Cardinals @ Titans
Final Score: Titans 26, Cardinals 23
Writer: Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter)
While most of the Cardinals’ regulars rested in this one, we got a fun glimpse of the future with the Titans’ offense. Malik Willis flashed big-time upside with his arm and with his legs, and Treylon Burks caught three passes, including a touchdown. Both rookies looked like starting caliber NFL players, a big step in the development of each.
Otherwise, the Titans overcame some shoddy offensive line play to score a late touchdown to take the lead, and they held on for the win in the preseason finale. Both teams appeared to avoid major injury in this final tune-up.
Trace McSorley: 15/29, 144 yards | 1 carry, 5 yards
Jarrett Guarantano: 7/14, 141 yards, TD, Sack, Fumble | 3 carries, 2 yards
Trace McSorley marched the team down the field on the first drive operating the offense well and showing brief glimpses of his mobility. The drive was mostly full of easy throws, but he executed the offense. The second drive was a quick three and out, as McSorley fired inaccurately downfield on a play-action deep shot and was pressured on his third down attempt.
McSorley had another misfire on a later drive, and he seemed to be most comfortable when he was moving in the pocket and was able to put touch on the ball, as opposed to sitting stationary and throwing with velocity. He finished the drive completing a pass well short of the sticks on third and 11. McSorely struggled after the first drive, making quick decisions but firing inaccurately on most of his passes. He did lead a nice field goal drive to end the half to salvage what had turned into a disappointing half.
McSorley was back to start the second half and had the offense moving again, relying on Isabella and Dortch for the most part. He showed a command of the offense overall, but misfired on several throws and didn’t display many stand-out passes.
Jarrett Guarantano came in for the second drive of the third quarter and immediately picked up where McSorley left off, finding Andy Isabella for a big gain. Guarantano otherwise looked like a third-string quarterback with a bit of mobility.
Keaontay Ingram: 16 carries, 61 yards | 4 targets, 1 reception, 8 yards
Darrel Williams: 2 carries, 9 yards, TD
Eno Benjamin: 3 carries, 9 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards
Eno Benjamin drew the start as the Cardinals ran him up the middle on the first two plays of the game, resulting in 8 combined yards. He looked capable of inside running if needed, but that likely won’t be his game when Kyler Murray is under center running Arizona’s spread offense. He displayed his true value on the ensuing 3rd and 2, running a wheel route out of the backfield on a designed pick play. He was wide open and clearly the first read, and while McSorley made the catch more difficult than it needed to be, Benjamin did an excellent job laying out for a leaping catch for a big play. Benjamin played throughout the rest of the drive, adding on another nice reception and another stuffed run up the middle. He was not on the field for the goalline attempt to cap the drive.
Darrel Williams was in the game later on the first drive on the next 3rd and 2, and displayed his differing skillset to Benjamin, as he received an up-the-middle rush out of shotgun and burrowed his way through a heavy box for an eight-yard pickup. It wasn’t a flashy run, but it should be an indicator of his potential short-yardage role if James Conner were to miss time. He capped the opening drive with a rushing touchdown on first and goal.
Keaontay Ingram was in to start the second drive to end the first quarter, though he did not receive a touch on the three and out. His first long run was to start a drive at the end of the half with the defense expecting a pass. He played for most of the game and failed to make many notable plays.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Andy Isabella: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 115 yards
Greg Dortch: 12 targets, 6 receptions, 64 yards, TD
Victor Bolden: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 51 yards, Fumble (Lost)
Bernhard Seikovits: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 13 yards
JaVonta Payton: 2 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards
Jontre Kirklin: 3 targets
Andy Isabella started and caught a quick out-route on the first drive. He was frequently targeted throughout the first drive, including a big play to get them near the goalline where he was lined up in a trips set and ran a quick come-backer. The defense forgot about him, and after McSorley scrambled and found Isabella, he made the catch and rushed upfield for a near touchdown. After a long stretch of incomplete passes, Isabella caught another sideline pass and was the most consistent option in the first half. He did have a drop on a 3rd and 7 that would have gone for a first down, as the defender in coverage helped to break the pass up. Isabella later had a nice contested catch for a first down over the middle of the field, but on the same drive he committed a false start on 4th and 6 to set up a tough conversion. Isabella later had a huge play with a nice run after the catch to get the Cardinals down close for a touchdown. It was an overall positive day for Isabella, though his playing time indicates a player battling for a roster spot.
Greg Dortch caught a slant on the first drive of the game for a first down from the slot, and was a big part of a drive to get the Titans into field goal range to end the half. Dortch then caught a short touchdown to cap off a third-quarter drive.
— Alex Weiner (@alexjweiner) August 28, 2022
Victor Bolden had an excellent catch on a difficult opportunity downfield, but he frankly needed it after fumbling away the ball on a punt earlier in the game.
Malik Willis: 15/23, 131 yards, TD, INT, 4 Sacks | 4 carries, 79 yards
Logan Woodside: 5/9, 43 yards | 1 carry, 9 yards, TD
Malik Willis got the start and completed a pass to Treylon Burks on his first snap of the game. He moved the offense down to mid-field efficiently before taking a sack with plenty of protection. The underneath routes were blanketed but the play seemed designed for a deep shot — Willis needed to either let it rip, throw the ball away, or take off with his legs. On the ensuing 3rd and 14 against just a three-man rush, Willis seemed too quick to take off running, and the defense gladly stopped him at mid-field well short of the first down.
On the next drive, Willis started by hitting Burks again on the run on a play-action rollout. Willis then took another sack on a play-action, though this time it was a tricky blitz design that crossed up the right tackle and right guard, and Willis had a man in his face as soon as he turned around. On 3rd and 18 the Titans had him just dump it off on a screen pass to end the drive.
The following drive, Willis had a nice 3rd and 4 play where he recognized man coverage and a clean pocket and took off immediately, rushing for an easy first down, though the play was called back on a penalty. On a 3rd and 14 he was flushed from the pocket and picked up a few yards with his legs before punting.
Willis flashed his big play rushing ability on the next drive, as the Titans lined up in a jumbo formation that will be common with Derrick Henry on the field. Arizona came up to defend the run, leaving nobody on the second level to deal with Willis. He made two quick reads and then took off, flashing his elite speed on a 50-yard rush for a near touchdown. Willis showcased good vision, looking like a kick returner at times while navigating the defense with his legs.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) August 27, 2022
On the following play Willis made the right read on a red zone pass, but threw just behind his receiver for an incompletion. After Chestnut rushed it in short for a touchdown, Willis ate a sack on the ensuing two-point conversion. The Cardinals ran a zero-blitz, the offensive line couldn’t handle it, and Willis was not ready to make a quick throw.
Willis extended another drive with a rush that was called back on a penalty, showing explosion and tackle-breaking ability on the play. On his touchdown pass to Burks at the end of the half, Willis did a good job standing in the pocket and throwing over the middle with a rusher in his face.
Malik Willis has looked great all preseason. This is just another highlight for his reel! Future looks bright. 🔥👀 pic.twitter.com/dMYYTmFpZZ
— Miggy (@mj_moli_78) August 28, 2022
Willis started the second half and had a beautiful throw while rolling out to escape the pocket, showing nice arm strength on the move. Willis’ lone pick was a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. He took two more sacks late in the third and early fourth quarter as the offensive line was manhandled on a play action and a third and long.
Logan Woodside finally entered the game with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter. He was under constant pressure but moved the offense downfield, and he did his best Ryan Tannehill impression on 4th and 4 in the red zone, rushing up the middle for the game-winning touchdown.
Julius Chestnut: 9 carries, 27 yards, TD | 1 target
Dontrell Hilliard: 1 carry, 14 yards
Trenton Cannon: 3 carries, 11 yards
Hassan Haskins: 9 carries, 11 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 16 yards
Dontrell Hilliard got the first carry in a third and short situation on the opening drive and showed good burst while rushing 14 yards through a gaping hole.
Hassan Haskins was the next running back with a carry after Hilliard, seeing action on the first drive. He started off the second drive getting stuffed on two consecutive up-the-middle runs, though one was negated by an offsides. He was still seeing playing time as late as the fourth quarter, where he converted a tough 4th and 1 run on the game-winning drive. He then broke a tackle on a swing pass for a nice gain and a first down.
Trenton Cannon was the third back in the game, followed shortly thereafter by Julius Chetsnut. Chestnut had a nice powerful run that included a jump cut for a short touchdown. His biggest run of the day came late in the fourth quarter when he had a wide-open lane.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Treylon Burks: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 33 yards, TD
Robert Woods: 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards
Racey McMath: 1 target, 1 reception, 27 yards | 1 carry, 17 yards
Dez Fitzpatrick: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards
Chigoziem Okonkwo: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards
Mason Kinsey: 7 targets, 3 receptions, 18 yards
Treylon Burks was targeted on the first play of the game, drawing single coverage out wide and making the reception on a nice come-back route. The second play of the game, the Titans lined up with Burks and Woods in the slot and the tight ends split out wide, showing what looks like a desire to have their receivers play in multiple spots. On the second drive, Burks was lined up in the slot, and the defense bit on the play action. He ran a simple crosser and separated from the defender, and Willis rolled out and hit him for an easy first down. The following play Burks got blown up blocking in the running game and he seemed to be off the field for a bit with what is being called a hand injury. Burks finally returned for the end of half two-minute drive, which make me think that they were just being cautious with him. To cap off the drive, Burks lined up in a stack formation and had a clean release and the defense lost him. He caught a pass wide open over the middle of the field and turned on the jets for an easy touchdown from 14 yards out.
Former Hog Treylon Burks scored his first touchdown of the preseason. pic.twitter.com/A5Vw5cB3Z5
— Mason Choate (@ChoateMason) August 28, 2022
Robert Woods started along with Burks and had a short reception out of the slot just at the first down marker. That was all the work he saw, but it was good to see him back on the field.
Racey McMath had a nice carry out of the backfield showcasing his speed and had a big gain on an out-of-structure play from Willis. But for the amount of time he was on the field, the flashes were few and far between.
Dez Fitzpatrick dropped a touchdown late in the game and failed to impress throughout.