Derrick Henry's next challenge

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Derrick Henry has been pretty great to this point in the preseason.

At practices as he’s been the No. 1 back during DeMarco Murray’s recovery from a hamstring issue, Henry looks like every bit a load-carrying, No. 1 guy. He’s got a team-high 24 carries in two preseason games for 65 yards with two touchdowns. The yards-per-carry is a low 2.7, but Carolina’s front is awfully good and there were some dead ends Saturday afternoon that were hardly the back’s issue alone. I doubt he'll have that much trouble with a lateral move in the backfield against anyone else.

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The Titans don't see an issue with Marcus Mariota's throws to the right

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Is everything right with Marcus Mariota’s throws to the right?

The Titans think so, but his work in 27 NFL games offers evidence to the contrary.

In numbers I looked at when I was still with ESPN, throwing to the right third of the field between 10-20 yard, Mariota has completed 42.7 percent of his passes as compared to 57 percent to the same area to his left.

And from 20-30 yards, it was 27.3 percent to the right versus 40 percent to the left.

(Warren Sharp took a close look at Mariota’s throws in this interesting piece. He’s a handicapper and I don’t know much about him. I cannot double-check or vouch for his numbers.)

The right side does seem to be an area where the Titans’ QB can struggle when he’s off. But Mariota doesn’t see it a specific problem, and talks more generally about his feet and their role in bad throws.

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Are four young Titans playing as well as we think?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Among the best developments of training camp and the preaseason has been the solid play of some Titans' youngsters.

So I went to four of the guys who've earned good reviews, and I asked them if they've been as good as we thought.

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Marcus Mariota's freedom to change calls not as big a development as it seems

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ask about the changes for Marcus Mariota heading into his third NFL season, and an expanded envelope for changing plays at the line comes up.

But it may not be as significant as it sounds.

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After cut block on Julius Peppers, Derrick Henry talks pass protection

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Pass protection is priority one for Mike Mularkey and the Titans offense.

Everything they do hinges on Marcus Mariota quarterbacking the franchise and minimizing hits gives the franchise the best chance to have him for 16 games.

So a run-first team needs productive guys at running back, but they also need to be good at blitz pickups.

Derrick Henry wound up one-on-one with Carolina’s Julius Peppers Saturday afternoon, and while he slowed Peppers with a cut block, quarterbacks Matt Cassel wound up running for his life and throwing the ball away.

“I thought Derrick, from the first game, was better,” Mularkey said. "Our other backs, we had some breakdowns again. We certainly have to clean that up...”

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Halfway through preseason, my Titans' 53-man roster

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are getting deeper.

I just didn’t think they were deep enough to make picking a roster at this stage especially tough. Finding guys for the last few spots would be the issue, not cutting guys who should be around.

Well, I made a quick pass through the roster and circled the numbers of the guys I think are locks to relatively certain picks at this time.

And I came up with 26 guys on offense (which includes the kicker) and 26 on defense (including the long-snapper and punter).

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Precise receiver play has been an issue Mike Mularkey and his staff have obsessed about since they took over the Tennessee Titans.

The addition of veteran Eric Decker, currently out with a right ankle injury judged to be relatively minor, is expected to help the team upgrade in that category.

“That’s him, that’s who he is,” offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said. “The good part about it for us is, when we’re trying to teach it to you, it’s one thing. When you’ve got a guy like that who’s showing it to you, it’s a whole different package.

Eric Decker early practice, Aug. 16. #Titans. #Panthers

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“We can say ‘precision,’ ‘precise,’ ‘exact.’ We say that 50 times. But when a young guy sees him do that, he says, ‘Oh, that’s what they are talking about.’ So it’s a big plus for us.”

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