The Tennessee Titans opened their preseason with a 23-10 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore’s victory over Tennessee brings their streak of preseason victories to 21. We’ve compiled 10 takeaways from an enthralling night of action.
Mixed bag for Malik Willis
Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis earned the start and played the entire first half. Willis started slowly, showing signs of inaccuracy and happy feet in the pocket. Willis settled down in the second quarter. The Titans’ coaching staff was wise to dial up a screen play to Julius Chestnut that went for a gain of 12. It was an easy completion that kick-started a rhythm for Willis. Later on that same drive, Willis showed good poise in the pocket by stepping up and hitting Hassan Haskins for a gain of 18. Just two plays later, Willis electrified the crowd by reversing field and scrambling for this seven-yard touchdown.
On the next drive, Willis completed a 48-yard pass to Racey McMath. Willis then showcased the ability to switch his arm angle to deliver a pass to Tommy Hudson around a crashing defensive end. Willis had his struggles, too. Willis missed an opportunity to create outside of structure by sailing a downfield passing attempt over Chigoziem Okonkwo, although the rookie tight end could have showcased better effort on the play. Willis also took a sack in the second quarter when he could have provided Treylon Burks with an opportunity in a contested catch situation. Kyle Philips had separation on that same play. The former Liberty product took a poor sack in the two minute drill.
Willis finished 6-of-11 for 107 yards. He added 38 rushing yards and a touchdown via five scrambles. It wasn’t perfect, but it was an encouraging first showing from Willis.
Brett Kern isn’t going down without a fight
There’s been some chatter on social media lately that legendary Titans punter Brett Kern finds himself in a position battle alongside undrafted free agent rookie Ryan Stonehouse. Kern took a paycut in the offseason and missed a few contests with injury last season. Kern had an excellent night. He punted three times during the first half for a total of 162 yards (52, 52, 58). Kern placed two of his punts inside the 20. The three-time Pro Bowler isn’t going to make things easy for Stonehouse.
Stonehouse punted twice in the second half for a total 118 yards (59.0 average). Stonehouse had a team-high punt of 60 yards and one touchback. He placed one punt inside the 20-yard line. The battle continues.
Nicholas Petit-Frere gains momentum
Nicholas Petit-Frere started the game at left tackle with Dillon Radunz at right tackle. Petit-Frere eventually replaced Radunz at right tackle. He looked good at both positions. Petit-Frere combined with Jordan Roos and Corey Levin to open a gaping lane for a 29-yard run by Chestnut. Petit-Frere is apparently pushing Radunz for the starting right tackle job. Radunz looked good against the Ravens as well, but Petit-Frere continues to prove he’s creating a true positional skirmish.
Rashad Weaver pops
Second-year EDGE defender Rashad Weaver enjoyed a fruitful preseason last year. He unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury in late September. Weaver is fully healthy and ready to compete. He looked excellent against the Ravens. Weaver blew up a first-half play for a loss of five yards. He consistently showed considerable juice as a pass rusher as well. Weaver appears primed to give the team quality pass-rushing snaps behind Harold Landry and Bud Dupree in 2022.
Racey McMath gets deep!
Second-year receiver Racey McMath has received praise throughout recent practices for his ability to get behind the secondary. The coaching staff rewarded McMath’s recent form by granting him the start at receiver against the Ravens. McMath carried his momentum over by connecting with Willis for this 48-yard deep gain. The ball isn’t perfectly thrown, and there’s some poor cornerback play involved, but it was nice to see McMath do exactly what he’s been doing at practice.
A solid showing for Corey Levin
Aaron Brewer earned the start at center with Corey Levin at right guard. Assuming Brewer is going to be the starter at left guard, he obviously can’t back up Ben Jones at center. Levin eventually replaced Brewer at center. Levin played well at both interior positions, starring on the Chestnut 29-yard run we highlighted under the Petit-Frere heading. The Titans are searching for an interior backup. Veteran guard Jordan Roos, who also impressed vs the Ravens, is also in the mix. So are undrafted free agents Hayden Howerton and Xavier Newman-Johnson. I’d call Levin the leader in the clubhouse due to his experience and versatility. He’s a stronger bet to make the final 53-man roster than most realize.
Quiet night for Okonkwo, Treylon Burks & Kyle Philips
Everybody was excited to see Tennessee’s trio of rookie pass catchers. It wasn’t an ideal performance. Burks struggled to gain separation and Willis rarely looked his way. Philips slipped on a first-quarter route that nearly ended in a pick-six. Okonkwo had the less-than-desirable showing mentioned under the Willis header. Burks and Philips combined for zero receptions. Okonkwo recorded a second-half reception. Burks missed an opportunity to make a deep one-v-one touchdown grab in the second half. Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel even took a friendly halftime jab at their lack of standout plays. Burks, Philips and Okonkwo will have better nights.
Vrabel with a crack at Burks and Okonkwo on that answer about Racey McMath.— Jared Stillman (@JaredStillman) August 12, 2022
Chris Jackson exits with knee injury
Preseason injuries are awful. Versatile defensive back Chris Jackson played both inside and outside against the Ravens. Jackson put forth an up-and-down performance, but the former Marshall standout is a lock to make the final roster if healthy. Jackson unfortunately exited with a knee injury and was quickly ruled OUT. Let’s hope it was more precautionary than anything. We’re anxiously awaiting word on the severity of Jackson’s injury.
Logan Woodside throws two interceptions
Long-time backup Logan Woodside replaced Willis one play into the third quarter. It was a strange occurrence. Perhaps Woodside needed a few extra seconds. Titans fans weren’t thrilled to see Willis exit the contest. That sentiment continued when Woodside threw an interception in Ravens territory on just his third passing attempt. Receiver Terry Godwin may have run the wrong route on the play. Either way, it wasn’t an ideal rep from Woodside or Godwin. Woodside was later picked again on a play that targeted Mason Kinsey.
Woodside finished 14-of-24 with 103 passing yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
INT Daryl Worley❗️❗️— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 12, 2022
Tune in on WBAL! pic.twitter.com/KfBQnvYgfr
Turnovers doomed Titans
Coaches often discuss winning the turnover battle. The Titans gave away the ball on three occasions (two interceptions, one fumble) and only manged to create a single controversial turnover near the end of the fourth quarter. Losing the turnover battle by two was one of the driving forces behind the defeat. Vrabel and Co. will preach better ball security throughout the upcoming week of practice.