NFL News & Analysis

NFL Preseason Week 1 Game Recap: Tennessee Titans 23, Atlanta Falcons 3

Tennessee Titans linebacker Monty Rice (56) and Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Trevon Coley (97) stop Atlanta Falcons quarterback AJ McCarron (5) during the second quarter of a preseason game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Friday, Aug. 13, 2021 in Atlanta, Ga. Gw50883

Many of the potential storylines in the Tennessee Titans’ 23-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, such as Julio Jones debuting for the Titans against his former team and rookie Kyle Pitts making his NFL debut, didn’t materialize with both teams resting key starters. Instead, it was young defenders on both sides who stole the show. 

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McCarron folds under pressure — The Falcons struggled to get much going in the first half of this game. A.J. McCarron completed just 5-of-12 passes for 36 yards and an interception, and he was lucky that his stat line didn’t include a second interception that was called back following a review. In McCarron’s defense, the offensive line in front of him, including rookie Jalen Mayfield at right tackle, also had a rough outing. 

Titans’ defensive line depth shines — Rashad Weaver got home early on a sack, and he was in the backfield on several other plays. The fourth-round pick out of Pitt also affected a near interception, strung out a run that ended in a tackle for loss and batted down a Feleipe Franks pass. Teair Tart and Larrell Murchison were both impressive alongside Weaver, as well. On a night where most of Tennessee’s starters up front didn’t play, this was a strong showing for the Titans’ depth along the defensive line. 

Franks shows off some athleticism — Feleipe Franks’ passing stat line (2-for-9, 16 yards) doesn’t speak to the entirety of his performance tonight. Franks had a pass dropped over the middle that would have picked up a nice chunk of yardage, and he created with his legs several times. The undrafted rookie out of Arkansas led all rushers with 76 yards on four carries, highlighted by a 52-yard scamper in which he made a defender miss in the open field and ran away from another. 

Long flashes in coverage — David Long built on what has reportedly been a strong start to training camp with an impressive performance in his 2021 preseason debut. The highlight of the night came on a leaping interception as he dropped back over the middle of the field in zone coverage, but it wasn’t the only play he was in on. 

Long could make a push for a starting job in Tennessee’s defense this season. 

Hawkins makes his case for a starting job — Four Falcons safeties played at least 200 defensive snaps in 2020. All four — Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Sharrod Neasman and Damontae Kazee — are no longer in Atlanta. Jaylinn Hawkins made his case to fill that void with a strong performance tonight that included a pass breakup and a sack where he came flying through the line of scrimmage untouched. Hawkins currently sits behind Erik Harris and Duron Harmon on the depth chart, far from an entrenched duo.

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