Gridiron Preseason Preview: Titans at Rams

With their best player still absent from training camp, the Titans make a trip to the Edward Jones Dome on Saturday to take on the Rams in the second preseason game of the 2011 campaign for both teams.

The Titans entered new head coach Mike Munchak’s first season saddled with an ongoing controversy, as star running back Chris Johnson has yet to report to the team’s practice facility due to discontent over his current contract. The three-time Pro Bowl honoree’s holdout doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon either, as he and the front office reportedly remain far apart in discussions about a new deal.

Johnson’s absence still didn’t prevent a successful debut for both Munchak and rookie quarterback Jake Locker, however, as Tennessee kicked off its preseason with a 14-3 victory over Minnesota last Saturday in Nashville.

Locker, the eighth overall pick in this past April’s draft, threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Yamon Figurs in the second quarter and completed 7-of-10 throws for 89 yards overall after replacing veteran starter Matt Hasselbeck following the Titans’ first offensive series.

Hasselbeck also fared well in his first appearance in a Tennessee uniform, with the offseason free-agent pickup making good on 5-of-6 pass attempts for 55 yards before giving way to his young understudy.

Javon Ringer started in Johnson’s place and rushed for 17 yards on three carries, while rookie Jamie Harper added 27 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts for the Titans.

Tennessee could be without another of its playmakers when it pays a visit to the Gateway City. Though wide receiver Kenny Britt has resumed practicing after missing the opener with a hamstring injury, Munchak hinted he may play it safe with the former first-round choice and hold him out another week.

The improving Rams also began their preseason in fine fashion, handing the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts a 33-10 defeat at the Edward Jones Dome this past weekend.

St. Louis took full advantage of Manning’s absence while the legendary quarterback recovers from offseason neck surgery, intercepting backups Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky three times and converting those miscues into 13 points.

On the offensive side, 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford went 7-for-12 for 45 yards in his first test running new coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system, while finding impressive rookie tight end Lance Kendricks for a six- yard touchdown on the Rams’ initial drive.

Kendricks backed up his outstanding training camp with a strong first game, as the second-round draft choice set team highs with five catches and 47 receiving yards.

Head coach Steve Spagnuolo sat several key players who were dealing with minor injuries against the Colts, most notably running back Steven Jackson, linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Ron Bartell. All are expected to return to the field for Saturday’s tilt.

Wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker is doubtful to suit up for St. Louis this week, however, after straining his groin in the Indianapolis game. Fellow wideout Donnie Avery, who’s making his way back from an ACL tear that cost him the entire 2010 season, also figures to miss a second straight outing.

Tennessee has prevailed in seven of the 10 all-time preseason meetings between these teams and delivered a 34-13 home win in the most recent matchup, which took place in 2008. The Titans also routed the Rams by a 47-7 count in Nashville during the 2009 regular season.

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