TAMPA – The Titans face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in preseason game No. 2 on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Ryan Tannehill didn't play in the preseason opener, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to play him against the Buccaneers either. After all, the Titans will be without many starters up front, and around him. What that means is back-up quarterbacks Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley will get another chance for extended playing time. Both players performed well in the preseason opener in Atlanta, each throwing a touchdown pass while posting impressive passer ratings – 103.2 for Woodside, and 121.9 for Barkley. They'll look to get the offense moving against the Bucs.
Be Prepared to See Back-Ups
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said earlier this week quarterback Tom Brady won't play, and he doesn't expect his starters to see the field either. Well, the Titans figure to take a similar approach, partly to avoid injuries, but also to give players battling for roster spots longer looks. The list of players who traveled to Tampa but didn't practice all week was a long one. It included receiver Julio Jones, receiver A.J. Brown, guard Nate Davis, center Ben Jones, running back Darrynton Evans, safety Dane Cruikshank, kicker Tucker McCann, defensive lineman Denico Autry, safety Matthias Farley, and tight end Geoff Swaim. Several other starters, including running back Derrick Henry and tackle Taylor Lewan, didn't take part in team drills. I wouldn't expect to see any of those guys, and probably many more.
Chester Rogers/Cam Batson
One player who continues to make the most of his opportunities is receiver/return man Chester Rogers. The fifth-year veteran has been consistent catching the football in practices, and last week he returned a punt 57 yards to set up a score. When I look at the team's receiving corps, and wonder how many guys might make it, it's a complicated effort. A guy like Rogers has a great chance to earn himself a spot if he continues to make big plays. The same can be said for Batson, who seems to always rise to the occasion in competition. Batson scored on a 15-yard touchdown catch last week, and he'll continue to get a chance to make plays in the return game as well. But is there room to keep both?
The kicking situation has taken an interesting turn of late. McCann kicked the ball well in the preseason opener, making all of his attempts and also kicking off well. But McCann was injured when he was roughed against the Falcons, and we haven't seen him on the field since. Meanwhile, kicker Sam Ficken has used the opportunity to make a really strong case for himself in the competition. Ficken was 16-of-18 in the two practices vs the Buccaneers, and he's now 48-of-53 in practices since joining the team. Ficken also made both of his extra points in the preseason opener in Atlanta. So, what happens if both guys keep making their kicks? Well, it's a good problem to have.
The Draft Picks
Fourth-round pick Rashad Weaver was one of the biggest stars to come out of the preseason opener, as he recorded 1.5 sacks, two quarterback pressures, three tackles and a batted ball at the line of scrimmage. So, what does he do for an encore? A lot of the draft picks will be worth watching again, from offensive lineman Dillon Radunz to linebacker Monty Rice to receivers Dez Fitpatrick and Racey McMath. Among the intrigue: Will defensive backs Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden make their debuts with the Titans after sitting out last week? Both players took part in the joint practices, but Coach Mike Vrabel declined to commit to their availability for the game.
It wasn't a great day for Tennessee's defense in the second of the two joint practices, but for the most part, things have looked good no matter who has been on the field this summer. In 14 training camp practices, the defense intercepted 17 passes. Throw in three more against Brady in Wednesday's session, and that makes 20 in practices. And, in the preseason opener, linebacker David Long added another interception on a night when the defense racked up five sacks and allowed just six first downs and 138 yards of total offense. The Titans are trying to establish a new identity on defense in 2021, and right now the unit is hoping to put a foundation in place.