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Malik Willis flashes as Titans drop preseason opener to Ravens

All the notes.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans kicked off the preseason with a matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore on Thursday night. It was a stripped down, reserve heavy affair from both sides as each team attempts to round out the bottom of their rosters.

The Starters

Malik Willis

It was a shaky start for Willis in Baltimore, who understandably was working through some early nerves. The third-round selection out of Liberty hesitated and eventually missed on an open pass in the flats, and then was nearly pick-sixed on his second attempt which was thrown to the sideline.

After another three and out, the Titans finally put something together after being sparked by a big Julius Chestnut run. Willis found Hassan Haskins on a dump-off to enter the redzone, and then finished things off himself. It was a roll out right, and Baltimore set the edge in front of his face. Willis changed direction, threw a juke, and found the endzone.

Willis came back and connected on a deep ball with Racey McMath. It was a busted coverage that went for 48 yards. The rookie then flashed some creativity under pressure, submarining a completion instead of taking a sack or incompletion. It was an impressive arm angle for Willis to keep the drive alive.

The Titans got three points to take the lead at 10-7.

The fourth drive illustrated where Willis needs to improve — playing from within the pocket. It’s understandable where we’re at right now, but Willis often left the pocket and didn’t appear to have a great grasp on his read progression to this point. It led to another three and out, his third of the night.

His final drive of the night came with 35 seconds left in the half — a chance to run some hurry up offense. Willis quickly worked a deep out to Mason Kinsey, but then took a bad sack with 23 seconds left. Tennessee was forced to burn their final timeout, instead of Willis just throwing it away. The sack killed the drive, and the Titans went to halftime down 14-10.

Willis ended the day 6-11 passing for 107 yards. He ran five times for 38 yards and a score.

The flashes were a lot of fun, but the lack of polish and comfort in the pocket was evident, as expected. Solid debut with plenty of room to grow.

Best of the rest — quick hitters

  • First round pick Treylon Burks didn’t get a ton of run tonight, and he didn’t see much action in the passing game either. His first preseason game ended with just one touch — a manufactured end around rushing attempt that went for four yards.

Interestingly enough, Burks played into the fourth quarter with Woodside. He got a deep target (his first of the game) but the ball was underthrown and Burks didn’t have much of a shot at it.

  • Julius Chestnut got the start at running back and quickly dug himself a hole by fumbling on the second series. He hit the bench for a series, and then bounced back with the play of the first quarter, breaking a 30 yard run. It was a well blocked play, but Chestnut’s lower body strength was on display as he shed a few arm tackles.

Chestnut played ahead of Hassan Haskins, so read into that what you will. Haskins didn’t do much on the ground, but did haul in three passes for 29 yards.

  • Rookie receiver Kyle Philips returned the first punt. Running back Trenton Cannon returned the first kickoff.
  • Caleb Farley worked on both the punt return team and kickoff coverage teams — surprising for such an important player in the preseason. He also got a decent amount of time on defense, planting and making a nice tackle early on. This might have just been a bit of a confidence thing coming off of a knee injury. We’ll see.
  • Cornerback Chris Jackson struggled in man coverage tonight and limped off to the locker room in the second quarter after getting out-jumped for a touchdown. He was listed as out with a knee injury.
  • Rookie second round pick Roger McCreary did not play tonight after missing two practices this week. After a nice camp so far, I’m excited to see him next week.
  • Logan Woodside entered the game and was promptly picked off on a deep attempt towards the endzone. The throw was left short, and Terry Godwin had no shot. Woodside missed Burks deep, again leaving it short. Woodside was once again picked on a bit of a 50-50 ball into traffic. Important to note that he was playing with the absolute bottom of the roster, but still... it was a rough night for a veteran that is fighting to make this roster once again.
  • Rookie tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere had a nice night, getting time at both right and left tackle. He flashed on the long Chestnut run, and didn’t have any glaring missteps upon first viewing. Petit-Frere is currently in a battle with Dillon Radunz, who we didn’t see much of tonight.
  • Rookie safety Theo Jackson — just as he did in Knoxville — was around the football quite a bit tonight. Jackson had four solo tackles on the night. He’s a gamer.
  • Outside linebacker David Anenih flashed hard late, finding two sacks in the fourth quarter.
  • The Ravens won their 21st straight preseason game, beating the Titans 23-10.

The Titans will be back in action next weekend against the Buccaneers. Kickoff is set for Saturday, August 20th, at 6:00 pm central.