Sharpe’s stock continues to rise. The late round pick came into Nashville with a ton of college production but lacking the ideal measurable. Long-story short: he’s not a guy Ruston Webster would likely have drafted. Sharpe has flashed reliable hands and crisp route-running throughout both the rookie minicamp and now in training camp. It has been so long since the Titans hit on a receiver, let alone a late round flier, that we really don’t know how to react. While we are busy figuring that out though, he is climbing the depth chart and is now slated to start. Sharpe brings a consistency and technique rarely seen in rookie receivers, and his impact has been recognized by just about everyone who has followed the Titans of late, including the national outlets. Some had speculated that his minicamp performance might not match up when the players put on pads, but that opinion has not been founded thus far. Tennessee might just have found themselves a real gem.
The decorated Alabama back, like Sharpe, carries a ton of production. However, production for running backs comes with the caveat of wear-and-tear. Double, Alabama running backs have been a risky choice in the NFL, not that this really means anything across many years; one back is not alike another, the college they went to really doesn’t impact that. Henry sometimes plays with a high pad level, something that will need to be corrected at the pro-level. But he has the rare combination of power and speed that all the premier backs possess, and he is showing it in camp. During the Titans first scrimmage, Henry stood out in a big way, flashing good vision and burst to carve up big gains against a defense that has been very solid. The good news is that he comes into a great situation; he can spell Demarco Murray and learn from him without the immense pressure that often gets to high-round pick skill players. So far, Henry looks like he could be the real deal.
One thing I have not noticed this year (at least not nearly to the same degree) is the tracking of Mariota’s numbers through camp. It is something that we did with Jake Locker every year he was a Titan, and it was no different with Marcus last year. However, it has been quietly accepted that he is the leader of this group, and that he is going to put up one solid performance after another. At this point in camp, Mariota has looked very sharp in both his delivery and his decision-making, dissecting some complex defensive packages and running complicated offensive schemes. He is the unquestioned face of the franchise, and for good reason. He’s going to light it up regardless of what’s going on around him, and everyone knows it.
Honorable Mention: Jack Conklin and the offensive line.
Head Coach Mike Mularkey said it recently and it deserves mention here as well; the offensive line has been very solid. Despite strong showings from the defensive side of the ball, the O-line, and guys like rookie first-rounder Jack Conklin in particular have shown their worth consistently. That is a far cry from last season, where the group constituted one of the worst units in football. Hopefully camp is not an aberration, and the group is finally, with the help of some new talented additions, putting it all together.
I hate putting Green-Beckham here, because I believe he is going to be a very good player in the long run. That said he has logged some less-than-inspiring performances in camp thus far. During the scrimmage, he caught all four passes thrown his way, but I don’t think it’s simply the act of receiving that has drawn the attention of coach Mularkey. Green-Beckham needs to continue to work to refine the other areas of his game and show consistent effort. Like I said, I say he puts it together and has a great year, but he hasn’t had the flawless camp that you would want to see from an up-and-comer who is supposed to be the cure to the team’s vertical passing ills.
Wright’s stock is harmed only by his injury. Mularkey recently stated that the knock will keep Wright out for at least another week, at minimum. That will have set Wright back two valuable weeks of camp. The shifty receiver has seen his production decline over the past two seasons, and while he provides potentially electric playmaking ability in the underneath zones, it is crucial that he and Mariota can work together as much as possible. Mariota will ply his trade with a lot of those underneath routes where Wright should excel, but they can’t work on it with half the equation off the field. It seems that Wright will be operating primarily from the slot position this coming season, which is right where he should be. Maybe the delineation pays big dividends in 2016?
We have heard a lot about Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry. We’ve even heard a lot of positives about David Cobb. But we have heard precious few comments about the former Washington running back whom the Titans made the first runner taken in the 2014 draft. Sankey had more exposure last year during camp with a thinner roster, and still spent much of 2015 inactive. With other backs like Antonio Andrews and Dexter McCluster vying for snaps, there has been little room for Sankey to put forward anything less than a solid camp performance. He needed to turn some heads, and he has failed to do that. At this point it is unlikely that Sankey makes the team, a truly disappointing return on what should have been a valuable asset to the Tennessee ground game.