NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mike Vrabel wanted his debut as Tennessee’s head coach to start on offense.
It was an impressive beginning in the Titans‘ preseason opener.
Marcus Mariota and the Titans wasted no time providing a glimpse of what they can do in this new offense, driving 71 yards for a touchdown on the first series even with four starters sidelined. Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker was a healthy scratch, starting wide receivers Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews were out with undisclosed injuries and right tackle Jack Conklin is recovering from a torn ACL.
“It was an efficient drive, it was a good drive and it was good to see that group go down there and kind of do what they did in an in the scrimmage, the one Friday night scrimmage that we had and then be able to carry that over know into this week,” Vrabel said Friday.
The Titans wound up losing 31-17 in Green Bay with the second-team offense settling for a field goal after Vrabel let new backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert throw on fourth-and-4 at the Packers 12.
But all the attention is on Mariota and the offense being installed by offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. Putting the No. 2 overall pick in 2015 in a better scheme is why the Titans fired Mike Mularkey in January and replaced him with Vrabel.
Mariota looked sharp, even though he was caught running at the line for a sack. The quarterback who has been healthy all offseason for the first time since his rookie season later scrambled for 7 yards. He was 2 of 3 for 42 yards passing despite not having Davis or Matthews.
Davis dressed and warmed up but did not play. The No. 5 wide receiver overall last year has not practiced since leaving a session early last weekend with an undisclosed issue. Matthews is the lone veteran of the receiving corps, and he remains on the physically unable to perform list.
That left Mariota with Taywan Taylor, a third-round pick overall in 2017, and Darius Jennings, as his starting receivers. Jennings originally signed with Cleveland in 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia and started one of the four games he played that season with the Browns. The Titans released Jennings last November before bringing him back again.
“Overall, it is a young group, so it is exciting to see those guys get a chance to play,” Mariota said. “With that being said, these guys have an opportunity and they need to make the most of it. We are really going to have to count on some of those guys throughout the year and that is good to see that in live game action.”
Jennings capped that opening drive with a 4-yard TD catch as he tries to earn a roster spot.
Derrick Henry also had an 8-yard run on an outside zone play that will be a feature of this offense.
The Titans still have plenty to work on offensively before hosting Tampa Bay for two joint practices before their preseason game Aug. 18. Running back Dalyn Dawkins was flagged for one of three lowering the helmet penalties on the Titans, and they lost time of possession in the final three quarters with their worst the third holding the ball for only 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
“Always room for improvement,” Vrabel said.
NOTES: The Titans agreed to terms Friday with S Steven Terrell and waived as injured OLB Gimel President and DL Johnny Maxey. Terrell has played 42 career games in stops with Jacksonville, Houston, Seattle and Kansas City. … The Titans went 1-3 in the preseason a year ago under Mularkey. Whether it was Vrabel’s debut or the Titans playing their first game in their new uniforms, TV ratings in Nashville jumped 39 percent over the opener a year ago from 11.9 rating to 16.6.