Side note: I wrote this in the car driving through Dubuque, Iowa. Know what's in Dubuque? Nothing. Don't come to Dubuque.
Typically when I write these previews, I start by looking for a commonality between the two teams. The Fail Mary. The Bears rivalry. Brett Favre's wang. Stuff like that. But the Titans? Yeah, I've got nothing. In an era in which narratives are so manufactured, I suppose it says something that there's really no storyline between these two teams.
So quick, let's make some up! Did you guys hear Jake Locker was caught drunkenly dry humping his lawnmower last week? Oh, and Ken Whisenhunt called Mike McCarthy "Andy Reid who can't even grow a mustache." It's on now, Titans.
Let's look at 5 things to watch for.
Ha Ha in action
As I recently pointed out, play at the safety position last year was kind of a dumpster fire. In response (and because he was a great value at #21) Ted Thompson took Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to shore things up. And while Sean Richardson and Micah Hyde have both impressed in training camp so far, it's Clinton-Dix who probably has the highest expectations to live up to. Now that he's seeing live action, we'll get our first real peek at how close he is to fulfilling them, and he should get plenty of playing time.
Snaps played by the defensive starters
It's not exactly a complete overhaul, but in some ways, this defense is in a state of transition. You've got a number of new players still learning, some players switching positions (or in Raji's case, going back to an old one) and the utilization of new formations and alignments. Given how often the defense seemed lost and caught out of position last year, it will be imperative that players grasp this year's concepts. There's still a long way to go in camp and preseason, but I think this first game will be telling in how far along the players are.
The center position
Remember the debacle at backup quarterback last year and afterwards everyone was all like, "Well, I'm sure Ted won't make that mistake again! Hahaha!" Well, here the Packers find themselves with essentially two rookie centers vying for the position. That they let Evan Dietrich-Smith walk certainly speaks to the confidence they have particularly in J.C. Tretter, but that still doesn't inspire much confidence. Tretter has rebounded in camp from some early poor performances, but you can't exactly count out Corey Linsley, either. Regardless, the Titans will mark the first real test for both centers. Let's just hope one of them is good.
Jermichael Finley's twitter account
Look, I know football is back (sorta) and everyone's excited, but if the idea of players going half speed, or fourth stringers playing bores you a bit, I suggest you keep an eye on Sir YOTTO's twitter handle. I like Finley, but I feel like we're on the cusp of him going full-on Marcus Vick any day now. So there's bound to some entertainment to find. Or at least, some cryptic messages we can all wildly speculate about.
As you've probably noticed, this preview is primarily focused on the Packers defense. And frankly, it should be. It's the side of the ball with the most question marks and besides, Davante Adams is going to catch 200 balls this year. One of those questions is simply just how fast and athletic they look. We've seen Colin Kaepernick (and to a degree, Russell Wilson) burn the Packers with their legs and while Jake Locker won't be running any QB sneaks, his speed (should he break the pocket) will certainly be a good test.