The Tennessee Titans closed out training camp and the preseason last week, which means the next time we’ll see the team on the field is in Week 1 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville against the New York Giants on Sept. 11.
After trimming their roster down to 53 players on Tuesday and putting the practice squad together on Wednesday, the Titans will begin preparing for regular season play.
There have been no shortage of interesting storylines this offseason, whether it be the starting competitions, the drafting of Ryan Tannehill’s heir-apparent, and wide receiver Treylon Burks’ conditioning issues.
But after the events of the preseason, things are mostly looking up for a Titans team looking to build off a 12-win season while also simultaneously trying to bounce back from said campaign’s disappointing finish.
Here’s a look at the six biggest things we learned after watching the Titans over the course of training camp and the preseason.
Malik Willis should be the backup
AP Photo/Wade Payne
After thoroughly outplaying Logan Woodside both in practice and the preseason, Willis deserves to be the backup quarterback, which would make Woodside expendable and open up another roster spot for someone else.
However, it remains to be seen if the Titans feel comfortable having Willis one Ryan Tannehill injury away from seeing the field in his first season, as deploying the rookie before he’s ready could hurt his growth.
It’s possible the Titans bring in a more experienced backup, in which case you can justify moving Willis down to No. 3, but as currently constituted, Willis gives the Titans a better chance to win than Woodside does.
Reasons for optimism with the draft picks
George Walker IV – USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee’s 2022 draft picks gave us plenty of reasons for optimism over the course of the offseason.
We already touched on Malik Willis, who has been progressing each and every week, culminating in the rookie having his best game of the preseason on Saturday night, which should have locked down the backup job.
Offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere also proved to be ahead of schedule by winning the right tackle job over second-year pro and 2021 second-round selection, Dillon Radunz.
At receiver, Kyle Philips was a tough cover in camp and busted off an electric punt return in preseason Week 2, and Treylon Burks recovered nicely from his early conditioning issues and saved his best preseason game for last.
At tight end, Chigoziem Okonkwo has impressed and was able to make an impact in multiple preseason games. At cornerback, Roger McCreary not only gave Caleb Farley a run for his money, he might have won the job entirely.
We’ve also seen flashes from defensive back Theo Jackson, linebacker Chance Campbell and running back Hassan Haskins.
All in all, it was a very good offseason for Tennessee’s rookies and the excitement fans have about the 2022 draft class is warranted.
As of right now, Dillon Radunz is a bust
AP Photo/John Amis
Going into the offseason, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Dillon Radunz would win the starting right tackle job in his second season, even after the team drafted Nicholas Petit-Frere in the third round.
However, that turned out not to be the case. Instead, NPF proved to be ahead of schedule and was able to outperform Radunz en route to winning the job.
The Titans will now look to convert Radunz to guard, but there isn’t a starting spot to be had there, either, as Aaron Brewer and Nate Davis have left guard and right guard locked down, respectively.
There is still hope for Radunz, as many pegged him as a guard anyway, but that hope has dwindled to almost nothing after what we saw this offseason. As of right now, Radunz is just he latest early-round bust in Tennessee.
First-team offense going in cold
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine is the only receiver who made any semblance of an impact in 2021 that is returning in 2022, which means quarterback Ryan Tannehill has several new pieces to get acclimated with.
And, while chemistry appeared to be strong in practice, the first-team offense as a whole didn’t have a chance to play together in live-game action, as Tannehill didn’t play a single series in the preseason.
With so many new faces, it would have been beneficial to get Tannehill and the pass-catchers at least some reps together in a game this preseason.
Instead, they’ll see their first action together in Week 1, which could lead to issues and a slow start for an offense that already has several question marks.
Caleb Farley isn't safe
AP Photo/Wade Payne
If we learned anything from the Radunz situation, it’s that the Titans aren’t going to force a player into a starting spot if he doesn’t deserve it.
That said, Farley isn’t safe.
The second-year pro has been solid in camp and preseason after suffering a torn ACL in 2021, but rookie Roger McCreary has been among the biggest standouts all offseason, giving him a run for his money for the starting role.
In preseason Week 3, McCreary did not play while Farley did, which could be an indication that the former has indeed won the job. It’s also possible Tennessee was just looking to get Farley more work before the season.
Whatever the case may be, McCreary has been good enough to earn a starting role, which means Farley’s leash will be short if he wins the job.
This might be the end for Brett Kern
George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports
Despite having a few down years and dealing with injuries the past two seasons, we still thought Kern was safe for at least another campaign and would play out the final year of his deal.
Kern has looked good in camp, but there’s no denying that Ryan Stonehouse has been as good, if not better. The rookie has displayed his massive leg on several occasions, and he showed improvement with touch in preseason Week 3, dropping three punts inside the 20.
And Kern fully understands what he’s up against and that this might be the end of his run in Nashville. If so, it was one hell of a run for the longest-tenured (and arguably the most loved) player on the team.