Eddie George was not known for his quickness when he played for the Tennessee Titans. He was much more of a rugged, physical runner.
The franchise’s all-time leading rusher sure was quick to speak his mind, though, when asked about the U.S. District Court ruling Thursday that wiped out Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his assumed role in the so-called DeflateGate controversy.
Much like his running style, though, George got straight to the point.
“Tom is a great player – the greatest of all-time – no doubt about it,” the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner told SI Now . “But in this situation, I think he got away with murder.”
George based his assessment on two factors. First, the Patriots have a history of league discipline for operating outside the rules, most notably when they were penalized for video taping other teams’ sideline signals.
“Given the culture of the Patriots and what they've done in the past in terms of pushing the envelope on getting a competitive edge, I tend to believe [Brady] is in the wrong,” George said.
Also, he noted that Brady is not likely to leave an important detail such as the condition of the footballs he uses to chance.
“The quarterback handles the ball more than anybody else,” George said. “He makes sure that they're the way he likes them, and to say that he didn't have any involvement in it, I find it very hard to believe that these ball boys did it on their own.”
If good things come to those who wait, then Tennessee Titans fans were certainly due.
Marcus Mariota finally rewarded them on his last throw of the preseason. The rookie quarterback connected with Harry Douglas for a 59-yard touchdown, his first – and only – touchdown pass in 30 preseason attempts.
It came just 1:32 into the Titans’ preseason finale against Minnesota on Thursday at Nissan Stadium and gave them a lead they never relinquished. Tennessee eventually won 24-17.
“I was coming across on the shallow (cross), and everybody did a great job,” Douglas said. “ (Mariota) did a great job finding me. I saw a lot of green grass downfield. Antonio (Andrews) did a great job blocking downfield. That’s one of the things we harp on and preach every day in practice, running downfield, finishing and getting blocks so your teammates can get extra yards or even score.”
Mariota had not thrown a touchdown pass in his previous three preseason games. After last week’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he said he wanted the Titans offense to get off to a fast start.
“It was good to come out and start fast,” Mariota said. “The guys did a good job blocking up front, the receivers got open, and we were able to to move the ball.”
A look at Marcus Mariota’s preseason
COM ATT % YDS TD INT SACK RTG
at Atlanta 7 8 87.5 94 0 1 1 76
vs. St. Louis 5 8 62.5 59 0 0 0 84.9
at Kansas City 7 11 63.6 99 0 0 1 92.6
vs. Minnesota 2 3 66.6 74 1 0 0 149.3
After the opening series, which resulted in a touchdown, Mariota was pulled in favor of Zach Mettenberger. It was evident that coach Ken Whisenhunt had seen enough of his star quarterback and did not want to risk a potential injury.
“We accomplished what we wanted to do,” Whisenhunt said. “We got our guys in there, we eliminated that bad taste in our mouth from last week, and we did some things we really like doing. It was a good start for us.”
Mariota finished the preseason with a 70.0 percent completion percentage and a passer rating of 102.9 and immediately shifted his focus to the regular season.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of this offense,” Mariota said. “Guys are continuing to get better, and I feel that we built a solid foundation throughout the preseason. Now its time to go.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Tennessee Titans started fast in their 24-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night. It provided a much-needed momentum boost given the way their previous game against Kansas City went.
A closer look at some of the players and plays that made a difference:
TITANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
David Fluellen, running back
Fluellen had 12 carries for 61 yards on a night when roster hopefuls on both sides saw more action than established veterans. The free agent rookie averaged 5.1 yards per carry and more than doubled his preseason rushing total (27 yards in the first three contests) in this one.
Fluellen finished tied with Bishop Sankey for the preseason team lead in carries and his 88 rushing yards were second only to Sankey’s 94. The question is whether he did enough to earn a spot as the Titans’ third running back, or at least a spot on the practice squad.
Honorable mention: Chase Coffman, TE – Coffman had another solid game with four receptions for 59 yards. He finished the preseason as the Titans’ leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns; Michael Griffin, S – Although Griffin saw limited action in the final preseason game, he still made an impact. He forced a fumble early in the first quarter, which helped the Titans build an early 14-0 lead.
Marcus Mariota’s 59-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas
On Mariota’s third (and final) pass of the game, he connected with Harry Douglas on a short pass that turned into a long gain. Douglas ran a shallow cross, picked up a couple key blocks from Delanie Walker and Antonio Andrews and kept going until he reached the end zone.
Honorable mention: Griffin’s forced fumble early in the first quarter – The recovery put the Titans in great field position and led to a Zach Mettenberger TD pass; Angelo Blackson’s two-point conversion – Although called back, the rookie defensive end caught an Alex Tanney pass on a two-point conversion late in the game. Blackson found himself wide open and reached up to grab the throw. It is an image that will stick with fans for some time.
THEY SAID IT
• “It’s definitely a confidence booster. It’s good for us to learn and battle through a little bit of adversity and as a whole were excited to get going and get the season going. Obviously, now it counts and we’re looking forward to it. I think we’ve built a solid foundation for this season and we’re excited to take this and show it out on the field. Stats mean nothing; as long as you put up wins, that’s all that matters.” – Mariota on finishing the preseason and preparing for the start of the regular season.
• "I’ve been happy to make some plays out there and get some good film out, and glad it’s over now. On to see what’s going to happen with the real stuff. It’s a blessing to get the opportunity. Hopefully, that will make a big difference in whatever decision they make, or have already made it. So we’ll see what happens." -- Coffman, on his preseason performance.
• "Incredible, unbelievable. Really heads up play, I mean unfortunate it didn’t count, but at the same time, you go through some of those procedures during practice, maybe once or twice, so for those guys to be heads up and ready for that says a lot about their preparation." -- Whisenhunt, on Blackson's negated two-point conversion.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Titans looked effective and played well. However, it is just the preseason and the final one at that. If ever there was a “meaningless game,” the fourth preseason game is it.
Mariota did get his first touchdown and the offense looked good on the opening drive. That being said, the quarterback only played one series and the rest of the Titans starters were pulled not long after him. This game served its purpose: The starters got a little work then the reserves get the chance to state their case for a roster spot.
(Photo: Getty Images)
For Ken Whisenhunt, the primary purpose of preseason games is to help reduce the roster.
His counterpart in Thursday’s 2015 preseason finale, Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer, looks to be more intent on piling up wins. Or maybe it’s just worked out that way.
“All I do look for is how we play, the performance that we give, the things we’re doing, if we’re doing things right or wrong, because I think that will tell you more about your football team than the preseason record,” Zimmer said recently.
Nonetheless, the Vikings come to town having won nine straight preseason games, including two against the Titans. Their streak started with a 24-23 victory over Tennessee at Minnesota in the final tune-up of 2013 and continued last year with a 19-3 victory at Nissan Stadium.
This year Minnesota won the Hall of Fame Game and, thus, already is 4-0. No other NFL team is unbeaten in the 2014 and 2015 preseasons.
PRACTICING TO WIN
A look at the Minnesota Vikings’ current eight-game preseason win streak:
Minnesota 24, Tennessee 23
Minnesota 10, Oakland 6
Minnesota 30, Arizona 28
Minnesota 30, Kansas City 12
Minnesota 19, Tennessee 3
Minnesota 14, Pittsburgh 3
Minnesota 26, Tampa Bay 16
Minnesota 20, Oakland 12
Minnesota 28, Dallas 14
All that winning in the preseason did not make the Vikings a playoff team last year. They did finish 7-9, though, which was an improvement of two victories over the previous seasons.
The Titans are a combined 3-4 in the preseason under Whisenhunt, which – of course – on either side of a 2-14 regular season.
“Just because you take ‘X’ number of snaps, or you play in so many games, doesn’t mean you’re ready for the regular season,” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t know that there’s any criteria for judging that. I hope we are. That’s our goal, and that’s what we’ve been working on since back in the spring. We’ve had a lot of practices, we’ve had a lot of reps, we’ve had some game action.
“So it’s all about getting geared towards being ready to go and getting the best 53. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Justin Hunter was in a Virginia Beach, Va. courtroom Tuesday but a key defense witness was not.
As a result, the Tennessee Titans wide receiver’s trial on misdemeanor assault charges was continued until Sept. 15, two days after the team opens the regular season.
From The Associated Press:
Hunter attorney Toby Vick says the witness is the person who really punched a man outside a bar in Hunter's hometown on July 3, not Hunter as prosecutors contend.
The witness had been subpoenaed to show up to court on Tuesday as Hunter's trial on assault and battery was set to begin. The charge stems from a brawl that began inside a bar in the oceanfront tourist district of Virginia Beach. The fight led to a man's jaw being broken.
Hunter initially was charged with malicious wounding, a Class 3 felony. Last week, the charge was reduced to misdemeanor assault and battery. According to reports, he faces up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
More from The Associated Press:
Prosecutors have previously said the brawl began after Hunter interrupted a conversation a man was having with someone else at the bar that night. After an exchange of words, Hunter punched the man in the face twice, according to prosecutors' statements in July. After a melee ensued and the bar was cleared, prosecutors contended the man Hunter originally punched was bent over and spitting blood on the sidewalk outside when Hunter ''sucker punched'' him again before leaving.
The man had to be taken to a hospital for treatment.
The Titans excused Hunter from team activities Monday and Tuesday. He is expected to play in the preseason finale Thursday against Minnesota (7 p.m., LP Field).
The Tennessee Titans waived three players and placed two others on injured reserve Tuesday, which reduced to 75 the number of players on the current roster.
All NFL teams must be at 75 by Tuesday afternoon.
Defensive tackle Toby Johnson, safety Josh Aubrey and tight end Tevin Westbrook were waived. Linebacker Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil and wide receiver Andrew Turzilli was placed on injured reserve.
All are rookie free agents except Aubrey, who played six games for Cleveland in 2013 and two for Houston last season.
Johnson is the leading tackler among Titans’ defensive linemen during the preseason with seven (all solo tackles) and looks like a prime candidate for the practice squad. He had four stops in the opener at Atlanta and three against St. Louis and did not play last Friday at Kansas City.
He played two seasons at Georgia after two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
Aubrey had seven tackles (two solo, five assists) with one tackle for a loss in two games. Westbrook caught one pass for six yards.
Long-time Tennessee Titans scout C.O. Brocato died Tuesday morning of cancer. He was 85.
He has been with the franchise continually since 1981 after an initial three-year stint as a scout from 1974-76. All told he was a member of the organization for 599 games and spent decades as a leading voice in the personnel department.
“It is a sad day for our organization, as we have lost a true icon and legend in C.O. Brocato,” general manager Ruston Webster said in a release from the team. “He left his imprint on everyone he met with his spirit, love of life, and devotion to both the Tennessee Titans organization and the game of football. So many of us have learned so much from him, and his lessons and principles will live on. C.O.’s dedication, eye for talent, knowledge of the game and ability to build relationships set him apart in the scouting profession, and we will never forget his impact on our organization.
“We send our thoughts and prayers to his daughter, Becky, and the rest of his family during this difficult time.”
Earlier this year the team renamed its draft room in his honor.
Brocato has been on the preliminary list for the Pro Football Hall of Fame three times (2005, 2007 and 2008). He became the team’s national supervisor of college scouting in 2012 and before that spent five years as the Titans’ national coordinator of college scouting.
Brocato graduated from Baylor in 1958 and spent 10 years as a high school football coach in Louisiana. He then was defensive coordinator at Northern Arizona (1968-70) and Texas-Arlington (1971-74) before he became a professional scout.
Will he or won’t he? Should he or shouldn’t he?
Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday he expects rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota to prepare to play in the team’s final preseason game Thursday against Minnesota (7 p.m., Nissan Stadium).
Whether Mariota actually makes it into the huddle is anybody’s guess.
“I think he’ll be prepared to play if we want him to play, and if we don’t play him, we don’t play him,” Whisenhunt said. “There’s just a lot going on as far as what we’re trying to get done in preparation for this week and even next week, so we’ll see how the week goes.”
• The case for Mariota playing: He’s a rookie who never called plays in a huddle during his high school or college days. It is logical to thinks that he needs all the work he can get prior to the start of the regular season. … The starting offensive line has been shuffled in recent weeks, which means the entire offense is in a state of transition. It is best to continue to work that unit. … Mariota has shown a little something more each time he’s played. He cut out the turnovers he made in the game in Atlanta. He showcased his running ability last Friday at Kansas City. Another performance will allow him to feel comfortable and add another element or two. … This team went 2-14 last season. There’s no situation with which it can afford to feel comfortable or think that it has done enough to be ready for the season.
• The case against Mariota playing: He has gotten 69 snaps through the first three preseason games, which is virtually the same number last year’s starter, Jake Locker, had in the first three preseason games (67). Locker sat out the last tune-up and was really sharp in the regular-season opener against Kansas City, so he certainly did not lose his edge with a little extra rest. … Mariota has been consistent in his three performances. He’s had a high completion percentage in each, has spread the ball around to different receivers and has had some success on third downs. So there’s little the team hasn’t seen from him, at least to some degree. … There’s always a risk of injury for every player, so the only way to insure Mariota does not get hurt is to make sure he doesn’t play.
“I think some of it may be a feel for where we are as a team, and I think some of it may be, wake up Thursday morning and say, ‘He’s not going to play today,’” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t know. Some of it’s going to be dependent on where we are as a team and how the week’s gone.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, because ultimately it makes him prepare to play, and that’s the most important thing, is to be prepared to play.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Tennessee Titans made their first cuts Sunday.
They made up their minds on the first 10 players released a few days earlier. That much was clear based on playing time in Friday’s 34-10 defeat at Kansas City.
None of them – virtually all of them were longshots to make it anyway – got much of a chance to prove themselves in the third preseason contest.
Guard Justin McCray, who spent all of last season on the Titans’ practice squad, got nine snaps on offense against the Chiefs with one additional one on special teams. None of the other nine got more than three plays with their primary unit and three never even got on the field.
Clearly there was little, if anything, any of those guys could have shown the coaches and personnel staff so they did not get much of a look.
A look at the 10 players the Tennessee Titans released Sunday and how many snaps they played Friday at Kansas City:
Justin McCray, G – 9 offense, 1 special teams
Nate Askew, LB – 3 defense, 5 special teams
Derrick Lott, DE – 3 defense, 1 special teams
Chaz Sutton, LB – 3 defense, 1 special teams
Mike Meyer, K – 3 special teams
Fernando Velasco, C/G – 1 offense, 2 special teams
Deon Long, WR – 0 offense, 3 special teams
Will Brown, CB – did not play
Dezmond Johnson, LB – did not play
Tebucky Jones, WR – did not play
The moves reduced the number of players on the roster to 80. The team must be at 75 players by Tuesday afternoon.
For the second time this preseason, the Titans fell behind 17-0 at the start of the game. Unlike the opener at Atlanta, when turnovers had a lot to do with the Falcons’ early advantage, it was penalties and missed tackles that undermined the early effort in this one.
The starting offense, which played the entire first half, responded with 10 points before halftime but the second half belonged exclusively to the Kansas City reserves — right up until weather issues led to the game being called with 3:50 to play.
A closer look at some of the players and plays that made a difference:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Kendall Wright, wide receiver
Quite frankly, there were not a lot of individual standouts. The fourth-year wide receiver was the one who finally got things going after the Chiefs had built their big lead. He caught three passes for 60 yards on Tennessee’s first scoring drive, a 10-play, 66-yard march that ended with a field goal.
That was enough to make him the Titans’ leader in receptions and receiving yards. It’s also worth noting that those three passes were the only ones thrown him way so it was a rather efficient performance.
Honorable mention: Perrish Cox, CB – The free agent intercepted a pass for the second straight game. He did not return this one for a touchdown but it did set up the offense’s only touchdown; Marcus Mariota, QB – For the first time this preseason, he showcased his running ability with 22 yards on three carries.
Charcandrick West’s four-yard run on third-and-1 that set up Kansas City’s second touchdown
With the ball at their own 39, the Chiefs decided to run left, which looked to be a bad decision. Linebacker Zach Brown got to West behind the line of scrimmage but failed to get him to the ground and the back managed to pick up four yards. The next play was a 34-yard reception by tight end Travis Kelce, which included two more missed tackles (Brown and Michael Griffin).
To be a good defense, you have to get off the field on third down and limit big plays. The best way to do both of those things is — you guessed it — tackle well. The Titans did not on those two plays — and a few others.
Honorable mention: Antonio Andrews’ 2-yard touchdown run – it was the only time the offense actually got into the end zone; Brown’s tackle of Knile Davis at the 2 after a 12-yard reception on third-and-goal from the 14 – the linebacker made two stops in three plays during a goal-to-go situation when the Titans actually forced a field goal attempt.
THEY SAID IT
• “They are a spacing offense, they have a lot of different combinations and when you don’t get a chance to really prepare against them, you can make some mistakes. That doesn’t forgive us for not tackling. We had a couple of times where we could have made some plays but we didn’t tackle guys. So that was disappointing.” – coach Ken Whisenhunt on the tackling issues.
• “There was three minutes left, the officials asked us to leave the field and then they contacted New York. Where the game was, it didn’t make any sense to go back out there.” – Whisenhunt on why the game was called.
• “They are just a good defense. They came out fast and the intensity was high. I think if we put together a couple more plays and got a first down on the first series, it would have been different. But again, they are a good defense.” – Mariota on the slow start.
• “It's too early to start panicking. We have this next preseason game coming up Thursday and then the start of the season. We just need to work on the things we need to work on and fix the things we need to fix.” – Griffin on the state of the team.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Just as was the case following Sunday’s victory over St. Louis, it’s important to remember that this was a preseason game so it does not necessarily paint a clear picture of what is to come.
For example, the Chiefs’ previous game was last Friday, which means they had two extra days of rest and preparation. No doubt, that was a factor in how things unfolded.
Perhaps the most important thing that has happened through the first three games has been Mariota’s consistent accuracy, regardless of the situation. He was 7-for-11 for 99 yards passing in this one and for the third time in as many games had a stretch of seven completions in eight attempts. He also did not commit a turnover for the second straight game (although Kansas City’s defense did have one prime opportunity for an interception).
Overall, the Titans have been underwhelming in the preseason. However, the plan since May has been to build around Mariota and he continues to look like a solid foundation piece.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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