Preseason Game 4 Preview: Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers
By Andrew Strickert
Posted September 1st, 2006

Winless Tennessee will visit historic Lambeau Field for a rare Friday afternoon preseason contest with the 1-2 Packers. Green Bay requested the game be changed from 7:00 pm to 3:00 pm in order not to conflict with Friday night high school football games, a request the Titans were happy to accommodate.

The teams have a common preseason opponent in the Atlanta Falcons, who beat Tennessee 20-6 and fell to the Packers 38-10. The Packers are experiencing an extremely short week, playing Friday afternoon after an embarrassing 48-17 loss in Cincinnati Monday night.

Field: grass. Forecast: mostly sunny, high 74°, ENE wind between 3 and 9 mph. Kickoff: 3:00 pm, CT.

Packers Scouting Report

New head coach Mike McCarthy is reunited with future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre and inherits a team that was 4-12 after an injury-riddled season last year. The 2005 season was the worst in Favre’s career (29 INTs, 70.9 rating) and he played poorly in Cincinnati after a great game against the Falcons. Which Favre will show up Friday? He’s expected to see only limited action. Second-year player Aaron Rodgers, once considered a #1 prospect before dropping to 24th in the draft last year, is his backup.

The offense was seventh in the league in passing yardage (235.4 ypg) but only 30th in rushing with 84.5 yards per game last year. That should change with the return of RBs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport who were injured last season. Samkon Gado, who filled in for them, also returns. An Atlanta writer said Gado looked like Hornung, Taylor, and Brockington rolled into one after running over the Falcons two weeks ago. The backs will run behind a new zone-blocking system being installed in Green Bay, which is similar to Denver’s and Atlanta’s zone blocking the Titans faced the last two weeks. However, the Pack’s O-line is neither as good nor as experienced as the Bronco and Falcon lines.

One man Favre will miss again this year is WR Javon Walker, who’s now in Denver after a season-ending injury last year. WR Donald Driver (86 catches, 1,221 yards, 5 TDs in 2005) remains as the main weapon and Robert Ferguson (27, 366, 3) is on the other side. Veteran Bubba Franks (25, 207, 1) is the TE.

The Packers should theoretically improve their league-leading pass defense of last year (167.5 ypg) with the addition of CB Charles Woodson and SS Marquand Manuel. But maybe not. Woodson was burned for two TDs by the Bengals Monday night, giving up 4 catches for 84 yards in the first half. Eight-year veteran Al Harris (14 career INTs) is the other corner and second-year man Nick Collins (84 tackles) is the free safety. One reason the pass defense may have received the number one ranking is because opponents preferred to run the ball against a defense which ranked only 23rd against the rush (125.6 ypg) last year.

MLB Nick Barnett (138 tackles) heads the 4-3 defense, playing in between #5 overall draft selection weakside LB A.J. Hawk and former Brown strongside LB Ben Taylor (113 tackles).

Pass-rushing DEs Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (57½ sacks in 5 years) and Aaron Kampman (81 tackles, 6½ sacks) lead the D-line. Former Ram Ryan Pickett (65 tackles) and three-year vet Colin Cole (40 tackles) will be called on at DT.

Rookie Arliss Beach and Davenport (24.1 yard career average) will return kicks while Woodson (6.4 career avg) and rookie Greg Jennings are the punt returners. Dave Rayner comes from the Colts to assume the kicking duties and must now compete with strong-legged E.J. Cochrane, who has just been claimed off waivers. Rookie Jon Ryan will be the punter. The Packers were ninth in punt return defense at 6.9 ypr last year and ranked 12th in kick return defense (21.6 ypr).

Key Matchup

Green Bay’s best O-lineman, LT Chad Clifton, will block Travis LaBoy and Bo Schobel at RDE, a position of concern for the Titans.

Expected Strategies
The Packer starters played well into the third quarter Monday night, and with only three days between games, most of them will see little action Friday afternoon. McCarthy said he hoped to give several Packers rest, including Favre. The only Green Bay practice scheduled for this week was Wednesday. This looks like McCarthy will be giving reserves plenty of playing time and using the game as a final exam before trimming the roster to 53 on Saturday. If that’s the case, expect more vanilla football without any new X’s and O’s. The Packers would like to run the ball a lot if they can.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said the playing time and substitutions would be about the same as last week. One announced change - RB Chris Brown will start with Travis Henry and then LenDale White in relief. Fisher has so far declined to name his starting quarterback.

WR coach Ray Sherman came to the Titans from Green Bay after coaching the receivers there from 2000-04. Punter Craig Hentrich, who played there from 1994-97, came here in 1998 as part of the second Tennessee Oiler team. Safeties/nickelbacks coach Chuck Cecil played for the Packers from 1988-92, earning the reputation of a fierce hitter. Titans rookie WR Jonathan Orr played his college ball at Wisconsin. Nashville native Ingle Martin was the Packers’ fifth-round draft pick this year and is third on the QB depth chart. Packers GM Ted Thompson was a linebacker for the Houston Oilers from 1975-84.

Last meeting
Before a Monday night prime-time national audience, the 2004 Titans blew out the Packers 48-27 at Lambeau behind Brown (148 yards, 2 TDs) and Steve McNair (15/26, 206 yards, 2 TDs). The Titans and Packers have played each other in preseason games four straight years, with the Packers winning 21-17 last year.

TE Erron Kinney, DE Antwan Odom, TE Gregg Guenther, and LB Cody Spencer will be out for the Titans. Green Bay FB William Henderson, recovering from knee surgery, will not play. RB Ahman Green, returning from quad surgery last year, will probably play only one series and then sit out for the rest of the game in a planned move as part of his scheduled return to action.

The Titans need to win a game to change the mood and attitude of the team. Fisher has announced the starters will play into the second half, and because much of their playing time will come against the Packer reserves, they should outplay and outscore Green Bay.

Titans 20, Packers 13

Read Andrew Strickert's blog at Total Titans.

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