Game balls: Titans 27, Eagles 10
The Tennessee Titans opened the preseason with a 27-10 victory at Philadelphia on Thursday.
It snapped a six-game losing streak in contests that don’t count and was the franchise’s largest margin of victory in the preseason since a 27-10 triumph over the then-San Diego Chargers in the 2016 opener.
Here we pay tribute to some of the players who made significant contributions to that result with the awarding of game balls.
Offense: Adam Humphries, wide receiver. He only played one possession that produced no points but his performance went a long way toward convincing everyone involved that the four-year, $36 million free agent contract he signed during the offseason was money well-spent.
Starting quarterback Marcus Mariota threw eight passes and six of them went to Humphries. Four were completions, two for first downs. None of the connections went for more than nine yards, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Humphries (pictured) is renowned for his work in the slot and on underneath routes that don’t necessarily result in big chunks of yards but are critical in terms of keeping drives moving.
All in all, it was exactly what people wanted to see from him.
Defense: Tye Smith, cornerback. He played more snaps (32) than all but three others on the Titans’ defense and did what Tye Smith does – he was physical. He finished with a game-high four tackles – all of them solo stops – and forced a fumble in the final minute of the first half that preserved a 14-10 halftime lead.
Smith was a surprise survivor of the final 2017 roster cut and ended up playing in 15 games that season. He missed all of 2018 with a knee injury sustained in the opening days of training camp.
In addition to his play on defense, he was involved in 11 special teams plays as well. It was the kind of performance that suggested that once again it would be tough for the front office and coaches to cut him.
Special teams: Kalif Raymond, returner: The 5-foot-8, 182-pound wide receiver who served two short stints on the Titans’ practice squad last season has been one of the most talked about players in training camp because he continues to make plays with the offense and even got some time with the starters in the last week.
If he is going to make the 53-man roster, though, it will be because he contributes on special teams, which he did against the Eagles. He returned three punts for 35 yards, including one for 27 yards (Tennessee’s longest preseason punt return in five years) that preceded a touchdown drive. He also returned a kickoff for 24 yards.
As a bonus, he was the game’s leading receiver with six catches for 80 yards.