They were drafted to contribute and that’s exactly what the Titans rookie class did in their first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
On the Vikings first offensive play from scrimmage, rookie defensive tackle Karl Klug but a jarring hit on running back Adrian Peterson after only a 3 yard gain. It would be Peterson’s only carry of the night.
Klug wasn’t the only rookie that made an impression in his first NFL game.
Fellow defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Zach Clayton also made big contributions.
With 5:24 left to play in the first half, and the game scoreless, it was Casey’s time to show why the Titans selected him in the 3rd round.
Casey caught running back Lorenzo Booker at the Minnesota 49 yard line. Not only did Casey make the tackle, he stripped Booker of the football, recovered it and returned it to the Minnesota 45. It would set up the Titans first touchdown just one play later.
Quarterback Jake Locker, who finished the night 7-10, 89 yards and one touchdown made the play of the night after he bobbled the center snap. After recovering the football Locker rolled to his right and found a wide open receiver Yamon Figurs running wide open down the near sideline. Locker hit him in stride for the 45 yards touchdown. It was the first touchdown pass of Locker’s career, and the first of the preseason.
After the following Vikings series ended in a three and out, it was rookie running back Jamie Harper’s time to shine. Harper who rushed 8 times for 27 yards capped 5 play 1:32 drive with a two yard touchdown run that put the Titans on top 14-0 at the intermission.
Zach Clayton got into the mix with a quarterback sack in the second half that capped off an impressive night for this rookie class.
Head Coach Mike Munchak was very complimentary of his young player.
“Excited about the rookies,” said Munchak. “I think we have been bragging on them the past two weeks saying how well they have been doing for not having an offseason with us and only being with us 15 days.
Munchak singled out the play of Locker saying, “Jake (Locker) came in and made some plays. The one he threw (on) the touchdown, I think he actually fumbled the snap, but goes and makes the play.
“The D-lineman, which we have been bragging on, made some plays,” said Munchak. “Karl Klug started, made some plays. (Zach) Clayton, Jurrell Casey, I mean all of them contributed in some way.
Muncahk continued that, “It’s exciting to see those guys do well in there first time out.”
Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck also had a good night in his Titans debut, completing 5 of 6 attempts for 55 yards and a passer rating of 104.9.
Hasselbeck also was part of a special moment for the team in the locker room after the Munchak’s first career victory when he presented the rookie head coach with the game ball.
“It was the right thing to do and someone needed to do it so I did,” said Hasselbeck. “ Munchak’s a guy that has basically been with the organization his whole career, as a player and as a coach. He’s just one of those guys, there’s a ton of respect for him there.”
While it wasn’t an offensive explosion, it certainly was a nice performance for a team looking for good things with a new coach, and some young, talented kids finding their way together for the 2011 Tennessee Titans.
The Titans will face the St. Louis Rams next Saturday night in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.