The morning after the Titans fell to the Green Bay Packers 31-17 in their preseason opener at Lambeau Field on Thursday, coach Mike Vrabel was asked what he liked most about his team’s performance.
Vrabel began vague — “Well, there’s always room for improvement,” he said — before pinpointing one area that features many on-the-bubble players vying for a spot on the 53-man roster.
“Special teams,” Vrabel said, “was solid. We’re heading in the right direction there.”
There was a lot to like.
Titans punt, kickoff coverage good
The Titans were sound in covering returns, especially in two situations that put the defense in favorable starting points.
In the first quarter, Quinten Rollins didn’t call for a fair catch on a Green Bay punt return, and cornerback LeShaun Sims made him pay with a hit that pried the ball free. Rookie safety Dane Cruikshank appeared to injure his left shoulder diving after the loose ball before Rollins fell back on it for a 12-yard loss.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Nick Williams raced downfield to lay an open-field tackle on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, pinning Green Bay at its 10.
“Those are a lot of positive things,” Vrabel said. “We need to continue to do that and make that a strength of our team.”
Cameron Batson flashes aggression on kickoff returns
Wide receiver Cameron Batson hadn’t seen many reps as a kick returner in practice, but he was front and center as the Titans’ primary kickoff returner. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who has been a part of the return rotation in practice, was one of two active Titans that didn’t play.
“I think that his aggressiveness was great,” Vrabel said. “We’re looking to return. We don’t want to be reckless, but we want to try to be as aggressive as we can.”
Batson returned three kicks for an average of 22.3 yards, including a long of 33 yards.
“It was good to see him catch that opening kickoff and plow it up in there,” Vrabel said. “And I thought we did a nice job blocking.”
Running back Akrum Wadley took the Titans’ last kickoff return 64 yards to set the offense up in Packers territory.
Titans’ legs effective, too
Brett Kern and Austin Barnard each had two punts, averaging a combined net of 43.3 yards. Two of their four punts landed inside the 10, and another landed inside the 20.
Ryan Succop knocked in a 23-yard field goal, Tennessee’s only attempt.
Reach Erik Bacharach at [email protected] and on Twitter @ErikBacharach.
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