ATLANTA – The Titans beat the Falcons 23-3 in the preseason opener on Friday night.
Here's a look at six things that stood out:
It was quite a debut for rookie outside linebacker Rashad Weaver. Weaver, selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, was credited with 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, three tackles, and one tackle for a loss in the contest, and he also batted down a pass. He was consistently in the backfield, being disruptive, and making plays. "It felt good to get out there under the lights," Weaver said after the game. "I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be – it's football at the end of the day, that's what we do, that's my job. But it was fun to get out there with the guys, have fun on defense, celebrate together and do what we do, swarm to the ball and look like an aggressive defense."
Kinsey's Production, and Following
Titans receiver Mason Kinsey led the team with four catches for 51 yards. He had a big catch for a first down on a fourth-and-six, and he helped convert a third-and-14 with a 15-yard grab in the third quarter, leading to a Titans field goal. Kinsey, who attended Habersham Central (Ga.) and went to Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, had only been to one other NFL game in his life before Friday night. He was a kid back then, and a fan of the Falcons. On Friday night, Kinsey had a big crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium cheering him on. "It was awesome," Kinsey said. "I had a lot of people from my college, and a lot of people from my hometown, show up. It was dang near 80 people in one section, all rocking the (No.) 12 and cheering me on. It was awesome, definitely a blessing."
The Titans went into the contest with questions at kicker, and at the return game. Nothing was decided on Friday night, of course, but it was an encouraging start. Kicker Tucker McCann was a perfect 2-of-2, making kicks of 26 and 42, and he also had a 47-yarder taken off the scoreboard because of a roughing call vs the Falcons. Sam Ficken also made his only attempt, from 44 yards, and he was perfect on two extra points. And, the Titans made a play in the return game, as Chester Rogers returned one 57 yards to set up a score. Again, no jobs were pinned down in the first preseason game, but hey, it was a nice start. One thing Coach Mike Vrabel wasn't happy about here: The punt coverage team. "We have to play faster on the punt team, and the coverage units need to be faster," Vrabel said. "We want to talk about a fast, violent football team, and I just didn't feel our kickoff team. … We have to be better. Chester had a nice return, and our kickers did kick the ball well, so there's some positives there, but there's some things that need to continue to be better."
Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn't make the trip. Instead, Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley each played a half, and each did well. Woodside completed 10-of-15 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, with a passer rating of 103.2. He stood in the pocket, took some big hits, and made some big throws, one of the best a 15-yard scoring toss to receiver Cameron Batson. Matt Barkley also turned in a solid performance, completing 5-of-8 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown – a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Miller Forristall in the fourth quarter. Barkley's passer rating: 121.9. After some solid training camp practices, it was good to see it carry over in a game. "We had a couple of misfires early," Woodside said, "but we kind of got settled down a bit and played some good complementary football. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good night."
So, What About the Sacks Allowed?
Woodside got knocked around pretty good on Friday night. He was sacked three times, and hit hard on a few of them. After the game, Vrabel didn't seem too thrilled with all the blitzing the Falcons did in the preseason opener. "They were blitzing the (expletive) out of (Woodside)," Vrabel said. Hey, it's football, I guess. So, were the sacks allowed a result of protection issues? Playing with a back-up offensive line, it's no time to panic. One offensive lineman who played for the first time was Dillon Radunz, the team's second-round pick who started at guard and also played at tackle. Afterward, Radunz called his debut a blast – and a learning experience. "Super fun, and super glad to just get out there and play," Radunz said. "I've only played like two games in the last two years, Senior Bowl and one game during college. So, it was great to get out there." As for playing two spots, Radunz said: "Super important to show my versatility to the team, and show I am willing to do whatever it takes for the team," he said. "That helps for me to build trust for the team, so I am able to get some good playing time."
Defense, Defense, Defense
Coming off a year when the Titans finished 28th in total defense, the offseason focus was to fix the defense. On Friday night, roughly a half-dozen of the expected starters on defense were on the field at the start, but they played sparingly. Key players like Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry and Harold Landry were among those who didn't play at all. So, no, this wasn't the true defense out there. And, keep in mind Atlanta's offensive starters weren't out there in full force either. One thing that was out there on Friday night, though, was a defensive unit playing with an attitude, and that was good to see. The Titans racked up five sacks in the contest, led by Weaver and fellow outside linebacker Wyatt Ray, who also had 1.5 sacks. Ola Adeniyi had a sack, and linebacker Jan Johnson and defensive lineman Trevon Coley split one. The Titans also forced a turnover with David Long's interception, and cornerback Breon Borders had a near INT taken off the stat sheet following a review. On the night, the defense allowed only six first downs, 138 total yards and 21 net passing yards. It's ridiculous to think the problems on defense have been solved after one preseason game, but it was an impressive effort nonetheless. "Everybody was running to the ball, playing with a lot of effort," defensive lineman Teair Tart said. "The defense was swarming, making some big stops."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 of Preseason at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.