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Marcus Mariota Back on the Practice Field

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And three other notes from day one of Phase 3 of OTAs.

NFL: Tennessee Titans-Minicamp Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans took a brief break from waving towels, shotgunning tallboys, and slinging catfish to practice a little football today. Marcus Mariota was able to participate in both individual and team drills today which qualifies as a pleasant surprise considering the company line this offseason has been that he would be held out until training camp.

Getting Mariota on the same page as new weapons Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Jonnu Smith as quick as possible will be critical for the Titans success this year, especially early in the season. Obviously the Titans are going to be even more careful than usual with Mariota. Mularkey spoke after practice about his emphasis on keeping Marcus clean during drills.

"I’m pretty adamant in team meetings about staying away from the quarterback," Mularkey said. "No matter what the drill is, I don’t care, stay away from all the quarterbacks. Not just Marcus."

Orakpo knows better than to get anywhere near the red jerseys.

“I was just messing with Marcus,” Orakpo said. “Stay away from 8! That’s the franchise. That’s the golden child.’ We always give him a hard time. … It was great to have him out there, but I’m not going to rush anywhere near Marcus. We all understand the bigger picture and we want him to be ready to go Week 1.”

Here are links to all the Titans post-practice interviews and press conferences posted on TitansOnline.com.

Mularkey Press Conference

Mariota Press Conference

Locker Room Interviews

Mariota coming back wasn’t the only takeaway from today’s practice though. Here are three more.

1. Kevin Dodd, Sylvester Williams, and Karl Klug out, Corey Davis in

Klug and Williams are no surprise here as Klug recovers from surgery to repair his torn Achilles and Williams is recovering from ankle surgery (lots of ankle injuries on this team right now). Williams is the only one of those three that Mularkey thought might end up participating in this part of OTAs. The most concerning one is obviously Dodd whose foot still isn’t pain free almost 6 months after being shut down in late November. Mularkey on Dodd:

“Dodd is working, I don’t anticipate him doing anything in the OTAs right now. Again, we’ve waited this long, we’re just gonna make sure when he does come back he’s full go and there’s no more issues. So I don’t foresee him working.”

Later, Kuharsky asked a follow up on Dodd asking if Mularkey thought Dodd had a chance to be himself first day of training camp, and his response was “yeah, yeah I do” so at least that sounds somewhat positive. A healthy Dodd would make a massive difference for this team. Obviously he provides good depth behind Orakpo and Morgan, but the team has also hinted at the idea of getting him on the field with those two for some special pass rush packages. Its easy to forget how good Dodd looked in that Lions game early last season given all the health issues since.

Corey Davis is recovering from his own ankle injury, but he was able to participate in team drills today. Mularkey did indicate that the team is being careful with his reps though. He is on a strict rep schedule which keeps him out of dangerous situations and is currently being held out of one-on-one drills until they feel like the risk of re-injuring that ankle is behind them.

Getting Davis as many reps with Mariota as possible is obviously a priority for this part of the offseason. Timing in the passing game is so important and that can only be developed by taking as many reps together as possible.

2. Newcomers making early impacts

During Mularkey’s press conference, he went out of his way to talk about Brown’s potential role in sub-packages which I thought was telling. We all had a feeling that Brown might have been targeted in the draft with the Sean Spence role of sub-package, coverage linebacker in mind, but this confirms it. Go check out the Mularkey press conference linked around the 2:30 mark. Brown is the only name he mentions and he mentions him without any prompt from the question. Sounds like Jayon has made an early impression on the coaching staff.

Mike Mularkey described Logan Ryan as “impressive” in his first day of competitive practice and referenced a great play on a pass intended for Rishard Matthews on the first rep of one-on-ones. That is certainly what you want to hear about your marquee free agent signing of the offseason.

3. Mularkey talks about player improvement

This one was kind of vague, but Mularkey had an interesting quote about players who have stepped up their game.

“You see some players who have stepped up their games. You usually see that after the draft and especially at positions where guys have been drafted. Especially early draft picks. You see other guys pick up their game which is natural.”

I was a little surprised that no one followed up with a “who specifically” question, but if you want to read between the lines a little bit, I think you can guess that Tajae Sharpe, LeShaun Sims, and Phillip Supernaw would be among the prime suspects there. Sharpe was among starters during the first snaps of team drills and it seems he will be putting up a fight to keep his job this summer (I swear no pun intended). Competition in camp an only be a good thing for this team, so hearing a comment like that from Mularkey is extremely encouraging to me.