By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Titans head into the regular season on an optimistic note. They won their final two preseason games, getting the second one 26-23 Saturday night at Nissan Stadium.

They started rookie QB Malik Willis for the third straight game, and he had both a spectacular run and a touchdown pass. His accuracy was also improved, as he completed 15 of 23 passes for 11 yards, though he did have one deflected pass intercepted. He also had four carries for 79 yards, including a 50-yarder in the second quarter.

But it was Logan Woodside who engineered the game-winning drive, and Woodside whose scramble turned into a late touchdown to give Tennessee the win. While head coach Mike Vrabel didn’t name the number two QB after the game, it’s been clear through the preseason that the team wanted to give Willis the opportunity to show his talents, and he has done that. But there  have also been problems with consistency and accuracy, though there’s no question of his growth from the first game to the third. They already know what Woodside provides, a veteran presence who knows the system and will be a reliable short-term weapon. Willis is unquestionably the future, but the team certainly doesn’t want to see any injury to Tannehill.

The offensive line is still not fully cohesive, and there have been times throughout the preseason when both Willis and Woodside were facing extreme pressure. There was one confirmation Saturday that came during the WKRN-2 broadcast as Jon Robinson confirmed on air that Nicholas Petit-Frere would be the starting right tackle. On the negative side, just as wide receiver Treylon Burks was beginning to make some impact with a couple of receptions he suffered a wrist injury. But he did get back in action and even caught a touchdown pass. Robert Woods also made his first appearance of the preseason, making one reception for three yards, but more importantly looking fit and comfortable in his first action coming off last season’s ACL injury with the Rams.

Since such mainstays as Derrick Henry, Kevin Byard, and Tannehill among others didn’t play a single down in preseason, the Titans 2-1 record is inconclusive, though they’d certainly rather be 2-1 than 1-2 or 0-3. Perhaps the biggest news coming out of preseason was the cutting of veteran punter Brett Kern after a sterling 14-year career. But rookie Ryan Stonehouse had a great preseason, and cemented his status in the finale with a 64-yard punt that hit on the one-yard line and bounced backwards. Stonehouse has also inherited the holding job as well. The Titans also offensive linemen Willie Wright and Hayden Howerton and safeties Tyree Gillespie and Adrian Colbert. The Titans open at home September 11 against the New York Giants.