TAMPA — The Tennessee Titans dominated in a second straight preseason game, this one a 34-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And, for another week, a defender was the main story.
Elijah Molden’s NFL debut impressed all who watched it.
Tennessee’s 2021 draft class has been the primary focus of these exhibitions thus far. Both Molden and first-round pick Caleb Farley took the field for the first time in Tampa. The pair of corners took part in the Titans joint practices with the Bucs. While there is plenty of development that still needs to occur, Molden’s performance on Saturday was encouraging.
Titans defense can benefit massively from Molden
One strong preseason performance does not a world-beater make.
However, any kind of play-making ability on Tennessee’s defense is a welcome sight for a unit that languished without it in 2020.
Molden played more snaps (46) on Saturday than any other Titans defensive back. He was hugely efficient with his opportunities, making plays against both the run and the pass. The third-round pick out of Washington stuck his nose into the middle of the pile and came up with a strong fourth-and-one stop in the first quarter. Tennessee’s offense took advantage of the turnover and took seven plays to go 43 yards and put the first touchdown of the game on the board.
Molden deflected a pass up in the air in the fourth quarter and created a tip drill interception for safety Clayton Geathers. The Titans sent the rookie on a blitz and he came up with a sack, splitting the difference and hitting the hole between two Tampa offensive linemen’s legs
Molden also added a forced fumble to his stat line before time expired.
“I don’t even remember (the sack),” Molden joked after the game. “6-6 and 6-7 right in front of me. I’m 5-10. What am I supposed to do? I don’t remember. I kind of just blacked out.”
Corner Chris Jackson was slated to get the start in the slot against the Bucs.
Molden said he found out it would be his turn right before the game after Jackson “went down” in pregame warm-ups. It is unclear what happened to Jackson, but he did not play against Tampa on Saturday after dressing out.
Molden’s performance and usage against the Bucs recalled the kind of positional versatility that made Logan Ryan such an effective player during his time in Tennessee.
“I think that’s something that Jon [Robinson] and I had envisioned with the
defensive staff when (Molden) came out of Washington,” said Titans coach Mike Vrabel. “He’s been able to be in there pretty consistently for the last week and compete – [he] hasn’t been perfect, but it was really cool to see him go out there and do some nice things – blitz and cover.”
While Tennessee awaits Farley’s return to full-form, Molden’s promise eases some concerns about the secondary.
Featured Image: George Walker, USA TODAY Sports.