Cardinals vs Ravens Live: It’s the first full week of NFL preseason contests and we have a matchup featuring a pair of former AFC Central foes locking up on the gridiron down in Charm City. The Tennessee Titans are on the road as they travel to face the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night in the opening tune-up game for both teams. Tennessee finished 12-5 in 2021 and won the AFC South only to lose 19-16 to Cincinnati in the AFC Divisional Round at home, leading to disappointment. Baltimore was ravaged by injuries last season and fell apart down the stretch, finishing 8-9 to miss the postseason.
Wednesday night was a wild one on Twitter. Former Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard and Lamar Jackson engaged in a Twitter battle that kept fans glued to their phones — refreshing the app in hopes of catching the latest jab. The reason for the battle had to do with ESPN failing to include Jackson in their list of top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. Some found the notion ridiculous, Pollard did not. Someone who came to the defense of Jackson the next day was a former teammate: Wide receiver Marquise Brown.
Brown was traded from the Ravens to the Arizona Cardinals on opening night of the 2022 NFL Draft. “Hollywood,” as he’s known, had previously expressed frustration with his role in Baltimore’s offense, and admitted after the trade that he was unhappy with the Ravens — although it had nothing to do with his quarterback. Seeing his former signal-caller being criticized, he took to Twitter to defend him.Pollard claimed that no top wide receiver would come to Baltimore as long as Jackson is there. He may have a point in that the Ravens aren’t seen as a wideout’s dream location, but it’s probably not because of the former MVP playing quarterback. The Ravens are known for their run-first offense. They’ve had a top three rushing offense in each of the last four seasons — including being ranked No. 1 in both 2019 and 2020.
The “narrative” that Jackson is not good enough as a quarterback is something Brown vehemently disagrees with. After all, Jackson is 37-12 as a starter, and led the NFL in passing touchdowns in 2019 with 36. He’s up for a massive extension, something that could come to fruition before the beginning of the 2022 season.
Roquan Smith’s time with the Chicago Bears may soon be coming to an end. The All-Pro linebacker officially requested a trade out of the organization on Monday due to a lack of productive contract talks. Smith is entering the final year of his deal and noted that the Bears “new front office regime doesn’t value me.” The 25-year-old also said the organization has not been negotiating in good faith to this point and triggered his trade request.
With Smith now on the block, our attention turns to where he may be suiting up next in the NFL. Whatever team acquires Smith would be getting one of the best, young off-ball linebackers in the league. He is one of just six players in league history to have 500 or more tackles, 10-plus sacks, and five or more interceptions in his first four seasons. With that in mind, he should have plenty of suitors.
Tennessee finished the regular season 12-5 and earned home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs last season thanks to wins over Buffalo and Kansas City. Of course, things didn’t go their way in the playoffs as the Titans put the game in the hands of Ryan Tannehill and the passing game as opposed to the league’s fifth-best run game. Tannehill threw three interceptions, including one that set the Bengals up for the game-winning field goal in the final second, and the Titans were done. Speaking of gone, both starting receivers from a season ago, Julio Jones (Buccaneers) and A.J. Brown (Eagles) are no longer with the team. Robert Woods was picked up from the Rams but is recovering from a knee injury. Tennessee drafted QB Malik Willis from Liberty along with WR Treylon Burks from Arkansas. RB Hassan Haskins will be slotted in to provide another physical back to work with Derrick Henry. Willis will get a chance to prove he can unseat Logan Woodside as the #2 QB on the roster starting here. Losing offensive lineman Rodger Saffold III and David Quessenberry means that the team is going to have to make some changes there as well. That’s not good news for Tannehill, who was sacked 47 times last season.
Last season, the Titans were 24th in the league in passing offense with 201.1 yards per contest and fifth in rushing offense by averaging 141.4 yards per game. Tennessee finished 15th in the league in scoring offense with 24.6 points per game and 6th in scoring defense by allowing 20.8 points per game. Ryan Tannehill was 357 of 531 passing for 3,734 yards with 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He was fourth on the team with 270 rushing yards plus seven scores though he was sacked 47 times last season.
Derrick Henry led the team with 219 carries for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. D’Onta Foreman (133 carries, 566 yards, three TD) and Dontrell Hilliard (56 carries, 350 yards, two TD) carried the load with Henry on injured reserve. With Foreman gone, Haskins gets a crack to step in and potentially upend Hilliard for the #2 role. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (38 grabs, 476 yards, four TD) is the top returning receiver from last season. Randy Bullock is 42 of 45 on extra points and 26 of 31 on field goal attempts with a long of 51 last year.