Tennessee Titans: Storylines to Watch

Titans’ Head Coach Mike Vrabel catching up with his former offensive coordinator and current Falcons’ HC Arthur Smith. Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The first two weeks of the NFL Pre-season are in the books and the Tennessee Titans have plenty of reasons for optimism ahead of the 2021 campaign. The competition at the bottom of the WR depth chart has been fierce, even to the point where some outlets are putting Fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick on the hot seat. Kicking has been (dare I say) consistent. And the Titans have looked competent on both sides of the ball despite two new coordinators. I will be previewing and recapping every Titans game the rest of the way all season long along with any big news reactions, as well. Let’s take a look at some developing storylines from Titans’ camp after opening the preseason 2-0 with victories over the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The game against Atlanta, much like most pre-season games, should be taken with a grain of salt. The Titans won the game by a score of 23-3, as Mike Vrabel bested his former OC Arthur Smith. Of note, edge rushing looks to be vastly improved from last year following a quick start from rookie Rashad Weaver. He was credit with 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, and a pass deflected. Perhaps most importantly, the team went a combined 5 of 5 on kicks with newly-signed K Sam Ficken hitting one from 44 along with two PATs and incumbent starter Tucker McCann going 2-for-2. While no one is anointing a champion after the first week of preseason, there were little reasons to complain after a nice showing from Tennessee.

After a week of joint practices and more than a few scuffles, the Titans took on the defending Super Bowl champs in week two of the pre-season. Very few high-profile starters played for either team, including Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, and Derrick Henry, but the spotlight shined on several rookies looking to make an impact. Third-round selection Elijah Molden out of Washington had himself a game against the Bucs racking up an impressive stat line. Molden was responsible for an incredible sack, forced fumble, TFL, multiple pressures and tackles, and a tipped ball that led to an interception. Not a bad debut for the rookie. He helped lead a defense that only surrendered 3 points and never allowed Tampa Bay to cross the opposing 30-yard line. Pre-season or not, it shows signs of encouragement that this year’s defense will not repeat the atrocities of last year’s.

Tennessee Titans cornerback Elijah Molden (24) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tyler Johnson (18) during the first quarter of an NFL preseason game at Raymond James Stadium Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 in Tampa, Fla.
CB Elijah Molden recording a tackle in his first NFL game. Credit: GEORGE WALKER IV / TENNESSEAN.COM

It looks as if the starting kicker battle and backup QB battle took steps toward being solved as the Titans head into the final game of the preseason. Sam Ficken went a solid 4-for-4 on XP’s and 2-for-2 on FGs, including one from 58 yards. It appears as the Titans have found their week 1 kicker and will attempt to put their kicking woes to bed once and for all. Both Titans QBs finished with great numbers. Matt Barkley picked apart the Tampa Bay backups all night long finishing 12-for-16 for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns. Logan Woodside started slow, but finished 7-for-8 for 64 yards and a touchdown. Neither quarterback was intercepted. The eye test showed that late-camp signing Barkley has positioned himself to be Tannehill’s primary backup this season.

Other notes:

– Fitzpatrick may have boosted himself out of the doghouse after scoring a touchdown on a fly route from Woodside in the third quarter of the Tampa Bay game.
– CB Caleb Farley was left off the box score, but took his first snaps as a pro following the back surgery that pushed him down draft boards.
– LB David Long, Jr. continues to impress after recording a sack against the Bucs. Bad news for Rashaan Evans in a contract year?
– HC Mike Vrabel has tested positive for COVID-19. He has openly shared his vaccination status, and will quarantine while following league protocols. He will be eligible to return following two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, per NFL’s COVID-19 protocols shared by @TitansRadio.

Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel watches over his team during the first quarter of an NFL preseason game against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 in Tampa, Fla.
Titans’ HC Mike Vrabel has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Sunday August 22, 2021. Credit: GEORGE WALKER IV / TENNESSEAN.COM

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