch the tape and figure out what you can do personally and get back to work,” McCareins said.

The first application of that comes Friday night in the Georgia Dome.

HARD HIT: The hard hit safety Michael Griffin laid on rookie running back Omar Cuff in Tuesday’s practice raised plenty of eyebrows, especially as it looked as if Cuff had slowed down after about a 10 to 15 yard run past the line of scrimmage.

Griffin hammered a somewhat surprised Cuff to the ground, then flung his helmet toward the sideline and celebrated the hit. That prompted an admonishing from Fisher telling Griffin to keep his helmet on.

“There was nothing do it. I’m not trying to make it into a big ordeal,” Griffin said. “Running to the ball and hustling to the ball is something the coaches have been preaching to us. For this defense to be a top defense, you’ve got to hustle to the ball.”

Fisher said running backs are to expect contact from the first defender, and said he was watching the other side of the field when the hit happened.

“It’s been talked over, and the thing is you make the judgment call of is he trying to deliver a hit,” Griffin said of Cuff. “You’ve got to make a hard judgment. You’ve got to protect yourself, but you’ve also got to protect a teammate.

“It’s a hard judgment when somebody is running in the open field full speed and you’re running full speed and the first person there thuds, and the second person tags off. I can’t tell if he was prepared for it or if he wasn’t.”

Cuff said the hit was unexpected, but not a big deal to him.

“I broke down a little bit. It was kind of unexpected, but it didn’t faze me in the least. I got right back up and went back to the huddle,” Cuff said. “It was probably my error not being more ready for it.”

As for the helmet throw, Griffin said he would exercise better restraint if it were in a game.

“That was having fun, just being me. But then again, you’ve got to be smart,” Griffin said. “You realize it’s practice, and not a game. I would never do that in a game-type situation. I would never do nothing like that in a game.”

FIGHT: Receiver Edward Williams and cornerback Cortland Finnegan briefly exchanged punches during practice. The two became tangled up and Finnegan threw a haymaker. As Williams retaliated, he had his helmet taken off. Order was soon restored.

“I was trying to block him, and he was trying to get loose, and I still had him. He took a little shot, so I took a shot back. That’s all,” Williams said.

The fight came just one day after a battle between Kevin Mawae and Tony Brown.

INJURIES: Kicker Rob Bironas is kicking in the practice bubble and running. He won’t kick this Friday against Atlanta, but Fisher said he could go against Green Bay on Aug. 28.

“He’s kicking now, and he’s right at that critical stage where you don’t want any setbacks,” Fisher said.

Others who will miss the game against Atlanta include linebacker Keith Bulluck (calf), cornerback Cary Williams (quad), tackle David Stewart (knee) and receiver Lavelle Hawkins (ankle).

Cornerback Chris Carr (shoulder) missed another day of practice, as did linebacker Colin Allred (bruised knee). Linebacker Josh Stamer (bruised foot), running back LenDale White (flu), safety Vincent Fuller (excused), defensive end Jevon Kearse (rest) and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (rest) all were out of practice as well Tuesday.

ROSTER MOVE: The Titans signed defensive back Tuff Harris on Tuesday and waived punter Josh Miller. Harris has previously been with Miami and New Orleans. He worked out for the Titans last week.

NO INTEREST: Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said the club has no interest at the current time in working out former Atlanta Falcons receiver Joe Horn.

Horn’s agent Ralph Vitolo had contacted the Titans about their potential interest in Horn both last week via trade, and on Tuesday when he was released.

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