Bears 27, Titans 24: Stretch's challenge, bad picks, rookie RBs and more

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel’s right-hand man oversaw most of the head coach’s job in the Titans’ preseason finale and did just fine, winning when he threw the challenge flag but shepherding a losing effort, 27-24.

John Streicher, known as "Stretch" to everyone on and around the team, was a fun side story to the preseason’s conclusion and the franchise’s one home game that featured no monster developments.

John Streicher, Coordinator of Football Development, Tennessee Titans

© George Walker IV / Tennessean.com

Marcus Johnson limped to the locker room with a right leg issue, the two quarterbacks battling to back up Ryan Tannehill each threw a pick, an undrafted running back found the end zone as did one signed on Thursday.

The Titans now have two weeks to ready for the first game that matters, against Arizona back at Nissan Stadium on Sept. 12.

The challenge: So Craig Aukerman handled team communication with players – Matt Barkley said that included “a little rah-rah” before the game and at halftime – while Streicher handled game decisions, communication with coaches and playtime management.

That included an excellent challenge of what was initially ruled a third-and-8 Justin Fields-to-Rodney Adams 11-yard completion in the second quarter.

So excited was Taylor Lewan that Streicher threw his red flag in time to stop the Bears from getting off another play when they were hurrying to do so, he ran up to the Titans’ coordinator of football development and gave him a celebratory shove in the chest.

Adams didn’t get a second foot or a body part down before his hip landed out of bounds and the call was reversed, forcing a punt.

Before that, Mekhi Sargent scored on a fourth-and-1 run. Streicher green-lit Todd Downing to call a play rather than settling for a field goal there.

The Titans went for it on two fourth-quarter fourth downs as well: Cam Batson caught a 6-yard touchdown from Logan Woodside on fourth-and-1 from the 6.

With 1:35 left in the game and the Titans down 3, they had to go for it on fourth-and-4 from their own 46 and Woodside threw incomplete to the left for Fred Brown.

Two fourth-down touchdowns are pretty good from a guy managing the game who works hand-in-hand with Vrabel on the team’s analytics.

Battle of the picks: Barkley killed the Titans’ second possession with an interception deep in Chicago territory. He was looking for Nick Westbrook-Ikhine in the end zone and Danny Trevathan, well underneath the pass, picked it off.

If Trevathan didn’t get it, two defensive backs were also between NWI and the ball. It was a really bad decision by Barkley.

Woodside’s giveaway came close to his own goalline when Christian DiLaurio got beaten easily around the left edge by Trevis Gipson. Gipson hit Woodside, forcing a short, wobbly pass that was easily picked off by Tre Roberson for a 27-yard touchdown return that evened the score at 7-7.

Woodside has been under a lot of heat through the preseason and hasn’t handled it well. He was better with it in Game 3. Before that pick he stood in with a defender bearing down on him and hit a diving Cam Batson on a third-and-4 for a 10-yard gain.

"I think that I've done a better job of seeing the pressure coming, trying to get in the right protections," Woodside said. "I think that you only get that from game-like experience. You see it in practice a lot but until you get out there and you're getting hit and seeing it on the sideline... I've tried to do a better job of that for sure."

Woodside has to sense that rush on the turnover better, but it was fast-developing and a really poor play by DiLaurio.

Barkley’s pick was worse, as it was a decision-making blunder. He was fortunate not to be picked by Duke Shelly late in the fourth quarter as well, when he threw a bad ball for Mason Kinsey just before taking a shot.

"I think any time you put the ball in harm's way it certainly is a demerit," Todd Downing said. "I'll have to look at the tape and get a full evaluation of how both of them played and how often we did put the ball in harm's way. But we're going to hold those quarterbacks to a high standard, and we expect that ball to be protected at all times, particularly down there in the red zone when we have points on the board. So red zone non-scores are unacceptable around here, let alone turnovers."

We’ve long presumed only extra QB would make the roster and one would be let go Tuesday. Woodside would have to clear waivers and I think Atlanta and Arthur Smith could claim him. Barkley is a vested veteran who would become a free agent immediately.

With Ryan Tannehill on Covid-19-Reserve, he does not count against the roster count. If he doesn’t test negative twice in a 48-hour span by Tuesday, the Titans can keep both quarterbacks until Tannehill clears or has been out 10 days and reaches a point where he’s not contagious.

At that point, with other teams having made their moves, the Titans would have a better chance of being able to strike a deal to keep the veteran Barkley on the practice squad or of Woodside clearing waivers.

Running backs: Sargent scored the game’s first touchdown and shows power and some explosion, which has made him a big fan favorite. He turned 17 carries into 51 yards and the score, which made for only a 3.0-yard average.

He’ll work until he drops if the Titans let him and may well make the team as an undrafted rookie out of Iowa.

"That is me: A humble beast," he said. "I have been that way since I touched a football, went up early and everything as a kid to play with the older guys. I play hard, that is me."

There is no way not to like the attitude.

But the hype is a bit out of whack with the production.

He’s worked against zero first-team defenses and a good share of his 49 preseason carries for 187 yards were late in the first two games.

The guy he probably needs to unseat is Jeremy McNichols, who’s currently on the Covid-Reserve list. McNichols proved reliable in pass-protection last season and we’ve not seen Sargent in a position to save Ryan Tannehill from a top blitzer.

I don’t doubt Sargent's effort would be top-flight, but he will have had to earn the trust of Vrabel and Jon Robinson from his practice work and college tape.

It is not exceedingly hard for running backs to look good in preseason games. Javian Hawkins joined the Titans on Thursday and took 10 carries for 49 yards and a score.

Receiver production: Batson's scoring catch was his second back-shoulder TD reception of the preseason. He also had one in Atlanta. 

He caught all four of his targets and finished the preseason as the Titans' second-leading receiver with six receptions for 66 yards.

Mason Kinsey tops the list by far, and he caught four of six targets to finish with 14 receptions for 131 yards and a score.

They've both made good cases but neither is a lock, though Johnson's injury, if serious, could help them.

Dez Fitzpatrick helped himself with a smooth 28-yard catch and hurt himself with a dropped TD in the end zone that simply must be caught.

More than expected: Ola Adeniyi has offered far more on defense than the Titans typically get from guys they sign as special teamers.

They’ve been very reluctant to go very deep at outside linebacker and no, he hasn’;t been going against front-line pass protectors.

But with Harold Landry and Bud Dupre starting I wonder if he can’t inject himself into the depth mix with John Simon, more of a base guy who can play the run, and Rashad Weaver, who is long but raw as a rookie fourth-rounder.

Adeniyi split an early sack of Justin Fields with Derick Roberson to give him 1.5 in the preseason.

"He gets off the ball, that's evident," Shane Bowen said. "That's what you see, his ability to get off the ball, that's what you saw on the first sack there. I'm excited about his role and what he can bring to us in terms of helping us rush the passer."

You are not authorised to post comments.

Comments powered by CComment