Fri Aug 12 4:15pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis runs with the ball before scoring a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis, right, celebrates his touchdown run with running back Julius Chestnut during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) scrambles as offensive tackle Dillon Radunz (75) blocks for him during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have a competition for the job backing up Ryan Tannehill, and coach Mike Vrabel has made it very clear they want rookie Malik Willis throwing more.
Vrabel pulled Willis two plays into Tennessee's first drive of the third quarter after the quarterback scrambled on the second play for 17 yards in the Titans' 23-10 loss Thursday night to Baltimore. Willis showed off his scrambling ability running five times for 38 yards with a touchdown, and his strong arm was on display with a 48-yard toss to Racey McMath.
An impressive debut that had the rookie trending with video snippets of his highlights all over social media. Yet Willis finished with only one more completion than rushes, going 6 of 11 for 107 yards while being sacked twice.
And the Titans lost.
''We wanted him to rip it, and he didn't,'' Vrabel said Friday. ''And so I'm sure he'll rip it the next time that he has an opportunity.''
The Titans traded up to draft Willis at No. 86 overall out of Liberty in April, and they've been giving the rookie as much experience as possible this preseason. Willis has had opportunities to work with the second-team offense during training camp, and he started against Baltimore over Logan Woodside, who has been Tannehill's backup the past two seasons.
Vrabel said they knew the Ravens would give them multiple looks and pressures. The challenge for Willis is what Vrabel called the ''fine line'' between moving around inside the pocket tapping into the drills they practice every day and working through his reads to find receivers.
''And then there's times where we're going to want him to go and be an athlete,'' Vrabel said. ''And so there's some things we have to work on with ... certainly the timing and what he's seeing when those throws depend on it. And then there's other times that I thought he really made some nice plays down the field and and kept his eyes down the field.''
One came on the play to McMath to set up a field goal in the second quarter. Willis also completed a sidearm throw around a defender to tight end Tommy Hudson. Willis took a sack just before halftime when he held onto the ball too long while in the pocket, then threw the ball away a couple of plays later.
Vrabel said it's just execution and where Willis' eyes are progressing through his reads. The work continues Saturday in camp, and the Titans also have a pair of joint practices with the first Wednesday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead of their exhibition Aug. 20 in Nashville.
''This is all happening pretty quick and much quicker with more consequences in the game than what it's been in practice,'' Vrabel said.
Woodside has had little competition in backing up Tannehill the past two seasons, playing in 11 games. The quarterback drafted in the seventh round out of Toledo in 2018 by Cincinnati spent the first three weeks on the Titans' practice squad in 2018 and all of 2019 injured on the practice squad.
Against the Ravens, Woodside threw more than twice as many passes as Willis going 14 of 24 for 102 yards. But he was intercepted twice, the first at the Ravens 2 on a pass to Terry Godwin, who Vrabel said could've helped break up that interception.
''Ultimately, the guy that has the ball is responsible for taking care of it,'' Vrabel said.
NOTES: WR Treylon Burks, the 18th pick overall, didn't catch the one pass thrown to him in the end zone and finished with one carry on a jet sweep. Vrabel said the rookie needs to play in games the way he's been practicing. ... Vrabel said DB Chris Jackson was being evaluated after limping to the locker room just before halftime.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens is making a strong impression at his first training camp as a pro. The 21-year-old is making all sorts of eye-popping plays on the practice field and looks to be earning himself a significant role in the offense. Team reporter Mark Kaboly mentioned that Pickens is "one of the best wide receivers I've seen as a rookie." That is some very high praise for the former Georgia collegiate star, as the Steelers have got some impressive rookie seasons out of the likes of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and former receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Pickens will have to compete with Johnson, Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth for targets, but his undeniable talent could still make him worth a late-round flier for fantasy managers.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz (calf) is dealing with a calf injury, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury. He has been held out of practice, but it isn't something to be overly concerned about. Kingsbury mentioned that Ertz is "coming along" from the issue, so the big tight end's Week 1 availability doesn't seem to be in question as of now. The 31-year-old will be counted on as one of Kyler Murray's top targets in the six-game absence of DeAndre Hopkins, so he can be locked in as a mid-range TE1 option for fantasy managers out of the gate. Once Hopkins is back, Ertz will have to fight off both Hopkins and Marquise Brown for targets, but should still be able to produce low-end TE1 numbers nonetheless.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) has been dealing with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of training camp. However, the issue is not serious and shouldn't keep him on the shelf for an extended period of time, as he is expected to rejoin his teammates at practice next week. The 29-year-old played in just 11 games last year, so it is wise for the Raiders to take a cautious approach with their big red zone target prior to the start of the season. Waller will have more competition for targets from Derek Carr with Davante Adams now in the mix, but he still figures to produce high-end TE1 numbers for fantasy managers. He can continue to be valued as a top-5 tight end
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the team's preseason opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. Cousins will be away from the team for a minimum of five days, so he can rejoin the team at some point next week. In his absence, backup quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond should see the most action against the Raiders on Sunday to battle it out for QB2 duties behind Cousins. Once he returns to action, the veteran should be able to provide fantasy managers with low-end QB1 numbers in the Vikings' new pass-heavy offensive scheme. With Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn at his disposal, Cousins is a great late-round target for those who like to wait on drafting a quarterback.
Dynasty | Eagles running back Miles Sanders could be primed for a "monster year" if he can remain healthy Dynasty Analysis: That statement could define Sanders' career thus far. Instead, the running back continues to slide down dynasty rankings due to his inability to remain on the field. But, once again, it's Sanders who has been standing out at camp and, as of this writing, he remains healthy. The team also will rely on Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell behind Sanders, either of which could play a prominent role if Sanders finds his way to the trainer's table as has become the expectation. Undrafted rookie Kennedy Brooks has also been mentioned and has upside as a potential three-down capable back should lightning strike. For Sanders, DLF's RB28, has the ability to well outplay his ranking but dynasty coaches are clearly in "prove it" mode.
Dynasty | Eagles receiver Jalen Reagor is in good shape and has been consistent in camp Dynasty Analysis: The third-year receiver is in a true make or break season and is fighting to be the WR3 with Quez Watkins. For Reagor's first two seasons, inconsistent routes, drops and inability to separate from press coverage were all too common as the former Twitter darling began to slip down rankings. Now ranked as DLF's WR101, he's in danger of falling completely from the dynasty radar and may have upside appeal given his low ranking and expectations.
Dynasty | 49ers second-year running back Trey Sermon has improved Dynasty Analysis: Sermon was a fast-riser following his 2021 draft selection but quickly fell out of favor in the Bay Area and, subsequently, in dynasty as well. The 23-year-old is found as DLF's RB55 and is buried on the 49ers depth-chart though still seems to be in the mix for a role behind starter Elijah Mitchell, the surprising 2021 sixth-round rookie who won the starting job outright, handily beating out Sermon. Sermon has a long road to any fantasy viability and any acquisition will require significant patience and may not be rewarded until his next contract. He's a cheap deep-roster stash for patient dynasty coaches.
New York Giants running back Antonio Williamsconcluded Thursday's preseason win over the New England Patriots with 61 rushing yards and a touchdown on a team-high nine carries. The 24-year-old is listed as the No. 4 running back on the depth chart of the New York Giants, so he doesn't provide any value in fantasy football unless multiple injuries occur. Seeing that Williams is buried behindSaquon Barkley,Matt Breida, andGary Brightwellon the depth chart, it isn't a guarantee for him to even make the 53-man roster for the Giants. That being said, a strong showing from Williams on Thursday does increase his chances of potentially climbing up the depth chart. Fantasy managers should monitor Breida's status with the team to determine whether or not Williams could become a backup option to Barkley.
New York Giants quarterbackDaniel Jones and the starting offense played the entire first quarter in Thursday's preseason 23-21 win over the New England Patriots. Jones finished with 69 passing yards and six rushing yards while completing six of his 10 aerial attempts. The Giants moved the ball pretty well, and they likely would've scored a touchdown on the first drive if Kenny Golladaydidn't drop a third-down pass. With the arrival of former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, there are higher expectations for Jones and New York's offense in 2022. Despite Jones not being the most prolific passer, he does give late-round upside at the quarterback position due to his ability to create with his legs. It was a solid start to the preseason for Jones, as it remains to be seen how much action he'll see in Week 2 of the preseason against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Giants signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor as the backup to starterDaniel Jonesthis offseason. In Taylor's preseason debut for the Giants, he aired it out for 129 yards and a touchdown while completing 13 of his 21 pass attempts. The veteran signal-caller helped New York secure a victory over the New England Patriots in the exhibition contest on Thursday night. It is a do-or-die year for Jones in 2022 as he enters his fourth year in the NFL. Suppose Jones fails to perform well for an extended period during the regular season. In that case, Taylor could instantly become a viable streamer at the quarterback position in fantasy football due to his dual-threat upside.
New York Giants wide receiver Collin Johnsonsurprisingly led all wide receivers on the team in receptions and yards in Thursday's preseason victory over the New England Patriots. The former fifth-round pick hauled in seven passes for 82 yards on eight targets. Johnson saw a decent amount of action with the starters on Thursday due toKadarius ToneyandWan'Dale Robinsonbeing inactive. Once Toney and Robinson see the field,Kenny Golladay, Toney, and Robinson will be the top three wideouts forDaniel Jonesto target in the passing game. Not to mention,Saquon Barkleywill have a decent-sized role in the aerial attack out of the backfield. It will take an injury to one of Golladay, Toney, Robinson, and potentiallyDarius Slaytonfor Johnson to be relevant in deeper fantasy football leagues.
New York Giants wide receiverRichie JamesJr. corralled three receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown in Thursday's 23-21 preseason win over the New England Patriots. The Giants were withoutKadarius ToneyandWan'Dale Robinson in Thursday's preseason opener, leaving more opportunities for the other wideouts on the roster. James was among the wide receivers to take advantage of more playing time. The 26-year-old was second in the receiving yards and caught a seven-yard touchdown strike from Tyrod Taylor in the second quarter. He is currently buried deep on New York's depth chart, with Kenny Golladay, Toney, Robinson,Darius Slayton, andCollin Johnsonseemingly ahead of him. If Slayton or Johnson were to be released or traded, there could be an opportunity for James to see the field on offense. But unless any roster moves happen, it's hard to imagine a scenario where James is worth rostering in fantasy football this season.
Dynasty | Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens has been a star in training camp Dynasty Analysis: Pressed into more first-team work due to the recent hold-in of Diontae Johnson and a minor inury to Chase Claypool, Pickens has soaked up the snaps and responded well. The author went as far to say: "Honestly, I've never seen a rookie this good this early. We all know he has to transfer that to preseason games, but I would be shocked if he didn't." It wasn't long ago that the team was saying Pickens wasn't expected to be leaned on in his rookie season but it seems his athletic profile and play have just been too good to keep off the field. Expectations must be kept in check for the rookie and DLF's WR43, but his fast start and impact thus far in training camp are positive signs not only for his rookie year impact, but his long term dynasty potential.
Dynasty | Ravens rookie tight end Isaiah Likely produced 44 yards on 4-of-4 receiving in his first game action of 2022 Dynasty Analysis: It was a good start for the rookie who didn't play with the starters on Thursday night. We normally wouldn't highlight the play of a backup tight end but Likely has been said to have a big role in 2022 as the Ravens return to a run-first scheme and will rely on two tight end sets early and often. Mix in the fact the team has few proven receiver assets behind sophomore Rashod Bateman, somewhat unproven himself, and Likely could see material targets. Unranked on DLF's tight end rankings, the rookie plays in a tight end friendly system and could factor heavily should starter Mark Andrews suffer an injury.
Dynasty | Veteran Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph has been the best of the group during training camp Dynasty Analysis: While Mitchell Trubisky is said to still be the expected starter come week one of the regular season, it's Rudolph who has been the most accurate and most consistent thus far in camp. Neither quarterback factors highly in DLF's dynasty rankings but Trubisky has been the late-round flyer on the chance he can hold off rookie Kenny Pickett for the entirety of 2022. Instead, Rudolph could be a sneaky acquisition for deep-roster superflex players on the chance he sees time with the first-team during the regular season. In either case, it's the rookie Kenny Pickett who should be targeted for the long term.
Tennessee Titans running back Hassan Haskins carried the ball six times for 19 yards and added three receptions for 29 yards in his preseason debut on Thursday. The fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft will look to build on a decent showing in his first game, as he looks to earn playing time in a backfield that features Derrick Henry and Dontrell Hilliard above him on the depth chart as of now. The 22-year-old could be on the fantasy radar in deeper leagues as some insurance for Henry, but figures to be nothing more than a handcuff option for the time being.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Racey McMath led the team with 48 receiving yards in Thursday's 23-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It took him all of one target to do this, as the 23-year-old caught a 48-yard bomb from quarterback Malik Willis. McMath turned some heads at training camp, as the LSU collegiate product has been getting open downfield and making plays. He will look to carve out a role in a thin wide receiver room with Robert Woods and Treylon Burks leading the way, but he is off the fantasy radar as of now when you consider Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Kyle Philips are also in the mix for playing time.
New England Patriots running back Kevin Harris rushed six times for nine yards and a touchdown while catching one of two targets for minus two yards in Thursday's 23-21 preseason loss to the New York Giants. He averaged 1.8 yards after contact per attempt but salvaged his fantasy day by rushing a three-yard score during the third quarter. The sixth-round pick entered the game after J.J. Taylor but surprisingly saw the field before fourth-round pick Pierre Strong Jr. James White retired on Thursday, leaving a void on third downs for New England; the 21-year-old will have a chance to compete for that role. Harris will have to beat Ty Montgomery, Strong, and Taylor for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Tennessee Titans running back Julius Chestnut was impressive in his preseason debut, leading the team with 44 rushing yards on seven carries while adding one catch for 12 yards in Thursday's 23-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The undrafted free agent will look to earn himself a role in the offense, however, it could be a tall task considering he will need to fight off Derrick Henry, Dontrell Hilliard, Hassan Haskins, and Jordan Wilkins for playing time. As of now, it looks like the 21-year-old will at best be the fourth option out of the backfield, putting him well off the fantasy radar for now.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis completed 6-of-11 passes for 107 yards and added 38 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown in his preseason debut on Thursday. His longest completion of the night went for 48 yards, with his largest gain on the ground going for 17 yards. Willis showcased some of his electrifying skills in this one and will look to build on a solid showing in the team's second preseason game against the Buccaneers. However, Ryan Tannehill still figures to be the starting quarterback for the Titans, which only puts Willis on the fantasy radar in dynasty formats as of right now.