The Tennessee Titans will play their first game of the 2021 preseason tonight when they visit the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Head coach Mike Vrabel has already ruled out the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Caleb Farley. It’s probably safe to assume we won’t see A.J. Brown, Bud Dupree and Julio Jones suit up either. In fact, several veterans will probably be held out of this game. It wouldn’t shock me if the likes of Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones and Jackrabbit Jenkins also sat out.
Let’s focus on the guys that probably will be out there. Here are five players to watch in tonight’s game as the Titans take one step closer to the regular season opener.
1. LB Monty Rice: Rice may have been the least popular pick made by Jon Robinson in the 2021 NFL Draft, but I’m excited to see what he has to offer. We haven’t heard much buzz on Rice throughout training camp, but it can be tough for a linebacker to stand out while wearing shorts and a t-shirt in August. Vrabel mentioned Rice as one of the players he’s excited to see tonight. There’s a decent chance that Rice will be an important member of the 2022 Titans, and he can start that process by standing out with a good performance tonight.
2. RB Darrynton Evans: Vrabel has already confirmed that Evans will start at running back tonight. It’s a great chance for a sophomore running back to flash the skill-set that got Robinson excited enough to draft him in the third round a year ago. Injuries unfortunately held Evans out of a large portion of the 2020 season. He’s now healthy and ready to get back on the field. Evans was so exciting to watch at App State. We still believe he has a chance to add another wrinkle to this explosive offense with his skills as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield.
3. DE Rashad Weaver: A rookie pass rusher out of The University of Pittsburgh, many analysts thought the Titans got a steal when they drafted Weaver with the 135th selection in this year’s draft. Weaver was expected to get drafted inside the top 100. Tonight, Weaver will get a chance to hit the NFL field for the first time. He’s another player Vrabel is excited to watch. Weaver has apparently strung a couple of good practices together in recent days. The Titans need someone to rush the passer behind Harold Landry and Bud Dupree. Hopefully Weaver can be that guy. We could see a lot of him tonight.
4. WR Marcus Johnson: Johnson is the first newcomer veteran to make this list, and it’s for good reason. He’s been building up a lot of buzz at training camp recently. When it comes to receivers, Titans fans always seem to fall in love with a preseason darling. Is Johnson another “victim” of this hype machine, or is there actually something there? Johnson will get a big chance to prove himself tonight. For the record, I believe he’s a quality NFL receiver, and I’m very excited to watch him play tonight.
5. OL Dillon Radunz: You’ve probably noticed a bit of a theme here. Three rookies made this list, and for good reason. These are important moments for them. Radunz, the team’s second-round pick, is no different. While he doesn’t appear to be currently in the mix to start at right tackle, a few good showings in preseason could change that. Vrabel noted him as a guy that’s starting to show improvement at camp in recent days. There’s a lot up for grabs for him over the next few weeks. If he doesn’t start at right tackle this season, it’s still important for him to earn the coaching staff’s trust. He must at least prove capable of handling a backup role this year. In addition to his role as a tackle, Radunz has also been playing a bit of guard at training camp. With veteran swing players like Ty Sambrailo, David Quessenberry and Aaron Brewer on the roster, playing time may not be easy to come by for Radunz this season.