Titans vs Cardinals: Key Players to Watch in Tonight's Preseason Clash

Alex ButlerContributor IIIAugust 23, 2012

Jake Locker will make his first start since being named regular season starter tonight against the Cardinals.
Jake Locker will make his first start since being named regular season starter tonight against the Cardinals.John Grieshop/Getty Images

As intriguing as the John Skelton and Kevin Kolb quarterback battle may or may not be, there are other reasons to pay attention to tonight's matchup between the Tennssee Titans and Arizona Cardinals.

As Mike Sando of ESPN.com writes, "the Cardinals want to see Skelton run the offense at a quick tempo, delivering the ball on time from the right spots to promote accuracy." The decision has still not been made in the desert. The money is still on Kolb, figuratively and literally, but the momentum is tilting toward Skelton.

The Cardinals backfield could be the leading storyline here. Running back Beanie Wells is slated to play in his first game since last season. You will get a good idea of how much his knee has progressed. Another interesting player to keep an eye on will be second year running back Ryan Williams. Williams, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last year, was expected to explode in his rookie campaign.

From a fantasy football aspect, the oft-injured Wells has been an enigma. Williams could be a late round sleeper in all leagues. The Arizona running game will be very important this season if the team wants to go anywhere because of the lack of a sure-fire quarterback.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, "Wells, who underwent knee surgery in January, is expected to participate in a handful of plays Thursday against the Titans in Nashville."

On the Titans side of the ball, Chris Johnson, who scored two touchdowns last week, will be the workhorse for the regular season and could see snaps in the early part of the third quarter. The Titans rushed for 216 rushing yards last week against the Buccaneers and you should see a ground and pound approach tonight.

Johnson, who had a long holdout last season before getting paid, had an entire offseason to get his focus back and find his 2,000 yard legs again. Look for a new and improved Johnson in terms of maturity but try and catch a glimpse of the old Johnson—who has 15 rushes for 54 yards this preseason—to get a flash of what you may see later on this season.

Something other than Johnson's play has had the Titans in the news as of late. Sophomore quarterback Jake Locker earned the label of starting quarterback three days ago. He will be under center in his first start since then.

Locker always had the potential to be a star, with a strong arm and alpha personality, but we will begin to see how high his ceiling may rise with his play tonight. It will be interesting to see how much of the playbook coach Mike Muchak gives Locker to chew on.

The Titans appear loaded on offense and at special teams. A sleeper that Tennessean reporter John Glennon mentioned to watch earlier this week was Darius Reynaud. Glennon said, "There will be plenty of attention paid to training camp surprise Darius Reynaud, who's carried 12 times for 104 yards and returned three punts for 134 yards in two games."