AFC South: Tennessee Titans

Titans Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
7:50
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • A crew of officials, headed by referee Clete Blakeman, was on the field working practice.
  • One of my favorite receiver drills has them changing direction five times running through garbage cans, then turning their head quickly to catch fast passes. When I looked over today, the throws weren’t as hard, but I saw Justin Hunter, Brian Robiskie, Marc Mariani and Derek Hagan all go five-for-five before Isaiah Williams broke the streak when he dropped a high one.
  • I have watched and written about Shawn Jefferson’s work with his receivers but failed to mention his snap call for a guy to start something isn’t hike or anything like it. It’s “WORK.”
  • Tackles and tight ends worked together on combination stuff, blocking defensive ends. The ends didn’t really get a chance to win as after early contact, they fought but didn’t churn their legs.
  • Running backs worked on route-running during their individual period.
  • Hunter caught a deep ball over Tommie Campbell up the right side from Charlie Whitehurst in seven-on-seven, and another over Campbell in one-on-ones. Later in team, Michael Preston got behind Campbell. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said the bad plays get noticed and the good ones don’t. But Campbell has struggled a great deal in camp so far.
  • In one-on-one passing, Jason McCourty broke up a short, quick Locker pass intended for Kendall Wright.
  • Zach Mettenberger overthrew Julian Horton and got intercepted by Khalid Wooten.
  • Derrick Morgan made a big play against Locker at the start of a team period. Locker faked a toss and rolled to his right, but Morgan charged at him and batted down his intended short pass.
  • Chris Spencer had exchange problems with Whitehurst on two occasions.
  • In two-minute drill work, the first-team offense moved to a Maikon Bonani field goal. He also missed one from the 35-yardish range. Another drive ended with a Coty Sensabaugh pick of a Locker pass aimed for Wright.
  • In two-minute drill work, the second unit needed a fourth-and-long conversion and there was debate about whether the last play was a sack. That will be resolved by film review.
  • Fullback Collin Mooney got popped by safety Hakeem Smith and dropped the pass on a short ball that was way late and rated a hospital ball from Tyler Wilson.

Titans Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
1:40
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, left guard Taylor Lewan and center Chris Spencer worked with the starters today. Brian Schwenke was out with a leg injury that head coach Ken Whisenhunt categorized as day-today. Antonio Johnson was also out with a leg injury and is day-to-day. Delanie Walker (shoulder) and Michael Preston (fear of a concussion) were both back to work after getting hurt Tuesday.
  • Left tackle Michael Roos jumped offside in a team period and Jurrell Casey, the rusher trying to get around him said, “It’s you.”
  • Nice catches: Nate Washington plucked a low dart from Jake Locker; Rico Richardson reached over Ri'Shad Anderson to collect a deep pass up the right side from Locker; Marc Mariani made a lovely over-the-shoulder catch from Locker.
  • Locker targets in seven-on-seven period: Complete to Craig Stevens, incomplete to Washington broken up by Jason McCourty, complete to Kendall Wright, complete to Preston, complete deep to Derek Hagan. Hagan later had a nice fingertip catch while going full speed out of bounds and a drop from Charlie Whitehurst with Tommie Campbell well off.
  • In seven-on-seven, playing as the nickel, Sensabaugh worked in front of Mariani to pick off Zach Mettenberger. Bernard Pollard dropped what should have been an interception of Locker intended for Walker.
  • Struggling quarterback Tyler Wilson threw an interception to Moise Fokou, a player who has been completely invisible in camp until that moment.
  • Justin Hunter dropped a ball from Locker that he got got both hands on, but Hunter also caught a bomb over cornerback Marc Anthony from Mattenberger.
  • Crowd noise from four speakers during a team period was deafening. Michael Griffin said it was Seattle-level noise. Neither side seemed to struggle with it. Offensive coordinator Jason Michael said quarterback and linemen will use different things at different times when they have to use a silent count, so the defense can’t predict if the center, or a guard helping the center is signaling for the snap or if they are doing something else.
  • On third-and-short work, coaches called for one live snap where Bishop Sankey or Jackie Battle (sorry I don’t know which) was tackled. They went back to thudding the back, but Whisenhunt said there will be some occasions where there are some live snaps.
  • Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons each got three field goal chances in a period. They each hit from 33 and 38, and each missed from 46. Bonani said his miss was an aiming error based on the breeze.
  • The Titans practice at 2:50 CT on Friday and it’s open to the public.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Part of Jurrell Casey’s transition from 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 defensive end is who he’ll match up with.

At Tennessee Titans practice on Tuesday, he lined up against offensive tackles during one-on-one pass-rush work.

“I wanted to work more of an edge rush. I’d been doing a lot of inside rushing the last couple days,” Casey said. “Playing end now, I’m going to rush from the outside, also. So I had to get a little practice at that. It’s a whole lot different, because you’ve got way more space to deal with.

“I think I am doing pretty well. There are still a couple things I’ve got to work on. [Tuesday] I worked on bending the corner around the edge of a blocker, and I am still working on that. I can’t get that down yet.

“But anything or normal pass rush, using quick moves, I’ve got that down. It’s more so trying to figure out something new to use to people won’t be guessing what I’m going to do to them.”

He looks quite fast working off the edge.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans lack star power.

Star power drives attention.

The Titans' last, biggest star was Chris Johnson. He was super-recognizable and still produced on a reasonable level. But his game last season was nothing compared to his game at his peak and his value wasn’t close to his scheduled salary of $8 million.

Still, many bemoaned the Titans cutting him, often on the grounds of having no one left behind who is a known quantity by the NFL fan population at large.

SportsNation

Whom do you presently consider the face of the Titans franchise?

  •  
    15%
  •  
    32%
  •  
    13%
  •  
    23%
  •  
    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,416)

Do you have to have a star to be good or do you have to be a good team to have a star?

“That’s kind of a tricky answer,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When you classify a player as a star, is that stat-driven? Is that perception by somebody outside? I think if you watch a Tennessee Titans football game and you watch Jurrell Casey or you watch Kendall Wright, you have a tremendous amount of respect for the way those guys play.

“I’m just using those two guys as an example. Derrick Morgan could, obviously, fit into that, as could (Michael) Griffin and (Bernard) Pollard, and I could continue to name them. Now, whether they’re considered stars in fantasy stats, or whether they’re considered stars by all of these experts that are out there, I don’t know.

“I consider them to be good football players. I think the thing that we judge, or the way that I judge it, is the respect they have when you put that tape on. I feel like we have a lot of those players on this football team, good football players. Maybe, I guess the long answer to the question is, maybe the star comes after you have success.”

The face of a franchise doesn’t have to be a star, but I think on most teams it is.

Who’s the face of this franchise?

I’ve only got five slots in a poll and I’ve got a strong feel for whom I believe it is. But I want to hear from you first. So please cast a vote.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson had talked about doing it for sometime. Tuesday was the day he put on pads and helmet to go against his players in a drill.

Wearing a Titans light blue No. 1 practice jersey and holding a big blocking pad, he had players come at him through a garbage can gap. Then he banged into them to demonstrate the passion he wants to see in their blocking.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Shawn Jefferson
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyTitans wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, left, put on a helmet, pads and a jersey during a drill with his players on Tuesday.
Nate Washington went first, and spent the rest of the period howling in laughter. Marc Mariani and Derek Hagan put Jefferson on the ground on back-to-back snaps.

“He's been threatening that for months and years,” Mariani said. “We saw him kind of going over and getting everything rounded up and we were like, ‘What’s going on over there?’ Then he comes out with shoulder pads and a jersey and we’re doing a downhill drill. It was unbelievable man. I love that dude.

“We all thought it was going to be a little thud drill, but when he came downhill the first time and got Nate a little bit, we were like ‘OK, there is going to be a little more contact than we thought, he’s still got a little gas in the tank.'”

And what about knocking him to the ground?

“I think he just lost hit footing, I don’t think I really crushed him or anything. We definitely had to come in there a little harder once we saw what he was working with.”

Jefferson wasn’t happy when Mariani tried to help him up.

“He didn’t want any part of it, he’s pretty competitive, he wanted to be up and into the next guy,” Mariani said. “He was pretty intense during that thing. I think afterwards he laughed about it.”

Jefferson didn’t care to chat about it after and Whisenhunt downplayed it, suggesting it was just another drill.

Sorry coach, but I’ve never seen an assistant put himself in position to get hit by his players before. It could wind up being the highlight of camp.

I bet players won’t be able to watch it enough.

“It’s going to be in our iPads probably within the next 30 minutes," Hagan said. "So we’ll be able to check it out."

Titans Camp Report: Day 4

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
7:55
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson is 45 and last played in 2003. That didn’t stop him from putting on pads and banging into his receivers for a blocking drill on Tuesday. They absolutely loved it, and two knocked him on his butt. More to come on that in a separate post.
  • Receiver Michael Preston was on the ground after a collision with cornerback Winston Wright. He eventually got back on his feet but was later being checked out for a concussion. Receivers were going against defensive backs, looking to make room for a guy carrying the ball behind them. It amounted to a skill-position Oklahoma drill, though, Ken Whisenhunt didn’t jump on board with that characterization.
  • I watched some one-on-ones between offensive line and defensive line. I saw bigger named defensive linemen largely having their way with lesser offensive linemen. While Jeff Adams had one snap where he was able to steer Jurrell Casey, Casey told me he was working purely on speed stuff to get around the edge. Mike Martin beat Tyler Horn, Karl Klug won against Kevin Danser, Lavar Edwards bulled Justin McCray backwards, DaQuan Jones gained ground on Gabe Ikard. I also thought linebacker Patrick Bailey beat Michael Oher.
  • Dexter McCluster didn’t get popped as much today as he did in the first padded practice, but he took at least one good shot. Casey knocked him off his feet at the end of a run on the first nine-on-seven period snap. Shonn Greene had the day off, so McCluster was first, Bishop Sankey was second, Leon Washington was third and Antonio Andrews was fourth. Sankey and Leon Washington both lost fumbles, but Washington’s looked to be the fault of quarterback Tyler Wilson. Mike Martin recovered the first and David Gilbert the second.
  • There was a stretch where I felt like both lines were jumpy and false starts or offside could have been called.
  • During some periods they were not involved in, Bernard Pollard and Wesley Woodyard did some running together on the side.
  • Michael Griffin and Justin Hunter had a lively scrap that turned into a big pushing match with a lot of players involved but it was not a big deal. They kidded about it in the locker room after. Told that Hunter made reference to his stature, Griffin searched him out in the locker room to see how they measured up. (Photo here.)
  • Fullback Collin Mooney had to reach for it but dropped the first pass I can remember thrown his way in four days of work.
  • Casey burst through and “sacked” Locker on the first play of the final team period.
  • Passes of note in red zone work: Cornerback Micah Pellerin knocked away a ball intended for Derel Walker and thrown by Tyler Wilson; Charlie Whitehurst threw a dart to Derek Hagan between George Wilson and Daimion Stafford at the goalpost; Locker found an opening on a similar play but the ball went through the hands of Dorin Dickerson; Akeem Ayers dropped an interception of a Locker pass intended for Nate Washington; Whitehurst placed a nice pass to Brian Robiskie over Micah Pellerin.
Greene
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans running back Shonn Greene's been at the head of the running back line, and said he's working to knock the rust off after he missed all of the offseason following a cleanup knee surgery.

I think he's looked like what you'd expect him to look like. He's the team's biggest and most physical back, and if he's healthy he should be able to get a tough yard when the Titans need it, running behind a line that's been revamped over the past couple years.

There is a segment of the fan base that wants the team to go a different direction. But in the second season of a three-year deal, I can't see the team giving up on him after just one season. And there is no quality alternative for that role -- the power back who should be a short-yardage resource. (Undrafted rookie Antonio Andrews hasn't had a chance to show much to this point, and I think he's more likely to be a practice squad guy if he impresses.)

It's disappointing that coach Ken Whisenhunt said Greene still needs to trim down.

"I am pleased with where he is at this point," Whisenhunt said on Monday, per John Glennon of The Tennessean. "To have not gotten anything in the spring physically ... he's gotten some reps now and been in there, and that's been important. I'm happy with that. I'm not happy with his weight. He needs to lose some weight. But (him) getting the reps has been good."

Glennon said Whisenhunt is talking about five or 10 pounds. Hopefully the weight melts away quickly.

How much Greene is carrying does not need to be the primary conversation revolving around him for very long.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In his practice performance, in his interactions with teammates and in his conversations with the media, Jake Locker is showing growth, I believe.

Locker
In a make-or-break season that tells whether he is the answer for the Tennessee Titans going forward or not, he was asked early on about shooting for a big contract. He is set for life with what he has already made, he said, matter of factly.

And his teammates are talking about him with higher regard.

“In this business you don’t come in and get respect given to you, you have to earn it,” receiver Marc Mariani said. “And he’s done that. We all saw what he went through and the season that he had last year and that injury he came back from. He’s earned the respect of everyone in here.

“I think we’re the type of team, not that we need it, but is looking for that guy to be more vocal and get on his back. And Jake’s the perfect guy, and I have all the faith in the world in that guy and I know he’s going to come through. He’s a warrior.”

Locker isn’t the kind of guy who is going to announce that the Tennessee Titans are his team or hit anyone over the head with any sort of message. But in his low-key, hard-working way and with perseverance through three serious injuries over the past two seasons, he’s gained more respect and command.

“I don’t believe it’s not any one guy’s team, ever,” Locker said. "I think the greatest teams have a lot of guys that are respected in the locker room. And I feel like we have that. We have guys that are respected a lot of different ways in a lot of different positions.

“Since the time I came in here I’ve said I just want to work hard and have the respect of my teammates, so it’s awesome for me to hear that they are feeling that way.”

Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he’s seen “really good growth” out of Locker.

There is a good deal to sort through at this stage, and Locker's coach likes how he’s doing it so far.

“This is probably, for a quarterback, the toughest time of the year,” Whisenhunt said in a Monday interview with my radio show, The Midday 180 in Nashville. “Really there is no set plan for what we are calling things from. In a weekly game-plan situation you have X number of plays and you know the formations. When you get them on Monday night and start working on them on Tuesday, by Wednesday you have a good idea, we’re running a certain play, what formation it’s going to be run from.

“In this situation, we’re switching guys. We’re putting Kendall (Wright) and Nate (Washington) and Justin (Hunter) in different spots, so when you do that you have to name the formations differently and it’s much harder to get a mental picture of the actual play when you’re doing those mental gymnastics.

“On top of that, he’s got to be able to call the play, understand the protections, be ready to change it. So you don’t expect him to have great command of it, but he’s really working at it and doing a nice job.”

Titans Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
2:36
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • Late in the pre-practice walk-through when the offense and defense work independent of each other, offensive assistant Luke Steckel, who was running the scout team, shouted that he needed a nickelback. Dexter McCluster, the team’s new veteran running back, was ready and willing and started to head out to play the role. Michael Preston then jumped in and did the job. But McCluster certainly doesn’t think of himself as above it.
  • Wide receiver drills can be a real gauntlet under position coach Shawn Jefferson. Monday’s was a furious pace with one very tough segment. Players change direction running between tightly spaced upside-down garbage cans, needing to get their head around super-fast each time they turned to catch a close-range dart being whistled right at them.
  • The linebackers fared well overall in the one-on-one period against running backs and tight ends. Zach Brown did well to cover Shonn Greene in the flat. Akeem Ayers prevented a completion to McCluster. Moise Fokou laid a big hit on Jackie Battle. Battle recovered and made a catch, but Fokou announced in a game situation that Battle never would have regained a visual connection with his quarterback. Patrick Bailey had a very good coverage snap against Delanie Walker. When the drill moved to pass protection, the linebackers also rushed well. Kamerion Wimbley was particularly good. Rookie running back Bishop Sankey stood out as a positive on offense to me, particularly on one snap when he stood up Colin McCarthy.
  • Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh was the starter Monday, as the Titans continued to rotate him with Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Taylor Lewan continued to get the bulk of the work at left guard, where Andy Levitre is recovering from having his appendix removed.
  • Second offensive line, left to right: Byron Stingily, Eric Olsen, Chris Spencer, Tyler Horn and Jeff Adams.
  • To illustrate something small I’ve written for ESPN The Magazine, I’ve been on the lookout for a Jake Locker-to-McCluster dump-off pass. Perhaps because I needed it, I haven’t seen it. But Charlie Whitehurst has connected with Leon Washington in a second-team version.
  • Linebacker Tig Willard laid the first giant hit of camp in a team period, popping Sankey with a loud and attention-getting run stop. Wesley Woodyard put a good pop on Delanie Walker, separating him from the ball on a pass over the middle. Mike Martin delivered one of several big hits on McCluster.
  • In a one-on-one pass-rush period, Lewan did some nice work, showing strength versus the mammoth Ropati Pitoitua and handling Karl Klug. But Jurrell Casey pretty much flew by Lewan. Sammie Hill tipped Chance Warmack over at one point. Coaches blew the whistle pretty quickly to end each snap.
  • Whitehurst floated a pretty pass over rookie Marqueston Huff into the arms of Marc Mariani, who continues to play well. Whitehurst looks to loft most of his deep stuff on that high arc where a ball can drop in.
  • Taylor Thompson had a lesser day than the first two days, with a drop of a Zach Mettenberger pass with Daimion Stafford in coverage.
  • Veteran receiver Derek Hagan has been solid and looks like he can get into the mix with Mariani and Michael Preston for the fourth and fifth spots in the receiving corps.
  • Nate Washington showed good burst on a pretty reverse and coach Ken Whisenhunt joked they brought the elder statesman out of the archives for the play.
  • Former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck watched practice and could not talk highly enough about Jackie Battle, who’s working at the front-line fullback. “He played like you are supposed to play on the first day in pads,” Bulluck said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Jake Locker scans the field and runs through his reads, he’ll be picking from a nice smorgasbord of options.

Of the Titans’ top six pass-catchers right now, no two really look alike. That’s a nice feature to have, that variety.

A run through, in roughly their order of importance and quality:

WR Kendall Wright: An excellent slot guy who’s shifty and fast enough to cause problems. Ken Whisenhunt is likely to line him up outside, too, and to send him on more than just underneath stuff. He was dynamic downfield and can add that to his NFL game.

Backup situation: There is no one else like him on this team, though Dexter McCluster and Leon Washington could do a bit of what Wright does.

[+] EnlargeKendall Wright
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsKendall Wright caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns last season.
WR Nate Washington: Can line up in all three receiver spots. Lacks top-end size or speed, but makes up for it with reliability and craftiness. He’s going to be where he’s supposed to be and looked to be a Jake Locker favorite when the quarterback was healthy last season.

Backup situation: The Titans don't have another all-around receiver who's proven himself over a long career.

WR Justin Hunter: The blazing downfield X receiver who should be threatening and stretching defenses even when the ball is not coming his way. He had a catch in the camp opener Saturday that is the sort the team hopes he can make with regularity -- climbing over Coty Sensabaugh and collecting a pass on the boundary.

Backup situation: No one else among the receivers has speed in the same range as Hunter.

TE Delanie Walker: A tough and athletic tight end who can muscle his way to success. The Titans feel he gives them mismatch opportunities, as he can outrun a linebacker and overpower a defensive back.

Backup situation: Craig Stevens is a better pass-catcher than he was given a chance to show last season, but he's not in Walker's class. Taylor Thompson should be at least OK in the department, but is no roster lock yet.

RB Dexter McCluster: More quick than fast (though he says he’s both), he’s just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds. He has played more receiver than running back in his first four years in the league. He’ll get shots to lone up in the slot or to motion there, but he’ll come out of the backfield and give the Titans far better receiver skills than Chris Johnson showed in recent years.

Backup situation: Leon Washington can do some of the same things, but doesn't match McCluster's quickness.

RB Bishop Sankey: Projects to be the Titans best all-around back once he learns the ropes. He’s completely comfortable as a pass-catcher, and while not likely as dynamic as McCluster, defenses will have to account for the possibility of him working as a receiver when he’s on the field.

Backup situation: If he went down, McCluster would likely catch even more passes. And Shonn Greene would be expected to do a bit more in the area.

***

“It’s become a matchup game, and you’re trying to create those mismatches,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We have a number of guys that we feel can do that, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get some guys that step up during camp in those backup roles that we have confidence can do that.

“When you get to the season, it’s more about week to week, what their roles are. If we don’t have somebody, then we’re going to lean more heavily on some of the others that we know what they can do.”

“I’ll give you the perfect example. Wide receiver that we had in San Diego last year, Tutu (Seyi Ajirotutu) wasn’t even on our team at the start of the season. We’re playing Kansas City in a critical game late in the year, on the last play of the game in a 2-minute situation as an X, he catches the touchdown pass. You never would have expected that to win the game, but that’s what this league’s all about. He came in, he showed up, earned more trust from the quarterback, and he made a play for us.”

The Titans are going to throw downfield more, and they will be counting on Hunter to make a big contribution as they expand in that department.

That, in turn, will help create opportunities underneath.

“Wideouts may not be wide open down the field, but we can leak out and still make plays out of the backfield,” McCluster said.

In 2-minute drills, Whisenhunt expects McCluster and the backs to be big contributors as well.

“If you’re efficient with that, a lot of times the back is going to make big chucks for you,” Whisenhunt said. “If the down-the-field throws aren’t there, they are playing off coverage, if you can do that it’s big. It takes discipline. But we’re working at it.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- While camp opened Saturday, it really opens this morning.

The Titans are about the take the field in pads, and Ken Whisenhunt and his staff will see the team hitting in a way they’ve only seen before on film.

“I hope it is a challenge, we need challenges,” Whisenhunt said. “I think the first day in pads, they’ll be fired up for that. ... I think it’s the day where we get to learn a little bit more. I’m hesitant to say that we’re going to be enlightened about our whole team. I think we’ll find out a little bit about some guys.

“But the games are different speed. A week and a half from now, when everybody’s sore and banged up and guys are missing reps and somebody has to shoulder all that, it’s a process. Make no mistake about it, pads are an important part of that.”

Or as defensive coordinator Ray Horton put it: "That’s what football is. If it was in shorts, it’d be basketball.”

While things get more physical for skill players, the biggest difference comes for the linemen.

“We see everyone play full speed for the first time, and this group has never had that as a team,” center Brian Schwenke said. “You get sick of the D-linemen hitting you on pass and you just absorbing it. Now there is no excuse. You can do what you need to do to stop them.”

There will not be any goal line work today, but Whisenhunt said the Titans will get to some this week before they practice with the Falcons in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Examining the Tennessee Titans' roster.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
If all are healthy, Locker starts and Whitehurst is the game-day backup with Mettenberger not dressed, at least at the beginning.

RUNNING BACKS (5)
Battle beats Collin Mooney because he can carry the ball and is a good special teams player. Mooney has not seen first team reps in the first two days of camp. Washington could get some touches, but is on the team to return.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
Mariani and Preston both making it seems like a long shot to me, but it could happen. I think a receiver who is cut elsewhere at the end of the preseason is signed and on the roster when the season starts.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Walker has said he expects to play on the line more and Stevens is a blocker. Thompson is at a make-or-break point and could easily lose out to someone emerging or an outsider.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

A starting caliber tackle is on the bench (Oher or Lewan) and that means Byron Stingily is less needed than backups for the interior such as Spencer and Olsen.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)

A big fight here is pending with Lavar Edwards having value and Klug being a question at the start of his time in the 3-4. But the Titans are going to have to make tough cuts on the line. Eight defensive linemen on a 3-4 team seems like too much, but GM Ruston Webster has said it could happen.

LINEBACKERS (9)

McCarthy, Gooden and Moise Fokou could be battling for one spot between them. McCarthy is the best football player if he can stay healthy. Year 2 would be early to give up on a third-rounder in Gooden.

CORNERBACK (5)

The fifth spot could be up for debate, though Campbell is over a shoulder problem he’s had for some time and will be removed from the pressure put on him by former coordinator Jerry Gray, who over-touted him. (That said, his first two days have been really bad.)

SAFETY (4)
Khalid Wooten, a corner who got summer work at safety and could be a versatile guy, might beat Stafford. I was tempted to give fourth safety to a player not on the roster.

PUNTER (1)

A solid guy who had a bit of an off year in 2013.

KICKER (1)

He has a huge leg but is completely unproven and comes with a risk. The favorite in a competition with undrafted rookie Travis Coons.

LONG SNAPPER (1)

There has not been much chatter about a position player snapping, but it still surprises me a team would dedicate 1/53rd of the roster to the position.

Titans Camp Report: Day 2

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
8:02
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • In one-on-ones with receivers against defensive backs, undrafted rookie wideout Julian Horton matched up against undrafted rookie corner Ri'Shard Anderson. Jake Locker's pass sailed further downfield than where Horton had broken to the sideline. As Anderson looked back after the ball went incomplete, Locker pointed to where he should have been. That’s not vocal, but it did illustrate the sort of ownership and willingness to be heard that Locker said he’s been more reluctant to show in the past.
  • There was a stiff wind that had a bearing on a lot of passes. Charlie Whitehurst looked most affected by it to me, particularly on some deep balls in one-on-ones where he chose to put a lot of air under passes. Even Zach Mettenberger, the strongest-armed quarterback on the team, threw some wobblers. Ken Whisenhunt said he was happy with the wind, because the Titans were sure to get something like it on a game day at some point. Long-time assistant equipment man Matt Thompson has always shown a big arm. He made one of the day’s best throws when Leon Washington needed a ball in the end zone to bring out as the team worked on return positioning. It was over 40 yards in the air, a rope with a nice arc and plenty of zip.
  • Whisenhunt said more cover-2 was as big a reason for the reduction in deep completions from Day 1 to Day 2 as the wind. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said no deep balls have been a theme since he joined the team and he was glad the offense hit them on the first day so he could say “this is what we’re talking about” to the defense.
  • There were some big mismatches where the matchups got out of sync. I guess the lesser player in Justin Hunter vs. Anderson and Rico Richardson vs. Coty Sensabaugh has a lot to learn from such a snap. But I liked when Tommie Campbell stepped on the field, replacing Khalid Wooten, for a snap against Justin Hunter. Campbell struggled against Marc Mariani on Saturday and had a tough time again, particularly in some snaps against Hunter.
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson got the second day work as the second starting cornerback, after Sensabaugh had it on Saturday. Wreh-Wilson stuck with Hunter on a deep route early in seven-on-seven and Locker looked to want to go there, but ended up checking down.
  • Taylor Lewan got the bulk of the work as the starting left guard with Andy Levitre (appendix) out and Byron Stingily heading inside to deal with sickness.
  • Michael Preston worked higher in the receiver pecking order on Day 2, and Mariani was lower.
  • Whisenhunt said at the start that competitive positions wouldn’t see the same guy at the front of the line for multiple days. That bodes well for the status of Jackie Battle, who was the front-liner at fullback ahead of Collin Mooney again on Sunday.
  • Locker was running comfortably and without any hesitation. In one team period, he pulled it down after seeing nothing to his liking and ran up the middle, threw a completion along the right sideline to Nate Washington after rolling right and also rolled left and took off that direction. There was nothing to suggest his surgically repaired foot was any sort of issue.
  • Nate Washington returned to the receiver group jawing hard at cornerback Micah Pellerin, telling him not to do that and “if you’re beat, you’re beat.” Pellerin dropped a pick of Whitehurst on a throw Whitehurst didn’t seem to step into as strongly as he could have.
  • Second team defense: LE Al Woods, NT Antonio Johnson, RE Mike Martin, LOLB Shaun Phillips, ILB Zaviar Gooden, ILB Colin McCarthy, ROLB Akeem Ayers, LCB Tommie Campbell, S George Wilson, S Daimion Stafford, RCB Sensabaugh.
  • Washington, Dexter McCluster, Bishop Sankey and Mariani didn’t field balls, but each brought balls out of the end zone in a kickoff return period.
  • Kendall Wright made a nice sliding catch in traffic in front of Sensabaugh.
  • Stafford picked off a Tyler Wilson pass for tight end Jason Schepler.
  • Bernard Pollard was busting on Zach Mettenberger from the sideline as Mettenberger led the offense, shouting "Roll Tide." That's what someone said to Metenberger recently before sucker punching the former LSU player at a Nashville bar.

Titans Camp Report: Day 1

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
1:44
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • The off-white walls of the outside of the Titans practice facility had added some black streaks over the years. When I came by about 10 days ago, a crew was cleaning one of them. I looked up this morning and saw the walls all over were clean. It’s nice symbolism for the fresh start/blank canvass the Titans have under Ken Whisenhunt as things got started.
  • Marc Mariani dropped the first pass thrown his way but recovered to have a nice day, including a deep ball from Jake Locker over Tommie Campbell in that same one-on-one session. He also caught a great pass again over Campbell, right at the end of practice. (I got a miracle picture of that one.)
  • The Titans won’t be in pads until Monday, but safety Bernard Pollard and tight end Delanie Walker got a head start wearing uniform pants and thigh pads.
  • I watched the defensive backs, particularly the corners in individual period. More on that later. But defensive coordinator Ray Horton came over, chimed in with a few thoughts, watched a bit and moved on. The guy is super comfortable, confidant and clear.
  • Safety George Wilson was excused because of a death in the family. He is expected to rejoin the team this evening, coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
  • Pollard had an interception in one-on-ones, easily cutting in front of Craig Stevens to take away a Locker throw. Later, in team, the defense loaded up as if to blitz, saw Locker adjust the play, backed out after the snap, and Pollard picked off a deep throw for Delanie Walker. “We don’t have a plan for what the defense is doing,” Whisenhunt said of that play. “It’s not like you are preparing for a game and you see their certain patterns and you know to look for those things. So those are going to happen. Kamerion Wimbley dropped a pick chance of a Locker pass I think was for Walker.
  • Those three moments were really the only two bad ones for Locker, who showed good command, threw a lot of nice passes and will get largely positive feedback off his first-practice efforts.
  • Byron Stingily and rookie first-rounder Taylor Lewan got the first team reps at left guard, where Andy Levitre is out for up to two weeks after having his appendix removed on Thursday. Lewan said additional reps are a positive and working between left tackle Michael Roos and center Brian Schwenke is educations. He worked a lot against Jurrell Casey, the Titans best pass rusher. “He’s a hell of a player,” Lewan said. “That will help me at left tackle.”
  • There were no real lineup surprises. And things could be vastly different tomorrow. Jackie Battle worked ahead of Collin Mooney at fullback. Derrick Morgan and Wimbley were the front-line outside linebackers, with Wesley Woodyard and Zach Brown between them. The first defensive line was Ropati Pitoitua, Sammie Hill and Casey. Whisenhunt told the team not to pay attention to the depth chart at this point.
  • Tight end Taylor Thompson caught a good share of balls for the second-team offense. Early signs of chemistry between he and Charlie Whitehurst?
  • Coty Sensabaugh worked as the starting cornerback opposite Jason McCourty ahead of Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Whisenhunt said competitive positions will rotate day-to-day or even period-to-period. No one will hold a position in the pecking order for more than a day at a time.
  • Running back Bishop Sankey got rookie treatment. He was lower down the pecking order than he will likely wind up. Shonn Greene said the team wanted him to get back in the swing of things and gave him three reps per period as opposed to two for other guys. “I feel pretty normal,” he said after missing the offseason because of knee surgery. “I was kind of rusty here and there.”
  • In a seven-on-seven period, receiver Justin Hunter made one, great, leaping sideline catch over Sensabaugh. It was just the kind of play they are hoping he can make with regularity in his second season.
  • Under a big pass rush, Whitehurst dropped deep and looped a dump off to the right to Leon Washington, who ran for a big gain behind a nice caravan of blockers.
  • I thought in base personnel with two wide receivers, the Titans put both on the same side of the field quite a bit.
  • The defense was disappointed to give up so many deep balls. At one point Horton said, “They cannot catch deep balls, men. Can’t.” Said Campbell: “We gave up too many today. It’s unacceptable. We’ve got to do a better job tomorrow. Just stay on top of the route.”
  • Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Levon Kirkland is now a coach at Florida A&M. He will help the Titans out at linebacker early in camp as part of the league’s minority coaching internship program.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The offseason for every team is a happy time, filled with rosy forecasts.

Those that avoid stories about off the field issues are generally able to sell hope, progress and excitement.

But as training camp practices open this morning, they know the smooth patch of road is coming to an end.

“Without a doubt, adversity is going to build character,” said cornerback Jason McCourty, who’s entering his sixth season and has not been to the playoffs. “Right now, at this time of the year, offseason and the start of camp, everything is great.

Everybody is loving the staff. All the players are getting along.

“We haven’t really faced any problems or anything like that. As camp goes on, there are going to be injuries, there are going to be other things that happen that force us to either come together or split apart as a team. And I think that’s going to be big for us. I think throughout camp as guys get to know each other even better, it’s going to be big for us to continue to build that character.

“Adversity is going to do that to us and I think that’s kind of the fun part of this game, the challenges that come with it and not knowing each day when you wake up what you’re going to face.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt agrees. He’s anxious to finally see his team in pads -- the first time he can is Monday -- and he’s eager to see his team fight through something.

“We have to go through adversity,” he said. “That’s part of forging a team.”

No one wants trouble to arrive, but the Titans know it will. They sound ready to embrace it.

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