NASHVILLE — Coaches and players always say they can’t accurately evaluate individual performances in a game until they’ve reviewed the film.
In other words, first impressions don’t always last.
We’ll leave the film studio to them. Here’s an immediate assessment of some Tennessee Titans players who made a good impression and others who made a bad impression in Saturday’s 13-3 preseason win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Good impression: Kyle Philips, punt returner. The fifth-round pick out of UCLA pretty much shut down the punt returner job with a 25.7-yard average 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 he made it work when he went from 27 to 26. His final return covered 35 yards and set up the attack on Tampa Bay. 44. On offense, he was targeted in skin time, more than all but one of his teammates, suggesting he got open often, but he finished with just one reception for 11 yards.
Bad impression: Dillon Radunz, right plate. The 2021 second-round pick started the game on the sideline, while rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere played the first two series at right tackle. When Radunz entered the game, he didn’t exactly distinguish himself. In particular, he gave up pressure too often in the passing game. Early on in the campaign, Radunz got virtually every first-team appearance, but recently he and Petit-Frere have rotated with increasing frequency. In Baltimore, Radunz was the first right tackle. Not so this time. This suggests that he had every opportunity to win the job, but he didn’t, and now his grip on it could be slipping.
Good impression: Ryan Stonehouse, punter. Colorado State’s undrafted rookie started both of Randy Bullock’s field goal attempts and a first-half PAT (all three kicks were good). It was a clear indication that the coaches are considering whether to leave him over veteran Brett Kern, who has held the job for years. Then, in the third quarter, Stonehouse punted his first punt of the night 68 yards for a touchback (he reached the end zone on the fly). For good measure, when he dropped a snap on a punt in the fourth quarter, Stonehouse calmly caught the ball and converted a fourth-and-5 for a nine-yard gain (he actually ran 24 yards from the punt 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 stats, it’s Woodside. He threw an interception on a deep ball to Treylon Burks in the fourth quarter. Woodside was hit when he threw, which was a definite factor in the outcome, but through two preseason games he now has three interceptions with no touchdown passes and a 35.2 passer rating. Malik Willis, who started for the second straight week, was far from perfect (completing just seven of 17 passes), but once again dazzled with his athleticism and ability to make plays with his feet. Also, Willis threw a touchdown pass.
Good impression: Rashad Weaver, OLB. Coach Mike Vrabel likes to talk about the relentless effort that Weaver, a fourth-round pick in 2021, plays with. Weaver was impossible not to notice in this one. He had a tackle, a sack, two quarterback hits, a tackle for loss, a pass defensed 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 drive led to Tennessee’s only touchdown.
Bad impression: Treylon Burks, wide receiver. Anyone looking to see signs that this year’s first-round pick will be a suitable replacement for AJ Brown is still waiting. Finally, Burks made his first reception of the preseason, gaining four yards, but was targeted three times without a catch. He did little to help Woodside with the interception once he realized the throw was short. He was also one of two Titans tackles for holding in the fourth quarter, which negated a 26-yard run by Julius Chestnut (which would have been the longest gain of the night for the offense).
Good impression: Lonnie Johnson, Jr. Just days after being claimed off waivers by Kansas City, he entered the game in the first half, made two tackles and forced a fumble on second down after the Titans had taken a 3-0 lead. The fumble (weaver recovered it) led to another field goal and 6-0. 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. Clearly, 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 didn’t get a catch in a preseason game. He was targeted only once in this contest and came up empty. In contrast to 2021, when the Division III (Berry College) product led or tied for the team lead in all three contests in 2021 and finished the preseason with 14 receptions, at least twice as many as any other player of the Titans. In this year’s preseason opener against Baltimore, he had two catches for 30 yards. Increasingly, the appeal of his underdog story seems to be fading as others with more prominent sporting backgrounds push him aside.
Good impression: David Anenih, OLB. For the second week in a row, he had a forced sack/fumble. This one came with 1:55 to play in the contest and forced Tampa Bay into a fourth-and-9, which turned out to be their final offensive play. It could have been a better night for Houston’s undrafted rookie. After two sacks in the preseason opener, he got to play in the first half against the Buccaneers, but wasn’t much of a factor against top competition (one inning before halftime). He was also 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 consistently drop the ball should earn him another look early next week against Arizona.