Players to watch in the Titans’ preseason finale

The Tennessee Titans host their final preseason game of 2021 when the Chicago Bears come to town on Saturday evening.

Even though we likely won’t see many of the household names for either team, there is still plenty of intriguing players to watch throughout the game. There are plenty of position battles still going on and today’s game will go a long way in helping determine the final roster.

With all that said, let’s take a closer look at who are some of the most intriguing players and/or position battles to watch in Saturday’s preseason finale.

Quarterback Logan Woodside

Logan Woodside is one of the more intriguing players to watch today. He’s completed 17-of-23 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in two games.

He has a history of playing well in the preseason but his inexperience in actual games that matter could ultimately be his demise.  The Toledo product must not only perform well, but he must play with the type of confidence that his competition is starting to play with despite only being on the team for less than a month. 

Quarterback Matt Barkley 

The former USC star has been surprisingly impressive since he arrived. Barkley has put in the work to learn the playbook as fast as possible which allows him to play freely without thinking too much out there.

Arguably what stands out the most about Barkley is his cognizant understanding of the game and knowing what the defense is trying to do to stop him. He seems far more advanced in the pre-snap aspect of the game than Woodside is in terms of being able to identify the defense and being able to find his best mismatch.

Valid arguments can be made for both quarterbacks but if Barkley plays well in this final preseason game, it may be hard to walk away from him. The USC product has completed 17-of-24 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns in his two preseason outings.

Running backs Mekhi Sargent, Jeremy McNichols, Brian Hill

All three running backs are in the mix for the final and coveted RB3 spot. Jeremy McNichols and Brian Hill have both had modest success in the league. They can run and catch the ball out of the backfield and are decent pass protectors.

Unfortunately for both of them, their ceiling is extremely limited and their play this preseason has been uninspiring. Fortunately for the Titans, an undrafted free agent by the name of Mekhi Sargent has stepped up to the challenge and more.

Before camp started, many thought Sargent was just a camp body but he has given himself a legitimate shot at making the roster. The Iowa product has outplayed his counterparts in every aspect of the game.

Last week, McNichols averaged -1.8 yards per carry, while Hill was only good for two yards a pop.

Sargent on the other hand averaged nearly five yards per carry and totaled 78 yards on 16 carries. The most impressive aspect of these numbers is how lifeless the offensive line can be yet Sargent still finds ways to make things happen — something McNichols and Hill can not seem to do.

Sargent has the opportunity to make one final statement that the job is his while the other two need to show something to convince the Titans that Sargent isn’t the one worth keeping around. Be on the lookout for how all three of these running backs fare tonight.

Every wide receiver that plays

You legitimately could put all six wide receivers that are competing for that final WR6 spot on this players to watch list. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Mason Kinsey, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cameron Batson, Racey McMath, and Fred Brown, are all fighting for that final wide receiver spot. All six of these have an argument to be made, but it’s really a three-man race between Westbrook-Ikhine, Kinsey, and Fitzpatrick.

All three bring valuable assets to the team, but Tennessee must figure out what they prioritize most. Do they value the all-important special teams help that Westbrook-Ikhine provides? Do they love the consistent weapon out of the slot that Kinsey has developed into? Or will their draft investment trump all of this and earn Fitzpatrick the benefit of the doubt?

All six wide receivers that are competing should play a lot tonight so keep your eyes open to see who makes the most of this final opportunity to earn themselves a spot on the Titans’ 53-man roster.

Kicker Sam Ficken

Ever since he was claimed off waivers, Ficken has given the team the type of consistency that they have been yearning for. Ficken has made every kick in-game situations and is kicking over 89 percent in practices. Ficken has drilled an impressive 60-of-67 field goals since his arrival. The former Penn State kicker officially beat out Tucker McCann for the job so it will be interesting to see how Ficken performs when he doesn’t have someone breathing down his neck. 

Offensive Lineman Dillon Radunz

Dillon Radunz isn’t in danger of being cut of anything, but his play has been awfully uninspiring thus far. Especially in pass protection where he has been getting worked anytime he is asked to stop a competent pass rusher.

The Titans invested their second-round pick on Radunz therefore patience will be provided. However, the North Dakota State standout must start showing signs of improvement. No one is expecting him to start this year, but in reality, he is only a few injuries away from being forced into the lineup. Ideally, you would like to see Radunz put a complete game together tonight so the team can feel more confident should they ever be in that situation.

Cornerbacks Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden

Both of the cornerbacks that the Titans drafted have shown flashes that should get fans excited. Elijah Molden dominated in his preseason debut, he made plays all over the field and looked like a mini Tyrann Mathieu as he impacted the game in coverage and as a physical presence.

The “mini-badger” as Taylor Lewan called him, finished with eight tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one pass defense, two pressures, and only allowed 23 yards on six catches. Look for Molden to make another statement tonight as he looks to solidify that nickel cornerback spot.

Farley on the other hand is off to a slower start, but his flashes have been just as inspiring. Many people forget that Farley has not played football in over 600 days due his back surgeries combined with the fact that he opted out of 2020 because of COVID concerns. Regardless of how talented you are, that type of layoff is going to require a ramp-up period where you build your body back up to playing speed. Farley being out there is the biggest positive, but then when you see him mirroring the likes of Mike Evans and Antonio Brown, you realize that the patience is going to be worth the potential with this one.

Now that Farley got his first taste of the NFL last week, look for the Virginia Tech product to start settling in with each passing rep. Both Molden and Farley have the potential to transform and elevate the backend of Tennessee’s defense once Farley starts to play with the type of confident tenacity that Molden is seemingly playing with. Both rookies figure to be in the Titans’ short and long term plans therefore it will be interesting to see how both of them respond after their debuts last week.

Honorable mention: Tight Ends- Luke Stocker, Tommy Hudson

Outside linebackers- Ola Adeniyi, Rashad Weaver, John Simon, Derrick Roberson

Safeties- Dane Cruikshank, Matthias Farley, Bradley McDougald, Clayton Geathers

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