NASHVILLE – The Titans beat the Buccaneers 13-3 in preseason game No.2 on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the contest:
Once again, Malik Willis got the start at quarterback. And, once again, he had mixed results. Willis threw his first touchdown pass – a six-yard toss to tight end Chig Okonkwo – and he felt like he stayed in the pocket more than he did in his preseason debut in Baltimore. Willis completed 7-of-17 passes in the contest for 80 yards and the score, with a passer rating of 75.6. He also ran for 42 yards on five carries, and he was sacked three times. After the game, however, Willis acknowledged he should have stayed in the pocket even more. Willis knows he needs to be more patient. "It's something I just need to focus on," Willis said. "And, find that in between from when I need a play, make a play, and when I don't just climb in the pocket and help my o-line out."
Philips the Returner
Titans rookie receiver Kyle Philips had a heck of a week during the joint practices, as he got open and caught a bunch of passes while working against Tampa Bay defensive backs. But on Saturday night, Philips stood out as a returner, and it looks like he could be a heck of a weapon on special teams. Philips fielded three punts and returned them for 77 yards. He had a nifty 35-yard return, and he also had a nice return after fielding the ball in the end zone. Philips acknowledged he shouldn't have fielded that punt, but he tried to make the most of it. Philips also had a catch for 11 yards. "I definitely want to make a play every time the ball is in my hands," Philips said. "I want to contribute to this team, and help us win some games. So, every time I touch the ball I want to try and make something happen."
You Go, Joe
Titans linebacker Joe Jones showed some pretty good speed himself on Saturday night. It was Jones who intercepted a pass from Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask before racing 38 yards to set up a score. "My teammates know (I can run) – they've seen me run down on kickoffs before," Jones said with a smile. "(I'm) 250 (pounds) and can move, it is what is." Jones, who played in nine games for the Titans in 2021, primarily on special teams, finished the day with four stops. He was glad to make a big play. "Just like everybody else – preseason is a chance for us to show what we can do, to find a role on this team or one of the other 31 teams out there," Jones said. "So hopefully this helps, but you never know."
Weaver Making Plays Again
Titans second-year OLB Rashad Weaver flashed during his rookie year during the preseason, and he put himself in a position to help the team a year ago. But an injury ended Weaver's season early, and forced him into months of healing, and rehabilitation. Weaver is back once again, and he's making plays again. On Saturday night, Weaver had a sack and a fumble recovery. "It's good to be back at Nissan Stadium, good to be back at home in front of the fans," Weaver said. "It was my first game at Nissan since being hurt and it's something I was looking forward to. Just going out there and playing like I play, and making things happen and doing what the defense asked of me."
The Titans made a lot of plays on defense on Saturday night – four sacks, an interception, four fumbles caused and one fumble recovery. But perhaps the best effort play of the game was made by linebacker Ola Adeniyi, who knocked the ball out of the hands of Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask before then chasing him down for a sack, and a loss of 21 yards. The Buccaneers went from having the ball at the Tennessee 19-yard line to the 40-yard line – and out of field goal range. "(The coaches) preach every day 'effort and finish'," Adeniyi said. "When I saw the ball and smacked it … it was good to see that."
A Few Starters in Action
For the second straight week, the Titans sat a lot of their starters. WR Robert Woods, QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry, safety Kevin Byard, LB Zach Cunningham, LB David Long, OLB Harold Landry, center Ben Jones, G Nate Davis, DL Denico Autry, and DT Jeffery Simmons did not play in the contest. But the Titans did play a number of starters at least for a series or two, including left tackle Taylor Lewan, receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, cornerback Kristian Fulton, OLB Bud Dupree and safety Amani Hooker, among others. Rookie cornerback Roger McCreary also played for the first time, along with guys battling for starting spots – guard Aaron Brewer, and tackles Dillon Radunz and Nicholas Petit-Frere.