In their first live action of the 2021/22 NFL season, the Titans comfortably handled the Falcons in Atlanta, winning 23-3. Even without seeing any starters on offense, save a glimpse of Josh Reynolds (or is he a starter? More on that further down…) and only a few on the defensive side, there was plenty both gained and lost by the depth players on this team. And with that, let’s get into whose stock went up Friday night, and whose went down.
Stock Up: Logan Woodside
Friday was Woodside’s first start since the 2019 preseason, and he looked the part of a capable backup. Going 10-15 for 84 yards and a touchdown in one half of play, his 66.7% completion percentage and 103.2 QB rating was a solid start to his preseason. The highlight of his evening was a nice back-shoulder TD pass to receiver Cam Batson.
Matt Barkley may have more experience starting in the NFL, but Woodside’s experience and comfort in this Titans system showed.
Stock Down: Offensive line depth
Both offensive lines in this game were mostly atrocious, and that could prove a real problem for Tennessee if any of their starters go down this year. Allowing 4 sacks for 32 yards lost, the Titans’ backups often looked outclassed against the Falcons reserve pass rush. Center Daniel Munyer had a turnstile block that left QB Logan Woodside lucky to still have his head, one of a handful of ugly sacks.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Rookie Dillon Radunz had a promising outing, showing improvement from his early struggles in camp with a respectable 72.4 PFF rating. Overall, however, this team really needs their starting five protecting Ryan Tannehill to remain healthy with this current depth situation.
Stock Up: Defensive pressure
Overreaction of the week—Shane Bowen, miracle worker? Obviously, this defense has much more to prove after an abysmal 2020 and a complete roster remodeling this past offseason.
They started strong, though, with 5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 9 QB hits. The star on either side of the ball in this game was rookie Rashad Weaver. Weaver put together an impressive stat line of 3 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss. According to PFF, who graded him out at 83.1, he leads the rookie class thus far in pass rush win rate at 26%. He’s going to be somebody to keep a close eye on going forward.
Middle linebacker David Long Jr. had a solid night as well. Earning a 96.4 PFF grade with 2 total tackles, he also came down with an interception (his first since high school).
After taking over for an injured Jayon Brown late last season, Long showed promise as a future starter. He’s positioned himself to potentially become a valuable rotational piece this season.
Second-year lineman Teair Tart looked like a real problem early as well. His 79.2 PFF grade doesn’t do justice the full-blown camp he was setting up in the Falcons backfield.
Stock Down: Depth health
Tennessee’s trip to Atlanta wasn’t without its health costs, with a number of depth pieces leaving the game injured.
Second-year running back Darrynton Evans pulled up lame after just four runs with a knee issue. He was ruled questionable to return and didn’t, his status being “day to day” according to Vrabel after the game. This is particularly concerning for Evans, whose rookie season was marred by hamstring problems that kept him off the field. Despite his significant promise as a player, he’s dangerously close to developing a “chronic health problem” label for himself.
Tucker McCann’s kicking foot was rolled up on during his third field goal attempt of the evening, and he left limping. Coach Vrabel later said he was left pretty sore, but isn’t expected to have a long road to recovery.
Rookie safety Brady Breeze was helped off the field favoring his right leg and did not return. Defensive tackle Trevon Coley, who’d been a pleasant surprise in camp, left with a foot injury the team now fears may be season-ending.
Stock Up: Kicking
In refreshing form, the Titans went three-for-three on field-goal attempts against Atlanta. The Titans? Making all their kicks? Perhaps it’s a miracle, perhaps it’s a preseason tease. Either way, both Tucker McCann and Sam Ficken were perfect in their 2021 debuts.
Ficken hit from 44, and McCann hit from 26 and 42. McCann was injured on his third kick, which was good from 47. Ruled a roughing the kicker penalty, the offense gained a first down.
As their kicking competition continues apace, neither starting-hopeful blinked in Atlanta. Mike Vrabel seems to be in no rush to decide who gets the job, though, previously saying he’d like to see a very large sample size from both players leading up to the season opener.
Stock Down: Rookie receivers
One note I left this game with that stood out to me, particularly in a game that saw almost everybody at the bottom of the depth chart, was where are rookie receivers Racey McMath and Dez Fitzpatrick?
Now it’s not as if the freshmen players didn’t see the field in Atlanta—McMath had 38 snaps, Fitzpatrick 24—but Racey was targeted twice with no completions and Dez got zero looks. Asked about the fourth-round selection today, Mike Vrabel said Fitzpatrick needs to show “a lot” more to see the field. There’s still time for the player GM Jon Robinson traded up to select. In such a deep WR room, though, he’s got a real uphill climb to make this roster. His trip to Georgia Friday night didn’t get him any closer to that goal.
Stock Up: Chester Rogers and Mason Kinsey
Elsewhere on the Titan’s WR depth chart, Chester Rogers and Mason Kinsey made a strong case for themselves against the Falcons. Kinsey was the standout receiver of the evening, with 4 receptions for 51 yards.
On a number of other teams in the league, the job he’s done in the past couple of weeks would earn him a roster spot and probably a look at some playing time. But in this extremely competitive WR room in Tennessee, he’s going to struggle to make the 53-man roster.
Joe Rexrode put Kinsey’s situation in perspective well on Saturday: he’s been great in camp, he’s just in the wrong one.
Receiver Chester Rogers also had a strong showing, with one 17-yard reception and a punt return for 57 yards that was a block away from going the distance. Rogers has positioned himself well to make this roster and compete to see the field.
Stock Down: Josh Reynolds’ WR3 spot security
Yes, this is mostly tongue-in-cheek. Reynolds is by far the most experienced and qualified player on this roster to assume the WR3 slot. But as he continues to apparently nurse an injury sustained earlier in camp, the discussion around the receivers further down the depth chart has grown as they gain traction with impressive performances in practice.
Reynolds made his on-field debut for the Titans in Atlanta, but with only seven snaps and no targets, it was purely ceremonial.
The buzz around promising players further down the current depth chart included Chester Rogers and Marcus Johnson last week. After Friday night’s performance, Mason Kinsey has forced his way into that discussion as well. It remains to be seen, in a Titans uniform at least, the player Josh Reynolds has proven himself to be in the past.
Who else stood out to you this week, good or bad? let us know in the comments below.