BALTIMORE – The Titans face the Ravens in the preseason opener here on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:
Malik Willis and Logan Woodside
If you're tuning in to watch quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the veteran starters on offense, you're going to be disappointed. Others will be given a chance to shine tonight, starting at the quarterback position. Malik Willis, taken in the third round of this year's NFL Draft out of Liberty, will start tonight against the Ravens. He'll get a chance to show just how much progress he's made in recent months during OTAs, the minicamp, and 10 training camp practices. The Titans want to see him lead a clean operation while also distributing the ball to those around him. Willis and fellow back-up QB Logan Woodside are each expected to play roughly a half. Woodside has excelled in preseason work in past years. He's looking to hold onto the No.2 spot behind Tannehill.
The Titans have roster spots up for grabs behind Robert Woods and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. Plenty of eyes will be on first-round pick Treylon Burks on Thursday as he also makes his NFL debut, but another draft pick, Kyle Philips, should also be fun to watch. Philips has been good in practices, and no one will be surprised if he carries that over into action in Baltimore. Meanwhile, receivers Racey McMath, Dez Fitzpatrick, Josh Malone, and Mason Kinsey will aim to convince coaches and the GM they deserve to stick as well. Also keep an eye out for undrafted free agent Reggie Roberson Jr (No.88). He's made a number of plays in practices, and he'll look to keep his momentum against other defenders. Meanwhile, rookie tight end Chig Okonkwo should get opportunities as well.
Competition on the O-Line
The Titans have two spots up for grabs on the offensive line – left guard and right tackle. Through 10 training camp practices, Aaron Brewer seems to have the inside track at guard, but Jamarco Jones has raised his level of play in recent practices and he hopes to establish himself as a worthy contender. At right tackle, Dillon Radunz has gotten the bulk of the reps with the first team, but rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere has been getting some reps with the first team as well. Preseason games like tonight – and upcoming joint practices and games vs the Buccaneers and Cardinals – will provide more clues on how things could shake out.
RB Julius Chestnut
Speaking of undrafted free agents, running back Julius Chestnut of Sacred Heart busted loose and onto the centerpiece of this website on Monday after breaking a long run in practice. It continued his good work, and he's about to be rewarded with some extended playing time in the preseason opener. Could Chestnut, who wears No.36, put himself in the same conversation with undrafted running backs like Mekhi Sargent and John Simon of preseasons past? Those guys generated some buzz in August, and Chestnut will have a chance to do the same. Hassan Haskins, the team's fourth-round pick, will see his first NFL action here as well.
Caleb Farley and Others
Farley, the team's first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has dealt with all kinds of bad luck in recent years from an injury standpoint. A year ago, Farley suffered a torn ACL early in the season, which put him on the comeback trail once again. Farley is expected to return to action tonight as he works his way closer to 100 percent, and a return to action in the regular season. The talented cornerback hopes to knock some rust off and make some plays. But plenty of others will also be vying to make strides as they return to action. This group includes outside linebacker Rashad Weaver, who flashed in the preseason a year ago before suffering a season-ending injury early in the year himself.
All the Rookies
Across the board, youngsters are going to get most the playing time in this one. I've mentioned Willis, Burks, Okonkwo, Haskins and Philips, but this is a night that will belong to up-and-coming players, including a lot of draft picks. Second-round pick Roger McCreary didn't practice on Monday, so we'll have to see whether he suits up on Thursday night. Draft picks Theo Jackson and Chance Campbell will get chances, but this will be a night for plenty of undrafted players to show out as well, from defensive linemen Jayden Peevy and Haskell Garrett to linebacker Jack Gibbens. Strong-legged Punter Ryan Stonehouse will also get some work after Brett Kern exits this one.