The Titans dropped to 1-1 in the preseason, losing an up and down game to the Patriots at Nissan Stadium. After building a 17-8 lead with the first and second team, the Titans third team unit gave up two second half touchdowns. Here are my winners and losers from Patriots 22, Titans 17.
Marcus Mariota: Winner
Mariota and the first team offense took a couple drives to get going, but eventually put together a 10-play, 87-yard scoring drive that was capped off by an 11-yard strike from Mariota to Delanie Walker. The Titans quarterback was mostly sharp during his three drive outing, going 6 of 9 for 63 yards and a touchdown while connecting with Darius Jennings, Corey Davis, Dion Lewis, Jeremy McNichols, and Walker. The touchdown to Walker was a thing of beauty.
Not included in the box score was a 27-yard defensive pass interference call earned on a back shoulder throw to rookie receiver A.J. Brown. I particularly enjoyed seeing Mariota have the confidence to throw that 50-50 ball and give his receiver a chance to make a play for him.
Mariota also turned in a play that, while impressive, I’m sure Mike Vrabel would prefer his quarterback to save for the regular season when he took off out of the pocket on the two-point conversion attempt and flipped over a defender to get across the goal line.
I appreciate Mariota’s fearlessness as much as anyone, but I’d rather he save plays like this for games that matter.
Logan Ryan: Winner
Logan Ryan didn’t play a ton of snaps, but he did get to pick off his former team as he perfectly undercut a crossing route early in the game.
Ryan is one of the best slot corners in the NFL and looks like he’s not suffering from any lingering effects from the broken leg that ended his 2018 season.
Rodger Saffold: Loser
Lets not overreact to one play here. Rodger Saffold is a proven veteran guard who is going to be really good for the Titans, but... he’s gotta go in the loser category tonight for getting put on his keister on the second snap of his preseason debut. Saffold was bowled over by Byron Cowart, resulting in a sack of Mariota.
Rookie Maryland product Byron Cowart buries Titans' Rodger Saffold en route to the quarterback— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) August 17, 2019
Saffold played well for the rest of the night, but this was a forgettable rep for the big guard.
Delanie Walker: Winner
It was great to see Walker back on the field in a Titans uniform. He picked up right where he left off, catching both his targets on the night for 26 yards. It’s clear the comfort level that Mariota has with Walker and it’s hard to overstate how bad this offense missed 82 last season.
Matt Dickerson: Winner
The Titans dominated the line of scrimmage early in this game. The two guys that stood out the most were DaQuan Jones — who continues to have a really good camp/preseason — and Matt Dickerson. Dickerson is a guy that seems likely to make the roster again and plays like this one will certainly help his cause.
Dickerson is a guy the coaching staff has talked up all summer. He earned one of the team’s offseason awards for his work in the weight room, putting on 16 pounds to get up to 308. He’s got good length and I think we could see him see significant playing time as part of the defensive line rotation this season.
Austin Pasztor and Tyler Marz: Losers
Woof. Pasztor and Marz have been a rough watch as depth tackles during preseason action. Both guys struggled mightily with Patriots rookie edge rusher Chase Winovich, who finished with a sack, two quarterback hits, and two tackles for loss.
The Titans are going to be in rough shape if anything happens to Dennis Kelly or Jack Conklin during the four weeks that Taylor Lewan is suspended. I would think they’d have to consider moving either Rodger Saffold or Kevin Pamphile our to tackle rather than putting one of these guys in the game. Make sure you check out Pasztor’s cameo in Jeremy McNichols’ section below.
Jack Conklin: Winner
The good news is that the team’s top tackles are playing quite well. Conklin has really impressed throughout camp and preseason. The play below got called back for a holding penalty on Anthony Firkser, but check out Conklin’s absolutely perfect reach block to seal the edge for McNichols.
I think Conklin is back.
Jeremy McNichols: Winner
McNichols looked good for a second straight game as he continues to build a strong case for a roster spot. Shortly after his touchdown run was called back, he showed off his pass catching ability, turning this simple flat route into a high flying touchdown.
He finished the game with just 13 yards on 6 carries, but chipped in 24 yards on 3 catches through the air. His ability as a pass catcher — McNichols was a wide receiver early in college before converting to running back — make him a versatile weapon for the offense.
Isaiah Mack: Winner
The undrafted and undersized defensive tackle from UT-Chattanooga continues to make plays. He had a nice pressure on a Patriots two point conversion attempt, a few nice run stops, and this beautiful sack of Brian Hoyer.
Mack faces a tough task in cracking what’s suddenly become a rather deep Titans defensive line. Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones are mortal locks while Austin Johnson, Brent Urban, and Matt Dickerson, Amani Bledsoe, and Mack all battle for what will likely be just three or four remaining spots on the roster. Mack has worked himself into the conversation though.
Alex Barnes: Winner
After a slow start to camp and preseason, we finally saw a glimpse of the Alex Barnes I’d expected to see when he signed as a UDFA after the draft. He tallied 42 yards on just 7 carries and looked much better than he did against the Eagles last week. He’s still got very little chance of making this roster, but maybe he can work his way into a practice squad spot.
Logan Woodside: Loser
A week after lighting up the Eagles third team defense, Woodside went just 4 of 13 for 72 yards tonight. Its just one outing, but this performance won’t help his case for a 53-man roster spot.
Sharif Finch: Winner
Finch was the Titans top active edge rusher as Harold Landry and Cameron Wake both got the night off. He managed to draw a holding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a safety after beating a Patriots tight end on the play below.
Finch has already provided a tremendous return for the Titans and he continues to make plays when given the opportunity.
A.J. Brown: Winner
In a sense, Brown is a winner just based on getting in and out of the game healthy after getting past the injury that knocked him out of camp early. He didn’t make a catch in the game, but did draw that 27-yard defensive pass interference penalty — doing a nice job of working back through his man for the ball — and added this route below.
The pass goes to McNichols (obviously), but keep your eyes on Brown. He’s lined up as a the front of the two man stack on the right side of the field. One of the things I’ve wanted to see him improve on after watching him closely in practice this week was his releases. This release is picture perfect. He absolutely dusts his defender right from the snap with a quick two hand swipe that knocks the corner’s punch down and puts him off balance.
Jamil Douglas and Austin Pasztor (RG and RT) got abused on this play. Good thing Tannehill took the quick hitter (good read with the blitz). He gets killed if he cycles to another option.— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 18, 2019
If he can build on that, he’s going to be earning a lot of snaps for the Titans offense sooner rather than later.
Titans Punters: Winners
Both Brett Kern and Austin Barnard had great nights, as did their coverage units. The Titans averaged 47 yards per punt and had 4 of their 6 punts downed inside the Patriots 10-yard line. Two of those were inside the 2-yard line.
Punting isn’t exciting, but the Titans are very good at it.
Jimmy and Justin broke it all down on MCM Radio last night. You can listen to it here.