The Titans started hot and finished cold in this one as they dropped their preseason opener in Green Bay by a score of 31-17. The new uniforms were looking sharp and so was the first team offense, but most importantly the team seemingly avoided any catastrophic injuries to critical players tonight. Here are the players that I thought stood out for both good and bad reasons.
Mariota only threw three passes, but the first team offense looked extremely crisp, marching 71 yards in 9 plays for a quick opening touchdown. You couldn’t have asked for a better start for the Matt LaFleur era.
Mariota completed 2 of his 3 passes for 42 yards, including the 4-yard touchdown pass to Darius Jennings to cap it off. He also chipped in a 7-yard run on a play action bootleg where he kept it and outran a defender around the edge. Mariota’s accuracy was on point, hitting a tight window throw on a slant to Nick Williams for 38 yards on his first pass attempt. His sole incompletion came on a well-thrown goalline fade to Taywan Taylor when Taylor slipped during the route. After tossing the touchdown to Jennings on a nice rub concept, Mariota threw on a ball cap and watched Blaine Gabbert and Luke Falk mop up.
The other positive development for Mariota was seeing him playing without a knee brace for the first time since his rookie season. He had not been wearing it during OTAs and camp, but it was good to see him playing without it while facing live reps. He looked good moving around tonight.
This is exactly the start we hoped to see from Mariota and the first team offense.
Landry didn’t take long to make an impact in his first preseason game. With the Packers offense on the move during their second drive of the game, Landry used his go-to dip move and beat the Packers left tackle to get a strip sack on Brett Hundley.
Nice rep here by Harold Landry with a shoulder dip and the strip pic.twitter.com/RU9ChlUseI— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) August 10, 2018
The Packers were able to recover the fumble, but these are the types of game changing plays that the Titans need from him. Landry followed that play with another nice rush on the very next snap, nearly getting a hand on Hundley’s throwing arm again. The sack essentially killed the drive though, as the Packers punted just two plays later.
It’s silly that Landry fell to pick 41 in the draft. Anybody who saw him play in college saw this exact move and result on tape countless times. We still need to see him translate that to top competition in a real NFL game, but the early returns are extremely promising.
Sims got his night started with an excellent special teams play, punching the ball out of Packers punt returner Quinten Rollins’ hands on the first punt of the night. The Titans weren’t able to recover — and rookie Dane Cruikshank got hurt trying — but it could have been a big play if the ball had bounced another way. Sims’ primary contributions will be on special teams as long as the Titans top three corners are healthy so it’s good to see him making a play there.
Sims was targeted frequently at corner after the first team defensive backs came out of the game, but he held his own. He broke up several passes, including a nice play on a 4th and goal fade route at the end of a long Packers drive. Sims may be the best CB4 in the NFL right now.
Finch was one of the guys I was excited to see perform and he didn’t disappoint. After coming in for an injured Gimel President — who was also very good — Finch regularly appeared in the Green Bay backfield creating pressure. He picked up a sack early in the second half, drew a holding call on a play where he was beating the tackle again, and added two more quarterback hits throughout the game.
Finch helped his cause to sneak on to the 53-man roster this week.
Fluellen didn’t get a ton of work, but what he did get, he made the most of. He finished with 3 carries for 21 yards, including a really nice 11-yard run where he was able to make multiple defenders miss. Also, helping his cause to remain as the third running back on the roster was a couple rookie mistakes from his competition.
Gabbert wasn’t Matt Cassel bad, but he wasn’t good either. He has a big arm and some mobility, but the accuracy just isn’t there. Gabbert missed some relatively easy throws that could have kept drives alive. His 5.1 yards per attempt fell squarely in the Osweiler Zone (or should I say Flacco Zone, it’s so hard to tell them apart these days). I still think he’s going to be fine as a backup to Mariota, but this is what he is honestly.
It was just one play and the coverage was actually pretty good, but Butler got torched for a deep ball on his first opportunity in a Titans uniform. The play was oddly reminiscent of Logan Ryan’s first opportunity against the Jets during last year’s preseason. Davante Adams made a really nice late adjustment to catch the perfectly thrown ball from Brett Hundley and there just wasn’t much that Butler could do despite being in good position. Butler will have no doubt better days, but I’m sure he would’ve liked a different start.
One of my favorite players from camp struggled in his first preseason game for the Titans. He stumbled after catching a short pass in the flat during the second drive of the game which cost him a likely first down. Later he had a bad drop on an easy throw from Luke Falk. I think we’ll see more from him next week, but for a guy fighting for a potential roster spot, this was less than ideal.
Wadley wasn’t terrible tonight. He had some nice moments and looks like a very natural pass catcher out of the backfield. However, he put the ball on the ground with a costly fumble and bobbled a kickoff that luckily rolled out of the endzone instead of at the 1-yard line. That’s life with a rookie and you hope that he’s able to bounce back from those miscues as the preseason continues.
The Cornerback Depth
Outside of the top four, the Titans don’t have a whole lot to be excited about among the cornerbacks. The Packers backup quarterbacks and wide receivers absolutely roasted Kalan Reed, Rico Gafford, Joseph Este, Jarell Carter, and Joshua Kalu for the entire second half. It was an embarrassing performance from many of these guys. Reed was definitely the best of the group — really not saying much — and seems likely to be the 5th corner on the 53-man roster. This shouldn’t matter a whole lot because all the rest of these guys are likely to be cut, but I’m not looking forward to seeing this bunch play second halves for the next few weeks. It was like watching 5 Perrish Cox’s running around out there at the same time — the stuff of nightmares.
More coverage of the reaction to Titans-Packers as well as previews of Titans-Buccaneers to come throughout the week!
We broke the game down on the podcast here.