The Tennessee Titans opened their preseason account tonight by taking on the Baltimore Ravens.
The energy was high and the interest was aplenty, mostly due to the pregame announcement that highly touted rookie quarterback Malik Willis would receive the start over Logan Woodside.
Let’s see how the game went down and discuss the winners and losers from tonight’s preseason contest.
Winner: Malik Willis
When it was announced that Willis would start tonight’s game, attention immediately shifted towards Willis and his potential impact on the game.
Throughout camp, Vrabel has labeled Willis a work in progress, something Willis has somewhat agreed with as well. That’s to be expected from a quarterback that’s still raw and is trying to pin down the basics that the Titans’ staff has hammered into his brain since he arrived in Nashville.
But that’s what made Willis’ debut so intriguing. The lows would be there, they always are for a developmental quarterback with raw tools. But the highs would stand out as well, maybe even more than the underwhelming snaps that represent the lows.
Willis had plenty of those highs tonight, including an exciting touchdown run and a pretty deep ball to Racey McMath in the first half. But the lowlights, including a near pick six on Willis’ first drive and a lack of consistent flow in the passing game, were present as well.
However, despite the rollercoaster ride that was Willis’ debut, you can find comfort in the fact that Willis has shown he can be a pretty good football player if he can connect his athletic profile with the basic necessities of quarterbacking that Willis has yet to pin down.
That’s the upside you’re getting with the project Willis is, and you saw why tonight.
Winner: Racey McMath
McMath has performed well throughout camp, showcasing an impressive skill set that the Titans currently don’t possess among their receivers.
He’s been so impressive, that discussion has been circulating surrounding McMath’s status as a potential roster lock
All he had to do to continue his positive momentum, was carry his impressive play into the preseason. If he did that, he’d put himself in a much better position to make the Titans’ roster. Not only as a special teams piece, but as the team’s designated deep ball threat, a role McMath has the physical ability and potential to hold onto.
Tonight against the Ravens, McMath took another step forward towards securing his roster spot. He caught a pretty deep ball from Malik Willis, once again showcasing the speed that the Titans have come to like recently.
We’re about as close as we can get to declaring McMath a roster lock. Any other positives that come to pass — like his deep ball catch tonight — will be nothing but extra bonuses at this point.
Way to bounce back: Julius Chestnut
Chestnut has been an interesting story to follow throughout camp.
He’s been right in the mix — along with Hassan Haskins and Dontrell Hilliard — to secure some of the backup running back snaps that have been up for grabs this summer. Chestnut had a chance to pile on a good preseason showing on top of his good play in camp, but he made a mistake and and lost a fumble on the Titans’ second offensive drive of the game.
Usually moments like those can break roster bubble players, and effectively end their chances to make a roster. However, Chestnut didn’t let his blunder bring him down, instead he rebounded and put in a rather decent performance that could’ve made you forget he even fumbled in the first place.
Chestnut still has an uphill battle to make the team, as other backs should have higher priority for the Titans this season.
But good on Chestnut to rebound after the mistake.
Loser: A.J. Moore
Moore came over as a free agent from the Houston Texas, mostly to contribute on special teams. But due to some injuries in the secondary, Moore has been forced to step in and play some important snaps as an extra corner/safety during camp.
Tonight, was forced to do so again. But this time, he was competing for the sole sake of getting his feet wet, along with the rest of his starting defensive mates.
However, as much as Moore wanted a clean debut, he fell short of having one. Moore was at the center of a few underwhelming plays defensively for the Titans early on, mostly in the form of missed tackles on ball carriers.
Now these plays won’t break Moore, since it’s just the preseason after all. But you can bet Mike Vrabel and his staff wanted to see better play from such a veteran presence in Moore.
Either way, Moore will flush this performance and move on to next week.
Winner: Terry Godwin
Godwin is another classic case of a productive camp and potential preseason receiver that likely won’t make the roster no matter what they do.
An unfortunate tag for a player that’s done nothing but work and play well whenever he’s received the opportunity. Including tonight against the Ravens, where he caught four passes for 31 yards while adding a decent looking kickoff return that was later nullified by a penalty.
For now, it looks like Godwin is on the outside looking in, in terms of being in the pack to secure a roster spot. But if he keeps playing and practicing well, he’ll get rewarded for his efforts.
Whether that’s by the Titans or another team that becomes interested in receiving his services.
Welcome back: Caleb Farley
The idea of an ideal night seemed simple for Farley.
Complete a few series worth of reps, put the work he’s accumulated through camp to good use, and avoid getting hit with the injury bug.
Farley did all three, and additionally erased any concerns some still had for him coming off his season ending knee injury.
It’s only preseason game number one, so it’s useless to gauge just how “up to speed” Farley is. But at the end of the day, Farley set out to complete a few objectives and he did just that.
So you can chalk this up as a win for the talented second year pro out of Virginia Tech.
Loser: Logan Woodside
Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson trust Logan Woodside for a number of reasons. Him knowing the offense, being able to handle the mental aspect of the game, and having the ability to avoid needless mistakes stand as a few reasons why.
But if he’s putting in shifts like the one he put in tonight, then Vrabel and Robinson’s blind trust in Woodside feels more like a mistake than a big brained maneuver by a successful head coach-general manager duo.
Woodside looked off the minute he stepped in for Malik Willis, which was further proven after Woodside threw two ugly interceptions to halt any plans the Titans’ offense had tonight. He did bounce back with some clean throws, but the overall performance from Woodside just wasn’t up to par.
It’s a performance that’ll have many questioning why he’s even the official backup in the first place, which is something that’s justified considering the backup quarterback competition the Titans held last preseason. That isn’t to say Woodside is undeserving of the backup job, it’s more like an open thought as to why Woodside comfortably has the job despite consistently underperforming when it matters most.
These questions will only get louder if Malik Willis begins to show vast improvement on the field. But fortunately for Woodside’s sake, that doesn’t appear likely anytime soon.
Winner: Chance Campbell
Due to Monty Rice’s injury, Chance Campbell has been one of a few backup linebackers that have received an increased amount of snaps during camp.
The former Ole Miss tackle machine has enjoyed those snaps in all likelihood. But you have to imagine he wanted put those reps to good use on the field tonight against Baltimore.
For the most part Campbell did just that. Whether it was playing decent coverage, or sticking his hat in the pile in the run game, Campbell looked as advertised.
It wasn’t a performance to ride home about, but it was a step in the right direction for Campbell to beat out his other competitors, and make the team.
He’ll look to continue good play next week during a set of joint practices against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Winner: Shyheim Carter
Carter is one of many Titans defensive backs vying for one of the last few roster spots available. He isn’t one of the favorites, but his play tonight made it seem like he was one all long.
He was everywhere in the first half, staying physical and being disruptive when the opportunity presented itself. He gave way to some other defensive backs as the game went along, but not before making his mark on a game that didn’t work out so well for some of his other defensive back mates.
We’ll see if he can continue playing well, but that was a pretty nice way to start your journey towards securing a roster spot.
Winner: Kevin Strong
Like Carter, Kevin Strong is vying for the last roster spot along the Titans’ defensive line (that’s if the Titans have plans to keep a fifth defensive lineman).
And like Carter, Strong got off on the right foot in terms of getting a leg up on the other defensive linemen who are fighting for the same spot.
Strong was in the thick of things throughout the game, stuffing run plays and even tallying an official sack. Strong did get hurt later on during the game, but fortunately for him, he was able to return to play. Therefore eliminating a potential spoiler on an otherwise successful night for former Detroit Lion.
It’ll be interesting to watch how the depth defensive line battle unfolds, as many candidates have chances to take home the spoils of war. If Strong continues his good play from tonight, he’ll have as good of a shot as anyone to be declared the eventual victor.