The Tennessee Titans continued their preseason journey tonight, facing off against the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Like Justin Melo said last week, these annual exhibition contests should always be taken with a grain of salt. But because of the traditional roster crunch, and the positional battles that currently exist on this roster, we can at least take away a few winners and losers from tonight’s game.
Let’s dive into some winners and losers from Titans-Bucs.
Winner: Mekhi Sargent
Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, Sargent looked like the best running back on the field aside from Darrynton Evans. He looked strong running the football, making plays when they didn’t seem to be there initially. Fast forward to tonight against the Buccaneers, Sargent continued his impressive play.
It certainly looks like Sargent is set to lock down the RB3 role. Which would be a pretty good feat considering he was on the outside looking in once camp began, behind the presumed favorites Brian Hill and Jeremy McNichols.
Winner: Matt Barkley
Barkley is still seen as more of an extra camp and preseason body as opposed to a piece of real competition for the backup quarterback spot. But he might be known for more of the latter if he continues to play like he played tonight.
Everytime Barkley was inserted into the game, the offense seemingly increased the quality of its play. Of course he’s a veteran, so the experience he’s accumulated plays a big role in that. However, that still doesn’t take away the fact that he played pretty well, while keeping up with counterpart Logan Woodside.
Welcome to the NFL: Elijah Molden and Caleb Farley
As Molden and Farley continued to pile on reps during this week’s joint practices in Tampa, it looked more and more likely that they’d make their NFL exhibition debuts tonight in Tampa Bay.
Molden on one hand was physical, looked engaged in coverage, and wasn’t afraid to get dirty as a tackler. He even tipped a pass that lead to a Clayton Geathers interception and got to the quarterback for a sack. One the other hand, Farley looked a little raw and uncomfortable, which was expected considering this was the first game of football he’s played in nearly two years.
The Titans will look to depend on these two once the regular season kicks off. All the focus now however, will be on getting them up to speed and comfortable within Shane Bowen’s defense.
Loser: Dillon Radunz
Radunz had an up-and-down but mostly good game last week playing both right guard and tackle. But against the Bucs, Radunz looked slow and mostly outmatched, specifically against 2021 first round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.
Luckily for Radunz — or maybe not — he won’t start right away, so he’ll have more time to sit behind the rest of the veterans and work on his craft. Once he’s ready for the full brunt of the league (which could be a little while), he’ll slot in as this team’s starting right tackle.
But until then, it’ll be about getting valuable experience in the preseason and learning from his mistakes.
Meh: Offensive Line Depth
For the second straight week, the backup offensive line groups failed to consistently execute. There were plenty of headache-inducing moments, mostly from Dillon Radunz and Cole Banwart, both whom played like certain roster cuts instead of reliable depth pieces.
As the game went on, this group did find a bit of traction in the run game and some consistency in pass protection. But for the most part, they couldn’t really execute on a snap to snap basis, which has to be extremely frustrating for an offense that has some guys that need good reps for the sake of their own job security.
Meh: Logan Woodside’s Job Security
Woodside didn’t do anything to damage his job security. However, it was interesting to see Matt Barkley get an early chance to receive some valuable playing time.
I don’t think Woodside’s roster spot is in jeopardy, but if Barkley has another quality performance next week against his former team, the Chicago Bears, while Woodside struggles, we might require a little discussion on the backup quarterback situation.
Winner: Dez Fitzpatrick
It’s been a struggle so far for the 2021 fourth-round pick out of Louisville.
He’s been publicly called out by Mike Vrabel, he saw a number of other receiver counterparts receive snaps before him against both Atlanta and Tampa Bay, and he simply hasn’t looked great whenever the Titans have practiced. Tonight against Tampa Bay though, Fitzpatrick found himself celebrating in the endzone courtesy of a touchdown grab by Logan Woodside.
It’s tough to tell if that play alone will provide the spark necessary to prevent him from being cut, but it’ll certainly stand as a bit of a springboard to turn Fitzpatrick’s camp and preseason around.
Winner: The Defense
It’s only the preseason, so as mentioned before, it’s wise to take these performances with a grain of salt. But through two games, the Titans’ defense has looked engaged, fast, and most of all has been productive.
Opposing teams have scored a total of 6 points and have committed 4 turnovers against this defense through two preseason games. Albeit it’s been against backups, this unit has showed up and given an effort Mike Vrabel and his staff have most certainly desired. Some of the guys making plays won’t even make the final roster, but they’ll get extended looks from other teams around the league.
That’s a pretty good consolation prize for some of the guys that have a 100% chance of not making the roster.
Perhaps Shane Bowen deserves some credit for the stability shown by this unit with so many different players to manage, as is the nature of preseason football.