The Tennessee Titans concluded their pre-season tonight with an important match-up against the Arizona Cardinals.
Both teams engaged in joint practices this past week, and looked to end their two days of practice with a night of good work in a true game setting.
Who made their mark on the game? Who didn’t? Well, let’s not waste any more time and find out.
Winner: Ryan Stonehouse
With news circulating pre-game that Brett Kern wouldn’t play tonight, all eyes shifted towards Ryan Stonehouse. More specifically, how well he’d play with a chance to potentially lock down the Titans’ punting job going into Week one.
So far this pre-season, Stonehouse has made a pretty good impression to the naked eye. He’s showcased the strong leg that so many have been raving about, and the hang time his punts have had so far has been impressive as well.
However, the one negative for Stonehouse has been his ability to consistently pin punts accurately inside the ten. Or to put it more bluntly, Stonehouse’s ability to consistently punt well aside from booming kicks.
Tonight though, it looked like that one negative Stonehouse had, was nothing more than a minor setback that was blown out of proportion. Stonehouse added another dimension to his game, showcasing off the leg while also adding some good directional punting as well.
A good amount of his punts were downed inside the ten, and others were either just outside of the ten or inches away from being downside inside the five. It was a pretty impressive peformance by Stonehouse, one that has some wondering if he’s done enough to officially dethrone Kern from a post he’s held for many years now.
Ultimately the decision rests with Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson, but in terms of securing a job, Stonehouse did himself a lot of favors tonight.
Winner: Malik Willis
Willis has shown a consistent, game to game improvement over the course of the Titans’ three preseason games.
Tonight, he capped off that improvement with his best pre-season showing yet, showcasing the details the Titans have been asking him to work on.
Willis did show off his legs, but not in the way he’s used them so far this pre-season. He looked poised in the pocket — even when it was consistently collapsing on him — and he was accurate for the most part as well.
He wasn’t perfect though — no football player is — and he showed that he still has some things to work on. But the Titans have to be encouraged with how well he played despite his surroundings somewhat failing him at times.
Was it enough to secure the QB2 job? That’s a question that still needs an answer. But Willis showed he’s improving well enough that he can handle the backup role behind Ryan Tannehill, which should be seen as nothing but a positive for the Titans moving forward.
Loser: Offensive line
The pre-season has been important for a bevy of Titans contributors, specifically the rookie and roster bubble skill players on the offensive side of the ball.
That means a lot of reps, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of work is necessary for the likes of evaluation and construction. What can kill those reps though, is a lack of supremacy in the trench battle, especially in the run game.
That’s exactly what happened to the Titans tonight, as their offensive line masqueraded as a set of motionless traffic cones for the most part.
In all seriousness, it’s hard to fully judge just how well the Titans’ offense played tonight due to the bad play up front. The run game wasn’t able to find traction, the pass protection didn’t hold up consistently, and the Titans’ quarterbacks were either running for the life or preparing to get drilled whenever they dropped back to pass.
It was a bad performance all around, and it should bring into question the body of work the Titans were able to get against the Cardinals tonight.
Luckily for the Titans, the starting offensive line tonight was made up of backups and reserves. But that conclusion brings the depth into question as well, but that discussion can be tabled for another time.
All in all, the Titans have to be disappointed with how little the offensive line gave them throughout the game. Little production up front can limit the chances for evaluation, like we saw throughout the game tonight.
Winner: Treylon Burks
Burks hasn’t received a lot of looks this pre-season because the quarterback and offensive line play has been so volatile. Tonight though, he saw the most extensive action he’s seen this pre-season in terms of opportunity, and he made the most of it.
Burks made a good leaping grab in the early portion of the game, and added another grab before he left the game later on due to a wrist injury.
That didn’t knocks Burks down for the count though, as he returned and caught his first (unofficial) NFL touchdown pass on a good instinctual route in the red zone.
Burks isn’t threatening Robert Woods nor Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for starting receiver snaps in the Titans’ base personnel offensively. But if he can avoid the occasional injury misstep and continue to develop on the field, he’s going to be an important piece for the Titans this fall.
Winner: Ugo Amadi
Amadi is one of three safeties the Titans have brought to the team over the last couple of weeks. And he might’ve had the best performance out of all of them against Arizona.
Amadi was traded to the Titans just three days ago, so he hasn’t been able to sit down and get comfortable in his new, yet familiar home. However, that didn’t stop him from playing a great game tonight against Arizona, as he had a couple of good looking pass break ups that disturbed the flow of the Cardinals’ offense.
One came on a ball thrown towards the sideline, the other one came on a screen play where Amadi blitzed, and deflected the pass before it had a chance to get to the receiver.
A good night overall for Amadi, but was it enough to solidify his status on this football team? It remains to be seen, since the Titans have a lot of bodies at the safety position.
However his situation shakes out though, Amadi made a pretty nice first impression tonight.
Loser: Greg Mabin
It was hard to find anyone who stood out defensively for the Titans, because the play wasn’t flashy nor were there any consistent standouts.
But if I had to pick a loser defensively, then it would be Greg Mabin.
Mabin had a meh game overall, as he committed a rough pass interference penalty, and missed a tackle that led to a long catch and run from Andy Isabella. It’s hard to tell if these plays hurt Mabin’s roster security, but you can bet they didn’t help either.