Happy Sunday to you all.
The Tennessee Titans dominated en route to a 34-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last night in a game that wasn’t really close from a competitive standpoint.
Head coach Mike Vrabel obviously had his thoughts regarding the game, so here’s what you may have missed during his postgame press conference last night.
Elijah Molden and Caleb Farley Make Their Debuts
A lot of the talk leading up to last night’s game surrounded the potential debuts for Elijah Molden and Caleb Farley, two highly drafted secondary pieces that were brought in to help shore up the Titans’ woeful secondary. Molden and Farley have both battled injuries throughout the off-season and the early portions of training camp, limiting their chances to have an early impact on the practice field.
However, once they both got a chance to get on the field and play, they mostly showed why the team is so high on them and their potential in this defense.
Molden in particular was a force, making a number of tackles in the open field, showing his versatility as a blitzer from the slot, and even tipping a football leading to an interception. He played a number of roles within the defense, bringing some much needed versatility to a defense that didn’t possess much last season.
Mike Vrabel said Molden’s versatility was something he and general manager Jon Robinson were keen on taking advantage of if they ever got the opportunity to do so.
“I think that’s something Jon and I had envisioned [Molden’s versatility] with the defensive staff when he came out of Washington,” Vrabel said. “It was really cool to see him go out there and do some nice things.”
While Molden played a good game and showed the Titans’ staff he was ready to ramp things up again, Farley had a little bit of trouble finding his footing. There were times he had to be moved into certain areas pre-snap so he could be in the correct spot defensively, and he also had a play where he bit a little too hard on a double move by Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller, leading to a wide open Miller down the field.
Despite that though, Vrabel knows it’ll take some time for the former Virginia Tech Hokie to get acclimated. Not only because of the transition to the professional game, but also due to a number of back surgeries that forced Farley to focus on rehabbing instead of getting on field practice work to get immersed into the defense.
“He [Farley] hasn’t played football in quite a bit of time, [so] it’s going to be a process,” Vrabel explained. “It was a good step just to get him out there to show him what the game feels like, how situations change, so we’ll just coach him up and move forward.”
Logan Woodside & Matt Barkley Rotate Throughout the Game
What surprised me during last night’s game was the fact that the team rotated Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley heavily throughout the game.
Woodside got his shot first, but he couldn’t muster together a single scoring drive, let alone consistency moving the ball up and down the field. After a few series, Barkley entered the game and immediately led the offense down the field, eventually putting the team’s first points on the board.
The former USC Trojan continued to command the offense after that initial scoring drive, waltzing up the field and finally giving this unit some chances to give individual players an opportunity to shine. The rotation resumed with Woodside getting another chance to play. Eventually Barkley took over the reins once again, before getting subbed by Woodside to close out the game.
The unexpected rotation could’ve gone sour, throwing off any rhythm Woodside and Barkley had hoped to achieve while they were under center. But it didn’t, as both found ways to stay engaged and sustain the play they achieved.
Vrabel appreciated the consistency from the two, particularly their ability to take advantage of the opportunities their own defense gave them by forcing turnovers.
“I think that they [Woodside and Barkley] handled it well,” Vrabel said. “There’s always going to be plays you’d like to have back whether it’s reads, or checks, or throws. But I think they both capitalized on the situations the defense put them in.”
We’ll see how the rotation shakes out during the Titans’ last preseason game next weekend. If it’s anything like last night’s, then we should be in for another rollercoaster of a night offensively.
Dez Fitzpatrick Responds
Earlier in the week, Mike Vrabel said Dez Fitzpatrick had to do “a lot” in order to receive more playing time going forward. Fitzpatrick responded in practice, which in part led to him receiving more opportunities during last night’s game in Tampa Bay.
Not only did the 2021 fourth round pick take advantage of those opportunities, he might’ve found a spark to help him stay out of the doghouse in the near future.
Fitzpatrick finished the night with two catches for 30 yards, one of which went for a touchdown, the first of his young NFL career.
Vrabel remained mum about the young receiver’s development last night though, saying he continues to work and compete like every other player with something to prove on this roster. He did however leave a positive message for the rookie.
“Hopefully he continues to gain [the] confidence to play in this league.”
Mekhi Sargent, Mason Kinsey Continue to Impress
Two major storylines that have developed during the preseason are the consistency Mekhi Sargent and Mason Kinsey have shown on the offensive side of the ball.
Sargent is fighting with veterans Brian Hill and Jeremy McNichols for the RB3 spot on the roster, while Kinsey is fighting a likely losing battle to stay on the Titans’ roster as one of the final six, potentially seven receivers going into the regular season.
Vrabel recognized the two young roster hopefuls after the game as guys that have earned the right to receive these ever so important preseason snaps.
“These guys are competitive, they know what to do, they’re ready for their opportunities, they’ve earned the right to be in there [on the field],” Vrabel explained. “Mason’s been really consistent for us and Mekhi’s done well on special teams, he’s ran hard when given the opportunity.”
Sargent looks like the more likely of the two to secure a roster spot, but Kinsey has shown enough through two games to receive an extended look from other teams around the league if he does indeed get cut.