Six Things to Watch for the Titans in Saturday’s Preseason Opener vs the Bears

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NASHVILLE – The Titans kick off the 2023 preseason on Saturday at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.

Here’s a look at six things to watch in the contest:

The Young QBs

Quarterbacks Malik Willis and Will Levis will be on center stage in this one, as they’re expected to run the show in the preseason opener. For Willis, it will be a chance to show just how much he’s improved from a year ago. Levis, meanwhile, has a chance to prove he’s made strides himself in his first offseason. Through 10 open training camp practices, the QBs have put up similar number – I have Willis at 63-of-111 with two INTs in 7-on-7 and team drills combined, and I have Levis at 65-of-107 with two INTs. Could one of the young QBs make a Saturday surge?

Coach T

Defensive line coach/Assistant Head Coach Terrell Williams taking over as head coach for the game qualifies as the top storyline heading into this one, but Williams said himself he wants the focus to be on the players, not on his unique opportunity. Still, this will be worth watching. Mike Vrabel, in case you missed it, informed Williams earlier this week’s he’s handing over his head coaching duties to him. He wants to give him an opportunity to learn, and the move has already created even more exposure for the long-time assistant. The popular Williams will be worth keeping an eye on – defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, in fact, has already promised a Gatorade bath post-game if the Titans win.

Starters?

Some of the starters will play in this one, and some won’t. That was the intel Vrabel gave reporters this week. Common sense tells me if you’re looking to see Ryan Tannehill or Derrick Henry or DeAndre Hopkins or Kevin Byard or Simmons or a bunch of other front-liners on Saturday, you’re going to be disappointed. The Titans have regularly held out many of their veteran starters in preseason openers, and in some cases, the entire preseason. I do think you’ll see the front-liners on the offensive line in action for a bit, as well as some others with experience.

The Offensive Line

I touched on the offensive line in the last section, because that’s one group that stands to benefit from preseason action. Games provide an opportunity to get on the same page, and to build some chemistry. Rookie guard Peter Skoronski, the team’s first-round pick, said on Thursday he’s excited and ready to hit someone else. The Titans have a lot of new faces up front, and they’ll be playing together for the first time on Saturday. The biggest question is: For how long?

Young players

This will be a day when young players will have a chance to shine, from running back Tyjae Spears to receiver Colton Dowell to linebacker Otis Reese IV, to a lot more. Over the first 10 practices of camp, a number of young players have flashed, from receivers Tre’Shaun Harrison to Reggie Roberson Jr. to defensive backs Armani Marsh and Anthony Kendall. Big defensive lineman Jayden Peevy has also been impressive. Vrabel said he can hardly wait to see Reese in action in Chicago. Edge rusher Caleb Murphy is another young guy to keep an eye on. Dowell had a pretty mature comment the other day when he said having more tackles than catches on Saturday might not be a bad thing. Because the path to make the squad for some of these young players is on special teams.

The Kickers

Speaking of special teams, the Titans are hoping one of the two kickers convinces them they’re in good shape heading into the regular season. So far, both kickers – Caleb Shudak and Trey Wolff – have been solid in camp. Through 10 training camp practices, Shudak is 40-of-44 on his field goal tries, while Wolff is 46-of-51. The pressure goes up today, with the opportunity to kick in a game, against a rush. Who will put their best foot forward?

Source: TennesseeTitans.com

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