Training Camp Road Trip – Tennessee Titans
Titans poised to play their way out of the cellar
After a soul crushing 2-14 season in 2014, the Tennesse Titans know they have an uphill battle to climb before they can compete in an improving division, and top heavy AFC. The good news for Tennessee, is they have the pieces in place to make those steady improvements, and can become relevant sooner rather than later.
Building the franchise around a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback has not always been a blueprint for success in the NFL, but in Marcus Mariota, the mold may have been broken.
Sunday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, the Titans held a spirited practice in the final practice open to the public in the preseason, and if not for a veteran offensive lineman trying to earn a starting role firing up the troops before things got going, it could have been a much different afternoon.
Byron Bell, in his fifth year out of New Mexico, joined the Titans after four seasons in Carolina, and the vet saw early signs in a walkthru session and the teams stretching that he didn’t like, and took it upon himself to speak up.
“I just wanted to get people out of a funk and bring enthusiasm to practice. I’ve been around long enough to know when you are coming off a game and a day off and then you have practice (it can be tough),’’ Bell said. “I just said something to hype the guys up and let them know you have people counting on you.”
After a very vocal conversation, the Titans broke the huddle and looked as if they were enjoying being at work before a packed sideline of fans.
“You have to have guys that buy in and believe in what we’re trying to get done and stand up and make those statements and I think it was effective. We had a good practice today,’’ Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “And it’s great to see leadership out of guys like that and we have gotten some of that. It was good.”
Good was an understatement for what I saw during the humid two hour work out.
Mariota was perfect during the days first team session versus the Titans defense, hitting on a variety of short passes to backs on screens, and shallow crosses to a bevy of tight ends and wide receivers. During the Sunday’s second team session, Marcus finished the day 5-of-6, and continues to look sharp and that he has a healthy understanding of the playbook.
Other bright spots from Sundays practice, receivers Doral Green-Beckham and Rico Richardson. DGB is going to be a star in the mold of Julio Jones and Dez Bryant, and has more natural ability than most his age and totally looks the part. By my count, not one ball hit the grass that was thrown in his direction today in any drill, one-on-one, pass skeleton, or team session. Richardson made a pair of big catches while running with the second unit, a 30+ yard catch and a 50 yard bomb for a score. Rico may get caught in the numbers game, but his work on tape is going to catch the eye of some team should he not make the 53-man roster in September.
The other thing that stuck out to me, and I feel will ultimately be the biggest asset to this Titans squad this year is its depth and experience.
If you look at this roster, it has a ton of names you recognize who are looking to restart, reinvigorate, or extend their careers. I am a firm believer that desperation makes the best motivator, and for a handful of players in uniform in Nashville this might be the “Land of Misfit Toys”, but I think it just might work.
Perrish Cox, Harry Douglas, Anthony Fasano, Jacoby Ford, Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Brian Orakpo. That is a seasoned foundation, and with their combined experience, that can only help this team mature and improve.