Aug 30, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Rusty Smith (11) points prior to handing off the ball to teammate Tennessee Titans running back Jamie Harper (not pictured) for the touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at LP Field. Tennessee defeated New Orleans 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Both the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans will be looking to display their rookies for a second time in real-game situations to see if their football capabilities can match up at the professional level. The two teams are loaded with intriguing first-year talent, so let’s take a look at which players we should keep an eye on during Friday’s contest.
OT Taylor Lewan, the No. 11 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, has an uncanny ability to hold off pass rushers and protect the quarterback. The former Michigan standout sits behind Michael Roos at left tackle on the Titans’ unofficial depth chart at the moment. While he battles the consequences of some off-field issues, Lewan will be looking for a solid performance against a dangerous Saints’ pass rush. The blindside protection of his quarterback, not matter who it is, is crucial.
Bishop Sankey has tremendous upside as a running back in the National Football League. His solid frame, outstanding athleticism and excellent change of direction should grant him well at the next level. A product of the University of Washington, he was the first running back taken off the board during May’s selection process (No. 54 overall). Sankey was a bit shaky in his preseason debut against the Green Bay Packers, but it will be interesting to see how he matches up against a Saints defense that gave up 111.6 yards per game on the ground in 2013.
It’s not just Titans fans that want to see QB Zach Mettenberger perform well at the next level. For the most part, Saints fans are LSU fans, so both sides are anxious to see what the rookie gunslinger can do. The former Fighting Tiger became just the third player in LSU history to pass for over 3,000 yards in a season. That came along with 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, which helped him rank second in the SEC in pass efficiency. Can Mettenberger put on a show against New Orleans’ “no-fly zone” secondary?
CB Marqueston Huff, one of Tennessee’s two fourth-round picks, displayed a solid performance against Green Bay last week, leading the team with five tackles and a sack. An average Titans secondary could use a little spark, so maybe Huff is the guy to give it to them. We’ll see how the Wyoming product fairs against a Saints receiving corps that is loaded with weapons.
Other notables: DT DaQuan Jones, ILB Avery Williamson, SS Hakeem Smith
New Orleans Saints:
After last week’s electric performance by “Lightning” aka Brandin Cooks that included a 25-yard touchdown reception, the rookie wideout will look to display his versatility yet again. The Oregon State standout looks like the real deal. If he can stay consistent, Cooks could be one of the Black and Gold’s top weapons during his first rodeo at the next level. He matches up well with Tennessee’s secondary, and in front of an energizing home crowd, he could have another big game.
Mental errors are a no-no in Coach Sean Payton’s system, but CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste forgot about that in St. Louis. Rookies make rookie mistakes, but that is not the kind of consistency you want to hold on to if you’re going to play the game of Crescent City football. The former Nebraska Cornhusker looked good during the team’s final week of practices at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, so let’s see if that momentum can carry on over into Friday’s matchup with the Titans.
The Saints recently moved fourth-round pick Khairi Fortt from the inside linebacker spot to outside linebacker in hopes of utilizing the California product as a pass rusher. Things didn’t go too well during the first week of the preseason, but the transition to a new role is not always that easy. Fortt possesses all the potential in the world to be a solid football player at the professional level, so let’s see whether or not that potential surfaces in Week 2.
Pierre Warren of Jacksonville State has been nothing but a pleasant surprise since New Orleans signed him as an undrafted free agent. From batting passing to making acrobatic interceptions, he has been all over the field for the Black and Gold. The Rams felt his presence after he broke up a couple of passes in St. Louis last week. With all the depth at safety, making the team is going to be a tough task to pull off, but Sean Payton loves giving the young nobodies a chance. A strong game tomorrow and finish to the preseason could land him a spot on the 53-man roster.
Other notables: WR Brandon Coleman, OLB Ronald Powell, SS Vinnie Sunseri, RB Derrick Strozier
Let’s see what these rookies got when the New Orleans Saints host the Tennessee Titans in the Week 2 matchup of the 2014 NFL Preseason. Check out our game time information for everything you need to know about tomorrow night’s contest