In this battle of the backups, the Titans appeared to be a much more complete and confident team as they easily defeated the Falcons 23-3. Titans backup QB Logan Woodside looked much more confident and in control compared to Falcons backup AJ McCarron, who struggled mightily.
Woodside Looked Decent
Logan Woodside got the start for the Titans, and he looked pretty decent during his time on the field. He seemed to be calm, confident and in control while running the offense. Ball placement was good, and he displayed good decision making skills for the most part. Reading the defense pre-snap is one area he will definitely need to improve on, as he failed to take advantage of multiple all-out blitz scenarios.
On the first occasion Woodside seemed to recognize blitz as he attempted to complete a quick slant, releasing the ball just in time before being buried by the defense. The pass was rushed and a bit off target, nearly being intercepted by the defense. When facing the all-out blitz again it appeared to go unrecognized as he dropped back (likely to allow deeper routes to develop) and was sacked immediately. These represent two prime opportunities to take advantage of the defense, and instead it resulted in a sack and what could have been an interception. These are the subtle differences that separate the elite from the average.
Titans Show Depth At Running Back
There is no doubt in terms of which back will be getting the bulk of the carries for the Titans this season, as Derrick Henry is one of the best backs in the league, in addition to being an absolute monster. During this initial preseason game we got a good look at the talent that will be backing up ‘King Henry’ throughout the 2021 season.
Darrynton Evans caught my eye early, though he was limited to only 4 carries. Despite the limited use, he average 6.5 yards per carry and had a distinct energy and explosiveness compared to the other backs. Seargent & Hill got the bulk of the carries on the night, and each average around 3.5 yards per carry. Honestly not sure how to interpret Evans limited use, but I prefer to look at everything from a positive perspective, so perhaps they already know he is the clear number two behind Henry so they see no benefit in risking injury during preseason.
AJ McCarron and Falcons Offense Looked Bad
The good news is that the team still has Matt Ryan as a starter for now, but based on the little bit we got to see in this game it does not seem like AJ McCarron will be a legitimate longterm solution. The sample size is merely the first half of a preseason game, so things can definitely improve, but it was alarming to see how uncomfortable McCarron seemed to be in the pocket.
Whether facing pressure from the defense or not, he seemed frantic and rushed the entire time. He also threw what could have easily resulted in 2 interceptions, though the second was overturned via replay. The first interception came on a pass he threw over the middle and apparently did not see the underneath coverage? Terrible pass that a professional quarterback should be able to avoid.
Penalties Major Problem For Atlanta
The Falcons managed to shoot themselves in the foot repeatedly via penalties on both sides of the ball, especially early in the game. Atlanta had 7 penalties for 54 yards in the first half, and finished the game with a total of 11 penalties for 99 yards. It’s super early but still, not a great sign for future success.
Sack Dances With No Penalties A Positive Sign
The NFL recently reported that there will be an added emphasis on taunting penalties this year, sparking fear with many that this is a move that could indicate a potential slide back towards the ‘No Fun League’ days we are all too familiar with. That being said, I was very happy to see multiple defensive sack celebration dances go unpenalized.
Overall the takeaway I had from this game was similar to what I would have expected had the starters played, the Titans are solid and the Falcons stink. Tennessee is a playoff caliber team, and they will likely win the AFC South given that the Colt’s Starting QB Carson Wentz will be missing some time due to injury. In addition to that the Jaguars are young and rebuilding, while the Texans are an absolute dumpster fire for a multitude of reasons.
The outlook is not so positive for Atlanta. Not only are the Falcons faced with an aging starting quarterback, it appears that his replacement is not currently on the roster. All of which means it is very likely to be a long and not so enjoyable season for Atlanta Falcon fans. As a lifelong Browns fan, I am all too familiar with that sinking feeling that the season is over before it even begins, and that is what the Falcons are faced with going into the 2021 season as they continue down the path to full rebuild mode.
IMG CREDIT: Tom – stock.adobe.com