Some teams are treating Week 2 of the NFL preseason as the dress rehearsal for the regular season, where the starters get their most extensive playing time before Week 1. These were not two such teams, as both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans rested every starter they could get away with, leaving the backups to slug it out.
The end result was a 34-3 Titans victory over the Bucs.
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Ryan Tannehill did not play, so Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley split the quarterback duties. They did so via the unusual approach of alternating series, presumably to give each an equal chance with the various supporting casts throughout the depth chart. Barkley had the best throw of the game, firing a dart into tight coverage for his second touchdown, but both players were productive given the Bucs' defense.
Mekhi Sargent was the most productive back in the game. He had a nice touchdown reception on a play-action pass out of the backfield from Barkley, and he broke seven tackles on the ground on his way to three explosive carries.
— NFL (@NFL) August 22, 2021
Julio Jones and A.J. Brown didn't play, so Mason Kinsey was the high-volume target in this game. He caught six passes for 56 yards and a score from eight targets, by far the most of any Titans receiver.
Ty Sambrailo was the only possible starter to get game time for the Titans. Second-round rookie Dillon Radunz had a much rougher week than his debut. Struggling to contain Joe Tryon in particular, Radunz surrendered a sack and hurry across 23 pass-blocking snaps.
Some starters, such as Harold Landry III and Jeffery Simmons, did play but not beyond the first six snaps of the opening drive. 2020 undrafted defensive tackle Teair Tart continued his strong preseason. He had a defensive stop and a couple of wins as a pass-rusher.
The Titans were blitzing their linebackers a lot in this game, as four different off-the-ball linebackers rushed the passer, three of them on more than one occasion, throughout the game. David Long notched a sack on one of his two blitzes.
Caleb Farley made his debut and played 16 snaps. He was in trouble on an out-and-up against Scotty Miller but just got away with it because Miller couldn’t get both feet down before stepping out of bounds.
Rookie Elijah Molden was making plays all over the field late in the game. He had at least five snaps in run defense, as a blitzer and in coverage. He also sacked Trask late in the game.
Elijah Molden: Snaps by facet
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With no Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert took the helm and looked sharp, even if the stats won’t show it. His opening drive stalled when drops hit, as O.J. Howard‘s failure to bring in an excellent pass was particularly tough to overcome.
Kyle Trask continues to have a bizarre debut preseason. He dropped a dime down the seam to his tight end, but it quickly turned into a controversial fumble that was returned for a touchdown. He later fumbled the ball himself after knocking it against his leg as he was running to space. Both of Trask's interceptions were deflected.
Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette had the night off, so Ke’Shawn Vaughn was out to prove he brought more to the table than Giovani Bernard. Vaughn not only played 31 snaps on offense but returned kicks and played both sides of punts on special teams in an effort to make the roster.
O.J. Howard is still working his way back from injury, as he dropped two of his first targets before bouncing back a little and finishing with three catches for 24 yards from six targets.
Alex Cappa was the only projected starter to see any game time. Ironically, Cappa gave up a sack and had another losing rep in his eight pass-blocking snaps. His backup, Earl Watford, played far better during his 22 pass blocks.
Joe Tryon may have looked even better this week than his impressive debut. He displayed impressive burst off the ball and a variety of pass rush moves. He posted a timely sack just before halftime to move Tennessee away from easy field goal range, though the Titans still nailed the 58-yarder.
Joe Tryon is inevitable
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 22, 2021
Patrick O’Connor also showed really well inside with a sack and three defensive stops. His quick inside move for a sack was a thing of beauty, as he showed there's more to his game than he may have been given credit for.
Three Bucs linebackers each notched three defensive stops, with rookie K.J. Britt accumulating two of them in coverage.