NASHVILLE – Coaches and players always say they can’t accurately evaluate individual performances in a game until they review film.
In other words, first impressions don’t always last.
We’ll leave the film research up to them. Here’s an immediate assessment of some Tennessee Titans players who made a good impression and some who made a bad impression in Saturday’s 13-3 preseason win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Good impression: Kyle Phillips, punt returner. The fifth-round pick out of UCLA pretty much locked up the job as a punt returner, averaging 25.7 yards on three attempts — all in the first quarter. He made a questionable decision when he took his first return from a yard deep in the end zone, but made it work when he went 27 yards to the 26. His final return covered 35 yards and set up the offense at the Tampa Bay 44. On offense , he was targeted multiple times, more than all but one of his teammates, suggesting he got open often, but finished with just one reception for 11 yards.
Bad impression: Dylan Raduntz, right tackle. The 2021 second-round pick started the game on the sideline while rookie Nicolas Petit-Frere played the first two series at right tackle. When Radunc came on, he didn’t exactly stand out. In particular, he gave up pressure in the passing game too often. At the start of camp, Radunz got almost all of the reps with the first team, but he and Petit-Frere have alternated more and more of late. In Baltimore, Raduntz was first at right tackle. Not so this time. This suggests that he had every opportunity to win the job but failed to do so and now his grip may be slipping.
Good impression: Ryan Stonehouse punter. The undrafted rookie out of Colorado State owned both of Randy Bullock’s field goal attempts and one PAT in the first half (all three kicks were good). It was a clear indication that the coaches are considering whether to keep him over veteran Brett Kern, who has held the job for years. Then in the third quarter, Stonehouse had his first punt of the night with a 68-yard touchdown run (he reached the end zone on the move). For good measure, when he dropped a punt in the fourth quarter, Stonehouse calmly picked up the ball and converted a fourth-and-five for a nine-yard gain (he actually ran 24 yards on the fumble recovery).
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Bad impression: Logan Woodside, QB. If there’s one player among the 85 currently on the roster who needs film to tell a story other than the stats, it’s Woodside. He threw an interception on a deep ball to Traylon Burks in the fourth quarter. Woodside was hit while throwing, which was a definite factor in the outcome, but through two preseason games, he already has three interceptions with no touchdown passes and a 35.2 passer rating. Malik Willis, who started for the second week in a row, was far from perfect (completing just seven of 17 passes), but again dazzled with his athleticism and ability to make plays with his feet. Willis also threw a touchdown pass.
Good impression: Rashad Weaver, OLB. Coach Mike Vrabel likes to talk about the relentless effort with which Weaver, a 2021 fourth-round pick, plays. It was impossible not to notice Weaver in this one. He had one tackle, a sack, two quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, a pass defense and a fumble recovery. One of his hits on quarterback Kyle Trask forced a fumble that led to an interception by linebacker Joe Jones late in the first half. That score led to Tennessee’s only touchdown.
Bad impression: Traylon Burks, wide receiver. Anyone looking to see signs that this year’s first-round draft pick will be a suitable replacement for AJ Brown is still waiting. Burks finally had his first reception of the preseason — he gained all four yards — but was targeted three times without a catch. He did little to help Woodside with the interception after realizing the throw was short. Plus, he was one of two Titans marked for a fourth-quarter holding that negated a 26-yard run by Julius Chestnut (which would have been the offense’s longest drive of the night).
Good impression: Lonnie Johnson Jr. Just days after being suspended by Kansas City, he entered the game in the first half, had two tackles and forced a fumble on the second play after the Titans took a 3-0 lead. The turnover (Weaver returned it) led to another field goal and a 6-0 lead. Johnson’s first practice with the Titans was Wednesday’s joint session with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he had an interception the first time he took the field in that one. Obviously, this is a guy who knows how to make a first impression.
Bad impression: Mason Kinsey, WR. For the first time since entering the NFL, Kinsey failed to make a catch in a preseason game. He was only marked once in this contest and came up empty. Compare that to 2021, when the Division III (Berry College) product led or tied for the lead in all three contests in 2021 and finished the preseason with 14 receptions, at least twice as many as any other Titans player. In this year’s preseason game against Baltimore, he had two catches for 30 yards. Increasingly, the appeal of his underdog story seems to be fading as others with more distinguished athletic pasts push him aside.
Good impression: David Anenich, OLB. For the second week in a row, he had a sack/forced fumble. That one came with 1:55 to play in the contest and forced Tampa Bay into a fourth-and-9 on what turned out to be its final offensive play. It could have been a better night for the undrafted rookie out of Houston. After two sacks early in the preseason, he was slated to play in the first half against the Buccaneers, but wasn’t nearly as much of a factor against better competition (one game before halftime). Plus, he was called for a masking penalty that gave the Buccaneers 15 yards on their only scoring drive. Still, he finished with three tackles and the ability to knock the ball down consistently should earn him another early look next week against Arizona.