Chester Rogers Titans

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Chester Rogers likely made a big step toward securing a roster spot with his 57-yard punt return Friday vs. Atlanta. Rogers' ascent has possibly put some others on the bubble as the Titans continue to sort out depth at the receiver position.

There are certainly some players on notice in the Titans wide receiver fray as they battle for roster spots on the 53-man roster.

Beyond the top three receivers – A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and Josh Reynolds – the battle for three – perhaps four – spots is going to be interesting as training camp and preseason unfolds for the Titans.

Friday night in Atlanta, Chester Rogers might have separated himself from the pack with his 57-yard punt return. Rogers also caught a pass for 17 yards and a first down from Logan Woodside in the first half.

Two others who are currently in the mix are Marcus Johnson, who has been the star of training camp practices, and second-year man Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, whose work on special teams last year and in camp has drawn praise from coaches.

Several players were held out of Friday's 23-3 win over Atlanta, and that left room for lots of long shot players to see the lion's share of the playing time. Cameron Batson, who has bounced between the roster, the practice squad and injured reserve for three years, made the most of his chance against the Falcons with a 15-yard TD catch.

Mason Kinsey, a long shot free agent, led the way with 51 yards on four catches.

But while Rogers, Batson and Kinsey were busy getting noticed, the Titans two rookie draft picks that many expected to find roles as depth players, did very little Friday night.

Fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick was in at the end with the bottom of the roster, and did not even draw a single target of a pass. Sixth-round pick Racey McMath, who flashed early in camp, also did not have a catch. He was targeted twice in the game.

Regarding Fitzpatrick's slow development, Titans coach Mike Vrabel was asked what he needed to improve upon to move up in the pecking order. The coach was very blunt I his answer, saying, “A lot. He needs to show us a lot more in practice.”

In trying to sort out the receiver position, it would appear that Rogers' special teams work has given him a leg up in the race.

“I liked it that he got into the return, he got vertical, he didn’t try and circle it up, he got vertical,” Vrabel said. “It was blocked well, guys did a nice job controlling the gunners and everybody was working to finish. We want to try and score and get that thing in the end zone, but he got vertical and no penalties, guys were getting out of the way and getting to the second level.”

That return was also the first thing Vrabel mentioned when discussing positives from the game.

“The punt return, we would love to be able to use that as a weapon, he said, which bodes well for Rogers' chances of winning the return job. It also could help him that Darrynton Evans is again on the shelf for a while after injuring his knee Friday night.

The Titans have been using Johnson on most all special teams as a gunner, along with Westbrook-Ikhine who had that role in 2020 playing in 14 games. It could be interesting to see if they are fighting for one spot or two.

The same thing applies with Rogers, who appears to have the lead over Batson and Kinsey in the race for the return job right now.

But that begs the question of what to do with Fitzpatrick and/or McMath. Could they be battling for one spot that may nor may not exist, depending upon whether the Titans are willing to keep a seventh receiver on the 53-man roster.

If not, can they slide both rookies through waivers and onto the practice squad to begin their careers? Based on draft status, it could be easier to pull that off with McMath (sixth round) than Fitzpatrick (fourth round), though McMath currently seems to be ahead in the pecking order based on practice, game reps and Vrabel's comments.

Looking better

The news is better for a couple of other rookies coming out of the preseason opener.

Dillon Radunz, who had been shifted to right guard as a backup to Nate Davis, got the start there and performed OK, before moving to right tackle and acquitting himself well there too, according to Vrabel.

The second-round pick was a slow starter in camp and it does not appear he is ready to win the starting right tackle job as was first thought when the Titans drafted him. But he does appear to be making some progress now.

“Dillon did start out there at right guard and moved to right tackle and had some really good plays, had some plays he would like to have back,” Vrabel said. “Sometimes his pad level was high, but through the course of the game I thought it was encouraging.”

Rashad Weaver, whom Vrabel mentioned before the game as improving in practice, had a big night with 1.5 sacks and some other pressures in the game.

“Some of those guys that have continued to improve took the next step in the game and then there's some guys that we're gonna probably need to see more of in practicing against Tampa and playing against Tampa,” Vrabel said when asked of Weaver's play.

Injuries

Evans left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. Vrabel characterized him as “day-to-day.” Evans was plagued by a hamstring injury his rookie year last year.

Kicker Tucker McCann was 2-of-2 on field goals and would have had a third one from 47 yards, but the Titans took a roughing the kicker call and later converted that into a touchdown.

McCann limped off the field after the hit, and might need a few days to recover, per Vrabel.

“We will see where he is at, he is pretty sore. I don’t anticipate it being lengthy, but I can’t tell you that for sure until we see where he is at, at the end of the day and moving into tomorrow,” Vrabel said.