We’ve made it once again, football has returned! The Titans will be back on the field Thursday night, taking on the Baltimore Ravens in the first preseason game of 2022.
With several new pieces of the puzzle on offense set to make their debuts, here’s what we’ll be watching for.
The Malik Willis experience
Let’s be honest, since we heard his name called in the third round, we’ve been counting down to the first preseason game to see Willis get his feet wet in NFL action. With Ryan Tannehill locked in as the starter, Willis should see the bulk of time under center this preseason, making these games pretty intriguing.
The electric quarterback with the cannon arm and potentially elite rushing ability now has to put all the pieces together in an NFL setting, something that he’s actually landed in a pretty good spot to do. We know he can create the big plays, but for Willis, we need to see growth inside of the pocket. We need to see him get through his reads and making the right decisions. Nobody is expecting this to look perfect from the first preseason game. Mistakes will be made, but the biggest thing here is getting Willis comfortable in the offense.
From there, Jon Robinson must decide on keeping just Willis — or rolling with three quarterbacks and keeping Logan Woodside as well.
First live look at Treylon Burks
How much will Burks play? That’s the first question here as he’s expected to be one of the top three receivers to start the season. We assume it will at least be a few series, perhaps more.
Burks got off to a bad start back in the spring during rookie camp, arriving out of shape. To his credit, Burks owned it and has started to turn things around. Now it’s time to figure out what the Titans have in the short term. This team obviously needs him immediately, and it will be interesting to see how he looks against NFL competition for the first time.
Running back rotation
This is Derrick Henry’s show and we’re all hoping he’s able to get back to being what he was before that foot injury last season. However, the picture behind him looks quite a bit different than last year. D’Onta Foreman moved on to Carolina and the team finally gave up on Darrynton Evans. That leaves Dontrell Hilliard, Jordan Wilkins and rookie Hassan Haskins.
Hilliard is more than likely your passing downs guy behind Henry, which should have him in pretty good standing for a roster spot. The Titans took a guy not all that different from Henry in Haskins in the fourth round, more than likely with the intention of replacing Foreman. We’ll get our first look at the 6-2, 228 pounder against the Ravens here.
Wilkins is a guy that has experience, which gives the Titans a little insurance if Haskins struggles.
Right tackle battle
One of the biggest questions on the roster, this battle will be in the spotlight against the Ravens. Dillon Radunz was the expected starter, but rookie tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is very much in this race and was even listed as a co-starter on the depth chart.
Petit-Frere was taken in the third round and is a former five-star, top ten overall prospect out of high school. He’s seemingly settled in quicker than anyone thought, and the Titans suddenly have options here.
It would be a surprise if it’s not Radunz out there against the Giants in the opener, but he still needs a good night on Thursday. The Titans have created some depth up front here though, which is never a bad thing.
Caleb Farley was taken for the future, and the future is now. A back issue caused Farley to slide down the board, and then a knee injury ended up costing him his rookie year. Now healthy, it’s his job to lose opposite of Kristian Fulton.
Jon Robinson, knowing what he has in Farley, took out an insurance policy in the second round of this year’s draft — and they early returns are pretty dang good. Roger McCreary has impressed in camp to this point, and the Titans appear to have a legitimate battle brewing for that CB2 role.
It’s unclear how much Farley will play on Thursday, but this is a battle worth monitoring. Regardless of how it plays out, the Titans have a pretty good looking young core at a very important position in today’s NFL.
Kyle Philips and Chig Okonkwo
It’s early, but Robinson appears to have found a couple of contributors late in the 2022 NFL Draft. Wide receiver and tight end were obviously needs entering the draft, and both Philips and Okonkwo enter pretty favorable depth charts for playing time. Both have impressed in rookie camp and training camp, and Thursday we’ll get our first taste of each in live action.