NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee Titans certainly are getting tested this preseason by one playoff team after another. And now they get to play Atlanta, a team that just missed a trip to the Super Bowl last year.
Coach Mike Munchak wants a win against the Falcons after losing to Washington and Cincinnati.
"Winning always matters," Munchak said. "We're 0-2. I know when the [smoke] clears in two weeks it doesn't matter, but it does. You want to win everything you do."
The Titans are coming off a 6-10 season and haven't reached the postseason since 2008. Munchak takes the approach that playing as if the game counts is better preparation for the regular season. The Titans face a challenging start beginning Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh, followed by a trip to Houston.
"Hopefully, that gets some of the things you're seeing that aren't as good out of our system and we're learning from the mistakes we're making now, and come Pittsburgh and Houston, we're a better football team than we were last week and that we are this week," Munchak said.
The Falcons also are 0-2 after a 27-23 loss to Baltimore last week. That doesn't matter as much for a team that went an NFC-best 13-3 last season. Receiver Roddy White is recovering from an ankle injury, but quarterback Matt Ryan will have one of his favorite targets on the field now that veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez is back with Atlanta.
Atlanta coach Mike Smith knows his defense will get a good test from the Titans' rushing offense. Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene have the Titans averaging 134.5 yards rushing through two games, and the Falcons ranked 21st against the run last season.
"It's going to be a challenge for our defense," Smith said. "Chris Johnson's one of the fastest running backs in the league. He's the guy that can take the ball out the back door or bounce it out the front side. It's going to be important for us to play with a lot of leverage."
Smith also said he's been really impressed with the Titans' offensive line. The Titans revamped the unit this offseason signing left guard Andy Levitre and drafting right guard Chance Warmack working with a pair of Hall of Fame linemen in Munchak and line assistant coach Bruce Matthews.
"They do a very good job," Smith said.
The only spot on the Titans' offensive line still to be settled is center, where Rob Turner, one of the free agents signed this offseason, will make his second start this preseason. Munchak said rookie Brian Schwenke, their fourth-round draft pick out of California, will follow Turner at center in his debut after being limited by a sore left hamstring.
"We need him out there, and he kind of needs to play through it," Munchak said of Schwenke. "We need to see him get somebody else, and we haven't had the chance to do that yet."
The Titans also will be starting Alterraun Verner at cornerback, his second this preseason. Tommie Campbell, who's trying to take the job himself, will play the second quarter as the Titans take another close look at both players.
Tennessee is coming off a 27-19 loss at Cincinnati where the first-team offense failed to score a touchdown and had to settle for too many field goals. Johnson said the Titans know what they must do.
"We've got to learn how to finish instead of coming away with three points or trying to settle for three,"he said. "We've got to start getting six."
The Falcons know they won't see much from Tennessee's defense with this being the preseason. They do know that Gregg Williams, now a defensive assistant with Tennessee, is very familiar with their offense from his years as defensive coordinator of NFC South rival New Orleans.
Running back Steven Jackson said the Titans' defense is very aggressive and flows quickly to the ball.
"I expect to have my head on a swivel just checking for blitzes and making sure they're max protected," Jackson said.
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