2014 DRAFT GUIDE
5 things about Titans, Vikings from preseason

By JON KRAWCZYNSKI - AP Sports Writer
    2013-08-30 03:14

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings both enter the regular season relying on third-year quarterbacks to make significant improvements and justify the faith both teams have showed them early in their careers.

Jake Locker, who was taken eighth overall in the 2011 draft, was coming off an injury-plagued first full season as a starter for the Titans. Christian Ponder, who was drafted four spots later, has been wildly up and down in his first two years on the job.

The preseason was important for both young players to establish rhythm, chemistry and leadership going into what could be make-or-break years for them. Here's a look at how they did, and four other things we know about each team following the preseason.

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Five things we know about the Vikings:

PONDERING THE QB: Ponder is throwing to a revamped receiving corps and has had to do most of his work with newcomers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson in practice. He played two plays in the opener - one completion and one interception - and was up and down in more extensive playing time in Games 2 and 3. He did not play in the preseason finale and enters the regular season with plenty of question marks.

INTRIGUING ROOKIE: Patterson has shown flashes of the ability that made the Vikings pay a big price to trade back in the first round and grab the WR out of Tennessee. He needs work on his route-running, but the athleticism, speed and versatility in the return game have the Vikings excited about his future.

SUSPECT SECONDARY: The Vikings let CB Antoine Winfield, a revered veteran in the locker room, go this summer, preferring to go with a youth movement in the secondary. But Chris Cook appears to be the only reliable, veteran cornerback they have at the moment, and he has struggled with injuries and off-the-field issues early in his career. The second unit was torched by Tennessee's backup quarterbacks and receivers in the preseason finale.

DT DEPTH: Kevin Williams went down with a knee injury in the third preseason game, and coach Leslie Frazier is hopeful his six-time Pro Bowler will be ready for the opener. But there is a decent chance Williams won't be, and the Vikings have also had rookie Sharrif Floyd miss three weeks with a knee injury and Christian Ballard leave the team for personal reasons. So depth remains a concern in the middle.

WHO NEEDS PRESEASON? Adrian Peterson didn't play a down of preseason ball last year while recovering from a torn ACL, and he followed that up with a 2,000-yard season and an MVP trophy. He only played a few snaps on one drive this preseason, but there's no doubt he'll be ready to roll on Sept. 8 against the Lions.

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Five things we know about the Titans:

LOCKED IN: Titans coach Mike Munchak took the unusual approach of playing many of his offensive starters, including Locker, in the final preseason game. He wanted Locker to continue building on a solid preseason, and he did just that on an 18-play opening drive against the Vikings. For the preseason he completed 67 percent of his passes for 338 yards and one TD. ``I feel really comfortable with this group,'' Locker said. ``I like what we're doing offensively and I've got a lot of confidence in what we're doing, so I'm excited.''

MCCARTHY MENDING: LB Colin McCarthy was a defensive captain last year, but he's missed three weeks because of hamstring problems in the preseason. His action against the Vikings was his first this year, and he's trying to ramp up to get ready to help the unit when it opens at Pittsburgh on Sept. 8. He led the Titans with six tackles in the game. ``It felt great to get an opportunity during the preseason, when it doesn't really count, to go out there and knock some of the cobwebs off,'' he said.

MUNCHAK ON HOT SEAT: The Hall of Famer went 6-10 in his second season and knows that the clock is ticking. That may be why he wanted to play so many offensive players in the preseason finale. The urgency is high. ``This is my opportunity, too,'' Munchak said earlier this week. ``Only so many guys get an opportunity to do what I'm doing. I appreciate it greatly to be in this spot. I don't want to let people down, and I want to give it all I've got.''

CORNERBACK SHUFFLE: Jason McCourty is the starter at LCB. Alterraun Verner and Tommie Campbell have alternated starts on the right side. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said they could alternate starts between the two during the season depending on opponents. Verner struggled last week giving up a big completion to Julio Jones and was flagged twice for interference.

ZOOM ZOOM: Chris Johnson raced a cheetah as part of a cable television special in the offseason, and he hit the ground running in the preseason. After a bounce-back year in 2012, Johnson has looked prime for another big season with an impressive exhibition campaign. He rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown, averaging 7.8 yards per carry, in the preseason.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Jimmy StatenNov 26 09:43p

The Seattle Seahawks signed free-agent DT Jimmy Staten (Seahawks) to their practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also released OT Andrew McDonald from their practice squad.

Marcus ThigpenNov 26 09:03p

The Buffalo Bills claimed WR Marcus Thigpen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday, Nov. 26. The team also waived DE Bryan Johnson.

Richard GordonNov 26 09:03p

The Tennessee Titans waived TE Richard Gordon Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 08:33p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Dwayne AllenNov 26 07:33p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

C. PattersonNov 26 06:23p

Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jerick McKinnonNov 26 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Brandon LaFellNov 26 06:03p

New England Patriots WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Jace AmaroNov 26 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (head) is not expected to play in Week 13, because he is going through the concussion protocol.

Reggie BushNov 26 04:53p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle, back) was limited in practice for the third straight day Wednesday, Nov. 26, and is questionable for Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.

Jordan CameronNov 26 04:43p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) remains day-to-day, but the team is looking for him to practice symptom-free this week, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Jordan ReedNov 26 04:13p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (hamstring) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 26, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

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Arian FosterNov 26 02:33p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) has an excellent chance to return in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans after missing the last two games.

Mark SanchezNov 26 02:23p

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Larry FitzgeraldNov 26 01:53p

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Julius ThomasNov 26 01:23p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) was limited at practice Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Phil LoadholtNov 26 12:33p

Minnesota Vikings OT Phil Loadholt (pectoral) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Nov. 26.

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R. Griffin IIINov 26 09:43a

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Colt McCoyNov 26 09:43a

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R. Griffin IIINov 25 11:43p

The Washington Redskins are planning on benching QB Robert Griffin III for the Week 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts in favor of QB Colt McCoy. However, Griffin still [ More ]

Jace AmaroNov 25 05:13p

New York Jets TE Jace Amaro (concussion) is in concussion protocol, according to head coach Rex Ryan, after suffering the concussion in Week 12 against the Buffalo Bills.

R. Griffin IIINov 25 04:23p

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Michael BushNov 25 04:13p

The Arizona Cardinals signed free-agent RB Michael Bush (Bears) and cut RB Kerwynn Williams Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Brandon McManusNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos waived PK Brandon McManus Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Connor BarthNov 25 03:43p

The Denver Broncos signed free-agent PK Connor Barth (Buccaneers) to an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Nov. 25, after waiving PK Brandon McManus, according to a source.

Reggie BushNov 25 03:13p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) said he'll be ready to play Thursday, Nov. 27, after missing Week 12 with an ankle injury.

Latavius MurrayNov 25 02:43p

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray (concussion) will undergo baseline testing for his concussion Tuesday, Nov. 25, according to a league source. He is feeling good, but he must go [ More ]

Brian HoyerNov 25 01:53p

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer was never in danger of being benched in favor of QB Johnny Manziel in the team's Week 12 win over the Atlanta Falcons, according [ More ]

Blake BortlesNov 25 01:33p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles went 15-for-27 for just 146 yards and an interception in the team's Week 12 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and he hasn't tossed a [ More ]

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