Titans vs Vikings: Preseason Week 2 Primer

By: Justin Hawkins

The Tennessee Titans (0-1) are on the road for the final time in the preseason as they travel to the Twin Cities to face the reigning NFC North champions, Minnesota Vikings (0-1).

Both teams opened the preseason with losses on the road. The Titans fell to the Chicago Bears in a sloppy 23-17 loss that saw seven turnovers between the two teams combined, and the Vikings fell victim to the Seattle Seahawks 24-13.

Just like many teams across the NFL, both the Titans and Vikings rested their starters and left it up to their backups in the first preseason game.

The Titans opponent last week did not seem to get that memo as the Chicago Bears played much of their starters for the first two drives of the game torching the two-tone blue defense.

Justin Fields went 3/3 for 129 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdowns were the biggest plays of the day for either side, going for 62 yards to wide receiver DJ Moore and 56 yards to running back Khalil Herbert.

The Titans, on the other hand, let second-year Malik Willis and rookie Will Levis battle for QB2. Willis got the start, but the two exchanged series at the discretion of the coaching staff. The starting offensive line did make their debut, however, and looked solid doing it helping lead a 12-play opening touchdown drive.

This week, the Titans will look to learn from their mistakes and find some improvement as they head up to Minnesota with two days of joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday and close with a primetime Saturday night matchup.

In nine all-time preseason meetings between the two teams, the Vikings hold the series lead with a 7-2 record over the Titans. The last time they faced in the preseason was August 30, 2018, in the preseason finale when Minnesota topped Tennessee 13-3.

To this point, it is not clear if the Titans or the Vikings will play any starters, but you can be sure to find some key matchups on the practice field as the two sides battle it out. Should the Vikings choose to rest their starters again this week and quarterback Kirk Cousins does not play, you can expect veteran Nick Mullens to get the start.

Game Information

Tennessee Titans (0-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (0-1)

Game Time: August 19 @ 7:00 pm CDT

Location: Minneapolis Minnesota (US Bank Stadium)

TV: Titans Preseason TV Network (WKRN-News 2 Nashville)

TV Broadcast Crew: Paul Burmeister, Charles Davis, Cory Curtis

Radio: Titans Radio (104-5 The Zone)

Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Ramon Foster, Rhett Bryan

Referee: Jerome Boger

Line: Tennessee -2

Over/Under: 37.5

Things to Watch

Battle for QB2

Just like last week, the battle for the backup quarterback position behind Ryan Tannehill takes center stage. The improvement from Malik Willis, who went 16/25 for 189 yards, from last year to last week was obvious, including the game’s opening touchdown by a two-yard rush. But there is still much to learn from the second year quarterback out of Liberty University as he fumbled twice on strip sacks, losing one of them, and struggled to finish a crucial drive at the end of the game.  Will Levis, meanwhile, showed glimpses of why he was a projected first-round talent, but also the indecisiveness and inaccuracies of his game. Levis, who went 9/14 for 85 yards, made several nice throws down the field, including a dart to Mason Kinsey in the first half gaining 21 yards. But, like Malik Willis, Levis also struggled to close the game out in the final minutes throwing an interception to end the game. Malik Willis seems to have the backup starting job for now, but the battle is just getting started. Mike Vrabel has yet to name the starter for this week.

Wide Receiver Depth

With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins in free agency, suddenly the Titans wide receiver room became deeper than expected. The battle for the final spots on the roster will be tough for the coaching staff to decide come roster cut day. Behind Hopkins and Treylon Burks, the receiver room gets a little crowded. Racey McMath, coming into his third year, had the best stat line of the day with 3 catches on 3 targets for 53 yards. Newly acquired receiver Chris Moore had an impressive 30-yard grab, but he struggled with ball security in both of his two targets. Mason Kinsey tried making his case for a roster spot with 4 catches for 40 yards on 4 targets. Kearis Jackson also made a few nice plays both on offense and on special teams. The current depth chart sits as follows from WR 1-4: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chris Moore. However, at Wednesday’s joint practice in Minnesota, Treylon Burks was carted off with an apparent leg injury. The severity is still unknown but hopefully it will be a best-case scenario.

UPDATE: Per Ian Rapoport, Titans WR Treylon Burks suffered an LCL sprain during Wednesday’s joint practice with the Vikings and is expected to miss a few weeks. So, not the best-case scenario but definitely not the worst. We will see if Treylon will be back in time to start the regular season.

The Kickers

You cannot forget about special teams. This preseason, the Titans have a true battle at kicker. Both Caleb Shudak and Trey Wolff have been solid in camp, but last week against the Bears proved Shudak to have the upper hand. Shudak made his lone field goal attempt from 41 yards out and made his extra point attempt as well. Wolff, on the other hand, missed his lone field goal from 48 yards, but he was able to get his extra point attempt through the up rights. Will Shudak pull away or will Wolff kick up the pressure?

Defensive Back Depth

Depth behind the Titans projected five starters at defensive back has seemed bleak all offseason, but Saturday against the Bears may have erased some questions. Cornerback Tre Avery came up with a nice interception in the second quarter off PJ Walker. Safety’s Mike Brown and Eric Garror also had nice games. Garror stood out the most with his 4 tackles, tied for second on the team with two being tackles for loss. Garror also made an impact on special teams returning two punts.

Did You Know?

  • The last time the Tennessee Titans and the Minnesota Vikings met was on September 27, 2020, at US Bank Stadium in Minnesota. The Titans, during the COVID-19 pandemic, prevailed to 31-30 victory on the foot of kicker Stephen Gostkowski without fans in the stadium. Gostkowski kicked a career-high six field goals, and for just the eighth time in Titans/Oilers history, the team had a 300-yard passer (321 by Ryan Tannehill), a 100-yard rusher (119 by Derrick Henry), and a 100-yard receiver (118 by Kalif Raymond).
  • With a rushing touchdown last week against the Chicago Bears, second-year quarterback, Malik Willis, has now started two consecutive preseasons with a rushing touchdown. In his NFL debut last preseason, Malik Willis showed off his elusiveness and speed during a 7-yard touchdown run against the Baltimore Ravens.
  • The last time the Titans and Vikings met in the preseason was the finale on August 30, 2018, and Tennessee lost 13-3. The Titans were led in this game by rookie sixth round quarterback Luke Falk who went 13/24 for 114 yards. Their leading rusher was rookie undrafted free agent running back Dalyn Dawkins who had 17 rushes for 53 yards. And their leading receiver was rookie undrafted free agent wide receiver Cameron Batson who had four catches for 46 yards.