Thoughts On Titans-Bears Start With The Starting Offensive Line

The Titans' No. 1 concern is their offensive line, and for 12 plays over 7 minutes and 15 second that covered 75 yards the group as currently constructed was efficient and effective in the team’s preseason opener in Chicago.

The team will take away all sorts of important information from the 23-17 loss at Soldier Field, but a confidence boost for Andre Dillard, Peter Skoronski, Aaron Brewer, Daniel Brunskill and Chris Hubbard may be the most significant.


Acting head coach Terrell Williams said he didn’t pay any attention to who was not playing for the Bears, who’s starting defensive lineup was without four starters: end DeMarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue, linebacker Tremain Edmunds and safety Jaquan Brisker. [Unlocked]

Malik Willis
  Malik Willis

The Titans gave up eight sacks, but none during that initial sequence with the guys they need to be their best pass blockers, who allowed Malik Willis to hit on three-of-four passes for 39 yards and to run twice for 9 more including the game’s opening TD and helped Tyjae Spears to a solid start with six carries and a catch for 36 more.

“He ran hard, he was physical, he was in there… with that first offensive line and when we talk about sacks, the good thing is that first offensive line when they were out there, we protected well, we were able to run the ball, that’s exciting,” Williams said. “We’ve got some guys that we’ve got to keep working with technique, but that group with (Aaron) Brewer and Peter (Skoronski) and (Andre) Dillard and that group, it was exciting to watch those guys go out there and block.

"They were able to go out there and protect and do those things. That was exciting. The eight sacks none of them came with that crew in the game.”

The second offensive line and anyone who played after that was suspect, with contributions to the poor pass protection coming from a variety of places. The second group was Jaelyn Duncan, Xavier Newman, Corey Levin, Jordan Roos and Andrew Rupcich. Duncan’s struggles were particularly notable.

Williams wasn’t ready for a guilty verdict.

“Usually when you give up sacks everybody looks at the offensive line,” he said. “I’m speaking from a defensive line coach (perspective) kind of protecting them. It’s not always the offensive line. And it ain’t the offensive line coach. Sometimes receivers (don’t) get open, it’s sometimes tight ends missing a chip block, it’s sometimes a back, it’s sometimes a quarterback.

“If the quarterback holds it too long, then it’s on the quarterback. If a receiver doesn’t get open then it’s on the receiver. But when people look at number they just say it’s the offensive line.”

Even given that context, the Titans' front liners need to carry the bit of success against the Bears forward into joint workouts in Minnesota and the backups need to prove more dependable.

Quarterbacks: We would have loved a more definitive QB2 to have emerged from this game.

Malik Willis certainly produced more than Will Levis, but Willis went first and had that only series with the first-team offensive line. And he made the bigger errors than the rookie playing in his first NFL action.

For how much more effective Willis was at moving the offense, his ball security issues are a concern. Each QB threw a pick, but Willis put it on the floor twice and lost it once.

Levis, meanwhile, may have had a poor sense of when a rusher was going to re-emerge from behind him, but when one did he managed to secure the ball and I never had a fearful feeling that he was going to put the team in a bad position by handing it away.

Surprise gunner: Racey McMath’s chance at the No. 6 receiver job is partly dependent on his play as a punt coverage gunner and he was in that role with the first unit. The guy opposite him was a surprise. With both A.J. Moore and Josh Thompson injured and out, the Titans turned to Matthew Jackson, the undrafted safety out of Eastern Kentucky who’s from Nashville and attended Hillsboro High School.

I try to pay very close attention to special teams in the preseason because I think you can see who’s well-positioned for spots at the back end of the roster.

Mike Brown, the reserve safety, was on kick return, kick cover, punt return and punt cover. Now Moore and Thompson missing could be creating opportunity there, but I think Brown's been consistent at practice in his chances on defense and he looks like a special teams stalwart. He’d be on my 53 right now.

Jonathan Ward was also on at least three of the four main units and forced a hold. But he left the game with what looked like a right ankle injury that could be a concern when he reports back to the facility Sunday.

Receivers: Moore, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Kyle Philips were the first batch of receivers with Colton Dowell and McMath at the head of the line after that. Factoring in DeAndre Hopkins and Treylon Burks who did not play, that’s seven. It seems like six would be the most they’d carry on the 53.

Mason Kinsey was also out there a good deal with the second group and led the team with six targets and four receptions. He’s been around a long time already. If he didn’t break into the 53 and get time with Philips out most of last season, I just don’t see him doing it now.

Did Tre-Shaun Harrison, Reggie Roberson or Kearis Jackson, who each had two catches, do anything to move up? Jackson and Gavin Holmes were not targeted until the second half.

The broadcast: Paul Burmeister, Charles Davis and Corey Curtis worked the local broadcast for Channel 2 WKRN in Nashville, and it suffered early because severe weather in the broadcast area forced a report to take over the majority of the screen with the game reduced to a square box with no sound.

I understand the station has to serve its viewers with regard to safety, but by now a network should have a better plan for the visuals and at least be able to share the game’s full screen. Everyone is trained for a rectangular game, not a square one.

I’m sure Mike Vrabel didn’t want to be a storyline, and WKRN is telecasting the game in partnership with the franchise, but I think viewers would have been better served to have seen more of him with a bit on what a head coach who hands over the reins to an assistant – the first time such a thing has happened when the actual head coach is on the sideline – was doing during the course of the game.

Also, Hassan Haskins carried the ball six times for 12 yards and a touchdown. Maybe I missed it but I don’t believe there was a mention of a felony charge that’s hanging over him. Not mentioning it just begs for criticism that the picture painting is incomplete, so here is some.

Kickers: The arrow moves up on Caleb Shudak for hitting his 41-yard field goal attempt, and it moves down on Trey Wolff for pushing his 48-yard attempt wide right.

But there was another key moment in the kicking game that should be included. Shudak hit the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds, a Cardinal sin that gave the Bears the ball at their 40. They moved 50 yards in nine plays to a field goal that tied the game 17-17.

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