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Winless in preseason, Titans coach taking blame to himself

August 26, 2018
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Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel takes questions after the team's NFL preseason football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 16-6. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans remain winless through three preseason games with a brand-new coaching staff busy trying to fix issues on offense and defense.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota and his No. 1 wide receiver Corey Davis had trouble connecting on not one, but two third downs. Both Mariota and Davis tried to take the blame for the miscommunication in a 16-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.

On Sunday, first-year head coach Mike Vrabel tried to absolve both Mariota and Davis by taking the blame himself.

“Up until this point, I haven’t done a good enough job making sure that both those guys know where each other’s going to be on every single route,” Vrabel said.

“And I’ll make sure that that happens because the guy throwing the ball and the guy catching the ball those are the only two guys that really at that point in time matter.”

Mariota had driven the Titans to touchdowns on two of their first three drives this preseason.

Yet both the quarterback and the Titans offense managed just 52 yards in the first half with Mariota sacked twice and intercepted once. Mariota finished 5 of 8 for 43 yards.

Davis, the fifth overall pick in 2017 and first wide receiver drafted , has yet to catch a pass in a preseason game. A hamstring injury kept him out of the preseason last year, and he has not caught a pass in his two games this preseason.

The Titans are installing a new offense, Mariota’s third going into his fourth NFL season. They had a chance for a big play on the opening drive on third-and-8 when Davis ran toward the end zone based on coverage with Mariota throwing to where the quarterback had expected his receiver to be. Mariota overthrew Davis on third-and-6 across the middle on their second drive.

Vrabel said the Titans will be relying heavily on both Mariota and Davis this season. Vrabel called it unfortunate that there was some uncertainty when Davis was uncovered.

“It’s important that Corey and Marcus are on the same page,” Vrabel said.

Along with trust, the Titans need much more consistency. Mariota hit Tajae Sharpe with an 11-yard pass on third-and-10 to keep the first drive moving. Derrick Henry converted a third-and-1 on the same drive that ended in a punt.

The Titans went three-and-out on the next two drives before Mariota threw across his body and was intercepted to end his fourth and final drive.

“Consistency is going to be something that’s important,” Vrabel said.

The Titans also have issues to clean up on defense where cornerback Adoree Jackson was beaten on the Steelers’ lone touchdown, a 32-yard pass. Linebacker Jayon Brown was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver, though Vrabel has asked the NFL to clarify the penalty he thought was lowering-the-head-to-initiate contact.

Penalties remain an issue with Tennessee flagged nine times for 51 yards, improvement from a week ago when the Titans were penalized 11 times for 134 yards in a loss to Tampa Bay.

The Titans wrap up the preseason Thursday night by hosting Minnesota (2-1). Vrabel’s focus is on fixing issues while trying to continue healing as many players as possible before opening the season Sept. 9 at Miami. A total of 12 Titans didn’t play in Pittsburgh, including six starters.

“We just got to find out who’s going to be ready for us on a short week,” Vrabel said.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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