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Six Things That Stood Out

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Six Things That Stood Out For the Titans in Saturday's Preseason Game vs the Bears


CHICAGO – The Titans kicked off the preseason here on Saturday with a 23-17 loss to the Bears.

Here's a look at six things that stood out in the contest:

Willis Improvement

Malik Willis is far from a finished product. On Saturday, the team's second-year quarterback made mistakes, fumbling twice on strip sacks (he lost one of them), and he wasn't able to finish a drive in the closing minutes. But Willis clearly showed improvement from a year ago. He guided a two-minute drive at the end of the first half, and he was sharp late before his final drive eventually stalled out. Willis made some accurate throws in the pocket, occasionally buying himself some extra time, and he reached paydirt on a touchdown run. Willis himself said he felt more comfortable compared to his rookie season. "I definitely felt better," said Willis, who completed 16-of-25 passes for 189 yards in the contest. "I was just trying to go out there and execute what was called to the best of my ability. … It definitely feels different than last year – last year was my first time seeing all this stuff, and after a whole year … of understanding what we're trying to do on offense now. It was awesome to get out there and do some real live stuff."

Levis Debut

Levis also made a handful of nice throws on Saturday, including a 21-yard strike to receiver Mason Kinsey, his longest completion of the day. But Levis appeared to hold the ball too long on occasion, and that's part of the reason he was sacked four times. Levis finished the day 9-of-14 for 85 yards, with an interception. His passer rating was 51.2. Levis felt like the unit did a solid job operationally, but he kicked himself for not being able to finish a late drive. Levis was intercepted deep at Chicago territory with just 10 seconds left. "At the end I had a chance to win the game, and I have to make a throw to win the game there. It's a shame it didn't happen. But we're going to learn from it, and we're going to get better."

Williams as HC

Earlier in the week, Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said he'd be turning the head coaching duties over to Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line coach Terrell Williams for today's game. Williams looked and sounded like a natural leading the way, and Vrabel gave him his distance, spending most of his time during the game away from the center of the field. Williams said it was a great experience, and he thanked Vrabel for the opportunity. "I felt great," Williams said. "I'm a football coach. I know how to lead, and that's what I was able to do. I had a lot of help from Stretch (Director of Football Administration John Streicher), and Vrabes was there and he was able to help. But really, we have good players and we have good people here, so coaching the football team, that was the easy part of this day."

Protection Problems

Willis and Levis we each sacked four times in the game, which made executing the offense, and sustaining long drives, more difficult. The Titans began the game with their starting offensive line – LT Andre Dillard, LG Peter Skoronski, C Aaron Brewer, RG Daniel Brunskill, RT Chris Hubbard – before switching to back-ups the rest of the way. The second-team offensive line looked like this: LT Jaelyn Duncan, Xavier Newman, C Corey Levin, Jordan Roos, RT Andrew Rupcich. But others entered the mix as well as the team rotated linemen. Williams said the sacks can't all be blamed on the o-line. "It's always a combination," Williams said. "Usually when you give up sacks, everybody looks at the offensive line, and I am speaking from a defensive line coach, kind of protecting them – it is not always the offensive line. It is sometimes receivers not getting open, it is sometimes tight ends missing a chip block, it is sometimes a back, it is sometimes a quarterback. Sometimes when you give up a sack, it is everybody."

Tyjae Spears

Rookie running back Tyjae Spears didn't get a whole lot of work, but he played long enough to impress. Spears had 32 yards on six carries, including a 14-yard run when he broke out the stiff-arm to get extra yards. Spears also returned the opening kickoff. Williams complimented Spears for bringing some juice, and he also used it as a springboard to praise the first-team offensive line. "He ran hard, he was physical," Williams said. "And bringing up Tajae Spears, he was in there some with that first offensive line, and when we talk about sacks, the good thing is that first offensive line group that went out there, we protected well and we were able to run the ball, that is exciting. We have some guys we have to keep working with on technique, but that group with Brewer and Peter and Dillard and that crew, it was exciting to watch those guys go out there and block and protect. The eight sacks, none of them came with that crew in the game."

The Day Off

The Titans played the contest with a lot of back-ups. A long list of Titans starters made the trip to Chicago, but they did not dress out for the contest. Among those not suiting up: Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Chig Okonkwo, Jeffery Simmons, Harold Landry, Denico Autry, Teair Tart, Kevin Byard, Amani Hooker, Arden Key, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Azeez Al-Shaair, Roger McCreary and Kristian Fulton, along with another group of players who've missed recent practices with injuries. The Titans return to the practice field on Monday, and they'll travel to Minnesota for joint practices starting Wednesday.

The Tennessee Titans take on the Chicago Bears in Preseason Week 1 at Soldier Field.

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