The Titans opened their preseason slate with a convincing 23-3 win over the Falcons in Atlanta tonight.
As always, preseason games must be taken with a massive grain of salt, but… as exhibition games go, this was a fun one for the good guys. Tennessee thoroughly dominated throughout. It was a good night against Arthur Smith’s rebuilding Falcons.
Here are my winners and losers from Titans 23, Falcons 3.
Winner: Chester Rogers
Rogers is currently entrenched in a three-way battle for the punt returner job with fellow wide receivers Cam Batson and Mason Kinsey. Rogers took a big step forward towards separating himself from the pack with a 56-yard return late in the first quarter. We’ve been hyping up Rogers as the favorite to win the job around these parts, and we feel even better about that prediction after tonight.
Uh-oh: Darrynton Evans
The sophomore running back kicked off the game with a big run and looked decisive with the ball in his hands, but came up hobbling after a toss play and was later seen moving around slowly on the sidelines. Evans did not return to the game. We’ll wait to hear more on the injury front, but this is bad news for a guy that struggled with injuries last season.
Losers: Backup offensive linemen
None of the starting offensive lineman suited up for a play in this one. To nobody’s surprise, the backup lineman struggled early and often. The team started with Christian DiLauro at left tackle, Ross Reynolds at left guard, Daniel Munyer at center, Dillon Radunz at right guard and David Quessenberry at right tackle. Several errors were made on the first possession. Radunz was caught looking for help on the outside on a sack (Woodside could have played it better), Quessenberry was called for clipping and DiLauro was flagged for a hold. Not ideal. On the team’s second offensive possession, the same Starting 5 listed above were overwhelmed on third down and gave up another sack that forced a punt. The offensive line surrendered four sacks tonight.
It’s worth noting that Radunz would later slot in at right tackle and improved his play as the game went on. There were good and bad reps, but I would chalk this up as a positive night for Radunz.
Winner: Teair Tart
Mike Vrabel named Tart as one of his “offseason winners” a few weeks ago and it was easy to see why tonight. Tart was early and often seen causing havoc in the Falcons backfield. Atlanta’s reserve offensive linemen were simply no match for Tart and his quickness off the snap. Much has been made of Tart’s physical transformation this summer, and we liked what we saw tonight. We’re expecting big things from Tart this year.
Winner: David Long Jr.
We’re not sure how much playing time Long will get this season with Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown penciled in as the starters at inside linebacker, but he remains one of this team’s most fascinating young defenders in my opinion. The highlight of his night came in the second quarter when he picked off A.J. McCarron. Long did a great job getting depth on the play, and he made a highlight-worthy leap to come down with the interception. It wasn’t his only positive play of the night. Long was also the first defender in the backfield on a great run stop that lost three yards.
Loser: Team health
Evans, Tart, B.J. Bello, Tucker McCann, Brady Breeze and Trevon Coley all appeared to suffer an injury in this contest. A few of these guys that exited the game are battling for their NFL lives right now. It’s important they remain healthy over the next few weeks. The Titans have “availability is your best ability” written down on the wall in their training room. Being healthy and ready to go is the only way you can make a case for your roster spot. We hope to hear that all of these players will be back at practice shortly.
Winner: Cameron Batson
Batson is in his fourth season with the Titans. As has been the case throughout his tenure here, he’s battling for a roster spot. This preseason is yet another big audition for him, and he absolutely got off on the right foot tonight. He bounced back from an early drop to make a lovely touchdown catch in the second quarter to give the Titans a 10-0 lead. It’s not often you see a 5-foot-8 receiver come down with a back shoulder fade in the end zone, but that’s exactly what Batson did there. I don’t envy Jon Robinson, who has to sort through the logjam this team has at the receiver position. It’s a good problem to have, though.
Winner: Rashad Weaver
Weaver wasn’t just the most impressive rookie on the field tonight, he was also the team’s best player. It occurred against backup offensive linemen, but Weaver absolutely feasted on the right side of the Falcons’ O-line. Weaver recorded his first career sack (if you count preseason stats) and spent a ton of time around the quarterback. He also had an impressive pass bat-down early in the third quarter. This defense badly needs a third pass rusher to emerge behind Harold Landry and Bud Dupree this year. Weaver could be that guy. He sure looked the part tonight.
Loser: Dez Fitzpatrick
The Titans traded up in order to select Fitzpatrick in the fourth round of the 2021 draft. The book is obviously still very much open on him, but seeing Fitzpatrick enter the game for the first time late in the third quarter behind the likes of Batson, Rogers, Mason Kinsey, Marcus Johnson, Nick Westbrook, Racey McMath and Fred Brown was certainly disappointing.
Winners: Tucker McCann and Sam Ficken
Much has been made about the kicking situation this offseason, but McCann and Ficken gave Titans fans a reason to sleep a little easier tonight. McCann was first up and finished the game 2 for 2 with makes from 42 and 26. He also made an extra point. McCann would then make an impressive kick from 47 yards, but it was wiped out due to a roughing the kicker penalty on the Falcons. McCann got banged up on what we’d consider an uncalled for play. Vrabel was visibly upset about it. We’ll wait to hear an update on McCann’s status. Ficken kicked second, and went 1 for 1 with a make from 44 yards out. Ficken also converted both of his extra point attempts. It’s tough to imagine a better night for these kickers. This battle looks like one that is poised to go down to the wire.
Winner: Logan Woodside
Woodside was a little inconsistent early, but it was great to watch him settle down and get more comfortable both in the pocket and running the offense as the game went by. Woodside secured a victory when this team released DeShone Kizer a week ago. Taking all things into account, including tonight’s performance, we would be beyond shocked if Woodside isn’t the team’s backup quarterback this season.
Winner: Miller Forristall
Forristall is a rookie UDFA from The University of Alabama. He’s no stranger to Mercedes-Benz stadium, so it was especially nice and fitting to see him score his first career touchdown in this contest. Forristall is trying to prove himself worthy of being the team’s third or fourth tight end (depending on how many they keep).
Losers: Jeremy McNichols and Brian Hill
The battle for the No. 3 running back job continues, and neither of the veteran options looked particularly impressive tonight. McNichols and Hill combined to total just 40 yards on 14 carries. Some of this could be chalked up to the (under)performance of the backup O-line, but undrafted running back Mekhi Sargent looked considerably better than both Hill and McNichols. Sargent finished with 61 total yards on 13 touches.