The Tennessee Titans’ 23-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium was about what one would expect from Week 1 of the preseason.
While the results don’t matter, Tennessee left with a solid evaluation of eight of its nine-player 2022 draft class in live-game action for the first time, and the Titans saw the fruits of true competition at several positions including quarterback, running back, offensive line, and the front seven.
“It’s different, it’s a new experience for all these guys, we’ve got a lot of rookies on this team and there are going to be a lot of guys who will continue to develop and get better,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters after the game. “We just want to make sure that they are competing each and every day and they understand how difficult this league is.”
Below are the things that stood out — good and bad — from the Titans’ preseason opener in Baltimore:
Malik Wills: good and bad
The rookie QB completed 6 of 11 passes for 107 yards and added another 38 yards rushing with a score. He showed off his arm on a 48-yard bomb to Racey McMath in the first half and he made some plays with his legs, escaping the pocket and eluding rushers on several occasions. But Willis admittedly relied too much on his escape ability, and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel admitted pulling Willis in the third quarter because he wasn’t throwing the ball enough. The Titans will presumably work with the 23-year-old signal caller on climbing the pocket, progressing through his reads better and improving his decision making.
"He kept some plays alive with his legs,” Vrabel continued. “We just have to be able to combine some of that with making some great decisions when guys are open and being decisive and accurate with the football.”
Logan Woodside: bad
No disrespect to Matt Barkley or DeShone Kizer, but for the first time in three years, it feels like Woodside has legitimate competition for the No. 2 QB job. No longer will the third-year passer be handed the backup job by default.
“It is competition, but also, I was a young quarterback at one point, and I had some guys that really tried to lead me in the right direction,” Woodside said. “So, that’s what I feel like I try to do with him. Any question that he has, I try to answer it and help hm any way I can.”
Woodside didn’t do much to help his case against Baltimore, forcing throws, accounting for two really bad interceptions, and looking out of rhythm for much of the second half. The Titans obviously trust Woodside to run the offense should anything happen to Tannehill, but after the flashes and creativity we saw from Willis, he may give Tennessee its best opportunity to win if forced to pick between the two.
“You have to be able to go in there and process the group that you are in there (with),” Vrabel said of Woodside. “…There are going to be some things that he did well and certainly, the turnovers are going to be disappointing.”
Racey McMath: good
Although he didn’t have a huge role on Thursday, the Titans likely saw what they wanted to from McMath as he manufactured the longest reception and longest kick return of the contest. His 48-yard reception from Willis in the first half is what most will talk about, and rightfully so. McMath, who’s made a habit of getting behind the defense and hauling in deep catches downfield in practice, showed he can translate that part of his game against a live defense. His 30-yard kick return, which he fielded deep in his own end zone, was equally as impressive. McMath has the kind of speed that makes him a weapon on special teams, but he could fill the role of downfield threat in the passing game as well.
Secondary depth: bad
With injuries already to Amani Hooker, Elijah Molden and Roger McCreary, the Titans can’t afford to take any more hits to the secondary. Tennessee already signed safeties Adrian Colbert and Elijah Benton on Tuesday. Against Baltimore, cornerback Chris Jackson went down with an apparent knee injury at the end of the second half. Ravens receiver Shemar Bridges, who caught a 14-yard touchdown reception while Jackson defended him, came down awkwardly on Jackson’s leg. He immediately grabbed his knee, limped to the locker room shortly after, and missed the rest of the game.
Rashad Weaver: good
Although he only had two tackles while playing 32 defensive snaps, Weaver made his presence known. He set the edge on an end around near the end of the first quarter, blowing past Ravens’ rookie tight end Isaiah Likely and stopping Taylan Wallace in the backfield for a loss of five yards. Weaver showed similar promise in last year’s preseason, but he didn’t get to make much of an impact after his rookie season was cut short by a broken right fibula in September. If he’s fully healthy, he could make an already potent Titans pass rush all the more dangerous, and help alleviate some of the pressure on Harold Landry, Bud Dupree, Jeffery Simmons, and Denico Autry to produce sacks.
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