Jim Wyatt, Senior Writer/Editor, TitansOnline.com
The Titans were on the field Wednesday for their fifth day of organized team activities. Here’s a look at what stood out.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans were on the field Wednesday for their fifth day of organized team activities.
Here’s a look at what stood out:
• The music. Right out of the gate a curious song played over the speakers: Hail to the Victors. It’s Michigan’s fight song, of course, and Vrabel went to Ohio State. The head coach said someone infiltrated the playlist, and he already had a prime suspect: Taylor Lewan, a Michigan man.
• The ejections. Vrabel didn’t hesitate to send two players to the locker room early after a skirmish in practice. Offensive lineman John Theus and defensive lineman Matt Dickerson briefly got into it, and that was long enough for Vrabel, who jumped in and sent the players inside. Other players surely took notice. “That’s the policy,” Vrabel said. “We’re not going to fight. You fight, you get thrown out of the game. Whether that be at OTAs, training camp, practice against Tampa Bay or whoever we’re going to practice against, there’s no time to fight.”
• Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota once again had a solid day, connecting on short, middle-range, and some deep passes throughout the session. He threw a dart to tight end Delanie Walker while he was streaking across the middle, although safety Kevin Byard wasn’t bashful in letting Walker know how he thought he got open. “Nice push off,” Byard told Walker. Mariota sailed a few over intended targets, but for the most part he looked sharp, and accurate. He looked especially fast when he tucked the ball and ran with it. Mariota sprinted to the sideline on one play, and ran past defenders along the way.
• Receiver Corey Davis continues to impress, catching the ball with ease. He was money on grabs across the middle, hauling the ball in and then turning up the field. He looks confident, and plenty capable.
• It was impossible not to notice receiver Darius Jennings on Wednesday. I mentioned Jennings, who spent time on the team’s roster and practice squad last year, in last week’s report, and I’m mentioning him again today because he made catches all over the field. Jennings caught a TD pass from Mariota on a play that originated from the six-yard line, and got open for a beautiful connection with Mariota down the sideline late. I think there’s a spot to be had on the receiving corps, and Jennings continues to make a case for himself.
• Linebacker Jayon Brown stood out. He was regularly around the football, in coverage and vs. the run. Brown was right there on a screen to Davis, and he was also ready when running back Dion Lewis caught the ball in the flat. He forced a fumble when Jennings went streaking across the middle, but Jennings scooped it up quickly and kept going. Brown was there when Walker caught the ball in the red zone in practice as well.
• Lewis wasn’t bottled up all practice. Far from it, in fact. The lightning-quick back busted into open space on runs, and on catches out of the backfield. He got low to catch a touchdown pass from Mariota on a play from the eight-yard line, and on the very next play he caught a pass and raced to the pylon and scored.
• Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson had a good day as well. He was around the football on throws his way, especially in a red zone period. Jackson likely would’ve been flagged for a PI, however, when defending Walker in the end zone. He grabbed Walker on the shoulder as the ball sailed over his head.
• With tight end Phillip Supernaw not practicing, we’ve seen a lot of Luke Stocker so far this offseason. Second-year tight end Jonnu Smith is also getting a lot of reps, and he’s been making plays.
• Safety Johnathan Cyprien jumped up and stopped receiver Tajae Sharpe after he caught a ball in the red zone. He clearly diagnosed the play well.
• Running back Derrick Henry snuck into the end zone for a score on a pass thrown by Mariota.
• Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has impressed me with his arm strength, but he was clearly frustrated on Wednesday after a couple of botched snaps. Later, Gabbert lost control of the football while making a throw.
• Quarterback Luke Falk connected on a beautiful, 50-yard strike to receiver Jordan Veasy late in practice. Veasy, at 6-3, 221 pounds, has shown on a few occasions he can get open downfield. Falk has made some good throws early on, but he’s also made a few bad ones.
• Secondary coach Kerry Coombs got pretty red-faced when shouting at rookie defensive back Dane Cruikshank. I’m not sure what Cruikshank did to upset Coombs, but it sure left him screaming. Heck, maybe it was the music – Coombs last coached at Ohio State.
• Running back Akrum Wadley has had a few moments early on, and one of them came on Wednesday when he busted up the middle and into the open field. The undrafted free agent has a burst, no doubt.
• Inside linebackers coach Tyrone McKenzie coaches with great enthusiasm. He’s an encourager, and he doesn’t hesitate meeting a linebacker after a big play with jump, and mid-air collision. I’ve seen it with rookie Rashaan Evans, and I saw it Wednesday with veteran Wesley Woodyard.
• I know a lot of offensive highlights are featured in this report, but it should be said I think the defense has looked good. The quarterbacks have been forced to throw the ball away or at the feet of intended targets on numerous occasions during open OTAs, either because of a solid rush and/or tight coverage in the secondary.
• Receiver Rishard Matthews, tackle Jack Conklin, defensive lineman David King, linebacker Kevin Dodd and Supernaw did not take part in practice on Wednesday.
• Former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw attended practice, and it’s clear the love is still there from a new coaching staff and players. Shaw, who is battling ALS, was a popular man. One person after the next approached him as he made his way onto the field in his motorized wheelchair. Shaw is an inspiration to so many.