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Six Things to Watch

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Six Things to Watch for the Titans in Saturday Night's Preseason Game vs the Vikings


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – After a pair of joint practices here this week, the Titans will face the Vikings on Saturday night in preseason game No.2.

Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:

Malik Willis

It's been an offseason of strides for Malik Willis, and on Saturday night, the second-year quarterback will get yet another chance to show his growth. Willis started the preseason opener against the Bears, and he completed 16-of-25 passes for 189 yards, along with a rushing touchdown. Willis did some solid work here in the joint practices against the Vikings, including a day when he completed 13 of his 14 passes in 7-on-7 and team periods combined. Can Willis build on that in preseason game No.2? The Titans alternated quarterbacks in the preseason opener, but after fellow quarterback Will Levis left practice early on Thursday with an injury, Willis will have a chance to really settle in tonight.

Offensive Line

The first-team offensive line played just 12 snaps in the preseason opener, and held up well for the most part. Looking to build further chemistry and cohesion, I'd look for the Titans to follow a similar plan the second time out with the guys up front – get the starting o-line some work, and then let others enter the mix. The Titans surrendered eight sacks a week ago, but OC Tim Kelly estimated roughly half of those could be attributed to QBs holding the ball too long. The second time out, the back-up linemen will look to show improvement across the board nonetheless.

Running backs

Rookie Tyjae Spears impressed in his NFL debut last week, showing some nice moves – and a stiff-arm – right out of the gate. He'll get more opportunities on Saturday night, but there have been a few developments here in the last week. A pair of Titans running backs – Hassan Haskins and Jonathan Ward – were banged up against the Bears, and as a result the team signed running back Jacques Patrick, who is expected to make his Titans debut vs the Vikings. Look for Julius Chestnut to get significant work as well, coming off some solid days of practices here in Minnesota.


The Titans starters got a lot of work in joint practices, from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to running back Derrick Henry to receiver DeAndre Hopkins on offense, to defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons to linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair to safety Kevin Byard on defense. Because of that, I'm expecting Saturday night to belong to primarily back-ups once again, with a few exceptions. Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said this week some of the 3s earned reps with the 2s, while some of the 2s slid to the 3s. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the hungry defenders play again, guys like Eric Garror, Armani Marsh, Mike Brown, Matthew Jackson, Shyheim Carter, Tyreque Jones, Caleb Murphy and Otis Reese IV, along with the young receivers who have been flashing throughout camp.

Josh Whyle

Rookie tight end Josh Whyle caught some grief from the fan base – and he beat up himself – after his preseason debut in Chicago. Whyle lost a fumble, and he had a pass go off his hands that was intercepted. The reality is that pass – thrown by Willis – should've been a lower, more catchable ball. Nonetheless, Whyle responded with arguably his best practice of training camp on Monday, and he continued that momentum here in joint practices with the Vikings. Whyle is surely looking forward to another game.

Kicking Game

The Titans are still trying to decide on their starting kicker, as Caleb Shudak and Trey Wolff continue compete in training camp. Through 11 training camp practices, Shudak is 46-of-51, while Wolff is 51-of-58. Shudak made his only field goal attempt in the preseason opener at Chicago, but his second half kickoff sailed out of bounds. Wolff, meanwhile, misfired on a 48-yard attempt vs the Bears. The windy conditions here this week weren't great for the kickers, but indoors at U.S. Bank Stadium the surroundings should be more ideal. The Titans are hoping one of these two kickers convinces them he's their guy as the regular season continues to creep up.

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