BALTIMORE – The 2022 preseason is off and running for the Tennessee Titans.
It began with plenty of players battling for bigger roles and roster spots on the team, and with a young quarterback looking to make a good first impression in his NFL debut.
And, it also began with some mistakes, including three turnovers, in a 23-10 loss to the Ravens.
"It's a humbling game and we have a lot of work to do," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said after the game. "I told them coming down that this was going to be a great challenge and a great test. Some guys showed up and some guys are going to need to go back home and get better."
Malik Willis, selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, got the start for the Titans.
Willis played the entire first half and a few plays into the third quarter, and he produced some highlights in his debut – a touchdown run, a long completion, a nice scramble, and a nifty sidearm throw. Willis also showed some of the same inconsistencies he's shown in practices, as he was late on some throws, and off target on others. Vrabel also thought he missed some throws, and took off running too early on too many occasions.
The entire night was a learning experience for many.
But overall, it was a positive first experience for Willis, even though he admittedly made mistakes.
"We have a lot to learn from, a lot to look at on film, but it was good to get out there again and play football," Willis said. "I missed some things probably, and I just made up for it with my legs. I can't continue to rely on that, but that is what the preseason is for.
"I'm going to remember the things I should have done better. But it is a learning experience – it's the preseason, but it's an opportunity at the same time. I just have to continue to work."
A large number of projected starters didn't make the trip to Baltimore, including Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, Robert Woods, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Austin Hooper, Taylor Lewan, Nate Davis and Ben Jones on offense. The list of defensive starters who didn't travel was just as long.
But the night provided plenty of opportunities.
The Titans were slow out of the starting gate.
The Titans went three-and-out on two of their first three possessions, and another possession ended with a fumble by rookie running back Julius Chestnut, who got the start.
It helped the Ravens jump ahead 7-0 on a touchdown run by Mike Davis.
Things got a little better for the Titans, and Willis, until turnovers eventually doomed them.
Willis reversed his field and scored on a seven-yard touchdown to tie the contest at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
Later, Willis completed a 48-yard pass downfield to receiver Racey McMath, and he made a nice sidearm completion to tight end Tommy Hudson. Willis threw a 20-yard dart to receiver Mason Kinsey on a drive that was slowed by one of two Baltimore sacks on Willis.
Chestnut finished the game with 44 rushing yards.
The Ravens took a 14-10 lead at the half on a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Huntley to Shemar Bridges, who was being defended by defensive back Chris Jackson. Jackson was injured on the play, and later ruled out with a knee injury.
Willis finished the night 6-of-11 for 107 yards, with a passer rating of 88.1. He was sacked twice.
Willis also ran five times for 38 yards, including a 17-yard scramble and the touchdown run.
Quarterback Logan Woodside entered the game in the third quarter, after the Ravens had extended their lead to 17-10 on a 47-yard field goal by kicker Justin Tucker.
After back-to-back completions, Woodside threw short to receiver Terry Godwin, and that pass was intercepted by the Ravens at the two-yard line. Later, Woodside was intercepted again.
"The guys did a good job," Woodside said. "I just let them down a little bit tonight. I just have to watch the film and get back to work."
The Ravens made it 23-10 in the fourth quarter on two more field goals by Tucker.
The Titans face the Buccaneers in preseason game No.2 on Saturday, August 20 at Nissan Stadium.