The Titans opened their preseason slate with a convincing 27-10 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia tonight. As always, preseason games must be taken with a massive grain of salt, but... as exhibition games go, this was a fun one. Tennessee thoroughly dominated throughout, and most importantly, stayed mostly healthy — Riley Bullough left with an elbow injury and some believe they saw Jayon Brown run off with a possible hand issue, but I haven’t been able to find any report with verified information about that.
[UPDATE: Paul Kuharsky confirms “nothing noteworthy” regarding Jayon Brown’s hand.]
It was a good night against a talented and deep Eagles roster. Here are my winners and losers from Titans 27, Eagles 10.
Ryan Tannehill: Winner
Let me say this first... ahem... THERE IS NOT A QUARTERBACK BATTLE GOING ON HERE. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a better start to Ryan Tannehill’s time in Tennessee. The former Dolphins starter was a razor sharp 12 of 16 for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns while piloting the second team offense in the first half.
Tannehill showed poise, arm strength, and accuracy throughout his appearance, including this perfectly placed ball to Anthony Firkser.
Tannehill was outstanding tonight.
Taywan Taylor: Loser
As someone who has defended Taylor’s value previously, this hurts me to say, but he appears to be trending in a very negative direction. His negatives have always been there to some degree — the body catching, poor ball tracking, and inconsistent hands — but those things seem to be getting worse, not better heading into year three.
Taylor dropped two passes and had another ruled incomplete when he failed to keep his feet in bounds. The worst was this drop on a deep throw to the endzone from Tannehill.
This has all the markings of a confidence issue for Taylor. I think the drops are in his head at this point and I just don’t know what the Titans can do to pull him out of his funk. I had always assumed that he’d at least make the roster as one of the few Tennessee receivers who can threaten a defense over the top, but he’s going to have to put together some better showings than what we saw tonight. This may be an overreaction, but I think Kalif Raymond put him on notice tonight.
Kalif Raymond: Winner
Speaking of Raymond... the fourth year pro out of Holy Cross made a big first impression — despite an early drop himself — catching 6 passes for 80 yards on the night while working with the second and third team units.
Raymond’s most impressive catch of the night was this tough grab over the middle as he managed to hang on despite a huge hit from the linebacker.
Raymond has speed to burn as a former track star who was timed at 4.34 seconds in the forty yard dash in 2016 and offers some ability as a kick and punt returner, as he showed off with a 16-yard punt return in the second half.
Raymond has had an excellent camp so far and built on that in preseason game number one. There is little doubt that he should be viewed as a real possibility to make the 53-man roster.
Adoree’ Jackson: Loser
Jackson didn’t have a terrible night overall, but he did give up the longest play of the night when he got beat for a 75-yard touchdown by Eagles receiver Marken Michel.
Jackson would bounce back with a pair of nice back to back passes defended later on, but those lapses in focus are just what Mike Vrabel wants the third year corner to eliminate.
Jeremy McNichols: Winner
McNichols has had a nice camp and seems to have separated himself as the fourth back in the Titans backfield behind Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, and David Fluellen. He had a nice night tonight, rushing for 44 yards on 8 carries (5.5 yards per carry), highlighted by this big cutback run early in the second quarter.
I also noticed McNichols with a couple really nice blitz pickups as well — an area of his game that was regarded as one of the reasons he was released by Tampa Bay. The Titans haven’t kept four backs on the 53-man roster in recent years, but McNichols has a chance to at least make them think about it if he can keep this high level of play going.
The Titans were the least penalized team in the NFL last year, but that didn’t carry over in this game. Tennessee was whistled for 12 penalties, totaling 117 yards. Sloppy play and flags are to be expected in preseason game number one, but it’s something I’m sure Mike Vrabel and the coaching staff will harp on during the week.
Cody Hollister: Winner
When the Titans released their first unofficial depth chart earlier this week, Hollister was one of the relatively surprising names, showing up among the second team group at wide receiver despite getting little buzz during camp. He showed up in a big way during this preseason game though, hauling in 4 of 5 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown.
His best catch of the night came on a leaping sideline grab where he did well to get both feet in and pick up the first down. At 6’-4” and 209 pounds, Hollister is a big target that seems to have earned the trust of his quarterbacks. I think it would take an injury or two for him to get in the mix for a roster spot, but it was a very nice performance nonetheless.
Alex Barnes: Loser
I was really high on Barnes coming into camp, but I’m ready to sell my stock now. The big undrafted rookie out of Kansas State just looked slow and indecisive, gaining just 14 yards on 10 carries AND he put the ball on the ground — a mortal sin for guy trying to make a roster. The drop off in burst from McNichols and Dalyn Dawkins to Barnes was drastic.
David Long: Winner
One of just two rookie draft picks to get on the field in this game — joining safety Amani Hooker — it was hard not to notice Long once he got on the field. He was flying around the ball constantly in the second half and I thought he brought a ton of energy to the defense.
Derick Roberson: Loser
It was a rough night for some of my pre-camp favorites. Roberson played a lot in the second half, but didn’t do anything of note and was regularly the last defensive lineman off the ball when he was in the game. I’m not selling my Roberson stock just yet, but this wasn’t a performance that will help his cause.
Adam Humphries: Winner
Like Tannehill, Humphries made a great first impression on Titans fans, catching all 4 of Marcus Mariota’s completed passes in the game. The former Buc was clearly Mariota’s favorite target with Corey Davis and Delanie Walker both getting the night off. Humphries showed off his hands and knack for getting open on third downs. This is exactly what the Titans thought they were getting when they made him a priority free agent addition this offseason.
Austin Barnard: Loser
The Titans didn’t have kicker Ryan Succop available as he continues to recover from an offseason knee operation so Barnard handled kicking duties and it was... rough. Barnard went 1 for 3 on extra points and didn’t attempt a field goal. The good news is that the Titans seem confident that Succop will be ready to go well before Week 1 of the regular season. Get well soon, Ryan.
Anthony Firkser: Winner
All Firkser ever does is make big plays. He was on the receiving end of the second touchdown pass from Tannehill highlighted above. Firkser is having another good camp and seems likely to make the roster given his knack for getting open and terrific hands.
Logan Woodside: Winner
Tannehill was the most impressive quarterback of the three tonight, but Woodside had a great night himself, going 15 of 20 for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. The second year passer will need to continue to stack good performances to make the decision about whether or not to keep a third quarterback tough for Jon Robinson, but this was an excellent start. If nothing else, Woodside will make the Titans preseason watchable for all four quarters which is a pleasant surprise after the Luke Falk Experience.
DaQuan Jones: Winner
The Titans run defense was stout throughout the game and early on it was led by Jones. The big defensive tackle could be found stacking up the line of scrimmage on several early runs.
Isaiah Mack: Winner
The undrafted rookie out of UT-Chattanooga caught my eye a few times, generating a nice quarterback pressure and picking up a fumble recovery. It’s going to take a big effort to make the roster on the defensive line, but this was a good start.
Sharif Finch: Winner
I’ve been a big fan of Finch going all the way back to this time last year and he was clearly the Titans best pass rusher tonight. That bar wasn’t quite as high as it might normally be with Harold Landry, Cameron Wake, and Jurrell Casey all sitting this game out, but Finch played well. He combined with LeShaun Sims for a sack on Nate Sudfeld and added a tackle for loss in run defense.
Arthur Smith: Winner
Look.. I don’t think it’s generally a good idea to make sweeping declarations about a coach after one preseason game, BUT... it’s hard not to like what we saw from Arthur Smith tonight. The offense was productive throughout the night, accumulating a whopping 23 first downs. Smith was aggressive through the air, making use of a high rate of play action passing attempts. During the first team offense’s only drive, the Titans stuck in 11-personnel almost exclusively, making frequent use of slot receiver Adam Humphries. Whether or not this is a hint of things to come remains to be seen, but I liked what I saw.
Who were your winners and losers from the game?