After a day off, the Titans were back on the practice field Wednesday. They were in shorts and shells, so it wasn’t a full padded practice, but there was some physical hitting nonetheless.
3rd Star: Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis both had good days, but Henry really stood out. He opened the team period with a really nice windback run off a zone look. That’s the second time I’ve seen that run open up big during practice and again Henry hit it hard and got in to the second level. Henry also stood out in ways that were encouraging for his overall development as a back. Possibly the hardest hit of practice was Henry stepping in to pick up a blitzing Jayon Brown in pass protection.
Henry also has been better than most would anticipate as a pass catcher. The Titans offense has spent a lot of time flexing backs out wide and letting them run routes as a receiver. Henry will never have the quicks of a guy like Dion Lewis, but he’s quite capable of doing some damage as a receiver and he gives Mariota a big target on slants. It was a good all-around day for the Titans young starting running back.
2nd Star: Adoree Jackson
While Malcolm Butler has grabbed the headlines with his interceptions in camp and feisty attitude, Jackson is quietly playing like a budding star. Today Jackson starred, making some great pass breakups. First he got Tajae Sharpe with his physicality on a hitch route, then he used his hops to sky with Corey Davis and punch the ball free on a fade route near the goal line. Jackson appears to be more physical at the line of scrimmage this year and has completely erased receivers at times during camp.
1st Star: Harold Landry
As Mo noted earlier this week, Landry has been getting a lot of extra reps with Brian Orakpo out with a shoulder injury. He took advantage of those reps today as he was a force on the edge against the Titans first team offensive line. Landry got sacks on back to back snaps at one point during the red zone period at the end of practice. Once winning with speed around the edge and then teaming up with Derrick Morgan to run a game on the right side of the Titans line with both rushers ending up in Mariota’s lap. Landry’s strength setting the edge has been good as well. It’s clear that he’s going to get a lot of snaps in this defense, even when Orakpo is healthy.
- Johnathan Cyprien: Cyprien went down with a left knee injury during practice today. After staying down for a moment, he was able to get up on his own and walk to the locker room without help. His frustration was clear though as he threw his helmet on the way off. Hopefully the injury is nothing serious. No news will qualify as good news here. If we get to tomorrow without an announcement about him being put on IR, that should tell us that he’ll be OK relatively soon.
- Malcolm Butler: Butler sat out today after appearing to turn an ankle on Monday. It didn’t appear to be anything serious at the time as he got tape and tried to go back in, but it appears the team is being extra cautious with all injuries.
- Rishard Matthews: Matthews got some good news today as Jonathan Hutton of Midday 180 reported that the Titans receiver was out running routes before practice today, something we haven’t seen from him until today. Hutton said that Matthews looked good, with no noticeable limp or restrictions. Hopefully that means we see him back on the field soon. It will be interesting to see what the offense looks like with their top three receivers together on the field. It will also be interesting to see where he slots in relative to Taywan Taylor.
- Brian Orakpo: No update on Rak as he continues to be held out with a shoulder injury.
- Jonnu Smith: Smith was back in action today and looking to be 100%.
- Rashaan Evans: Still no Evans today. This is the most mysterious of all the injuries.
- Luke Stocker: Stocker was back today as well.
- Jack Conklin: No update here. Conklin continues to watch practice remaining on the PUP list.
- Phillip Supernaw: Supernaw was out at practice today walking around and watching. I don’t think I had seen him out there previously, but he remains on the PUP list with a mystery injury.
- Overall, it was a decent day for the offense. The defense probably won overall again, but it wasn’t a complete shutout like it was on Monday.
- Mariota was sharper today I thought. He had one bad miss on a throw to Luke Stocker in the flats, but besides that he was mostly accurate. He continues to be exceedingly accurate on deep throws down the field. Fades and posts have been on the money from Mariota consistently in camp which bodes well for the offense’s ability to create explosive plays in the passing game this season.
- Corey Davis was back in action after getting a planned day off on Monday. He had a couple good moments. My favorite was a post route in the red zone working against Adoree Jackson in a 7v7 period. He did a great job of leaning in to Jackson at the top of the route before breaking back inside to create separation and then went up high to catch the ball in the back of the end zone. Really good stuff there. He did have a bad drop during a team period though. He got free deep on a post route and Mariota dropped a great ball in, but he bobbled it and eventually had it knocked away by the recovering defensive back.
- Taywan Taylor continues to stack good days on top of each other. He simply eats defensive backs alive during 1v1 drills with his quickness in and out of breaks and has no issues beating press coverage there. He also made a great contested catch in the middle of the field on a deep dig with at two or three defenders all converging on him. I’m not 100% sure that Matthews steps right back in to the #2 spot when he comes back.
- Jonnu Smith’s return produced one of the offensive highlights of the day as he took a tight end screen to the house with a great run after the catch. Smith looks like a stud.
- Guard Cody Wichmann got some run with the first team at left guard during a team period late in the practice. He’s pretty clearly third behind Quinton Spain and Kevin Pamphile as the Titans look at their options at left guard.
- Dion Lewis looked excellent on some catches out of the backfield. He is just ridiculously quick. He also took a carry around the corner for what would have been a touchdown during team period. The Titans backfield is going to be really good.
- Anthony Firkser continued to get some reps high in the rotation despite the return of Smith and Stocker. It’s clear that he has made an impression and he continued his good play today with a couple catches.
- It was a rough day for the backup quarterbacks. Gabbert had a couple nice throws, but also threw a few in to coverage and missed bad on a deep ball that should have been open. Falk also badly underthrew a deep post and generally struggled to get completions.
- Jet sweeps showed up in the offensive repertoire today as both Michael Campanaro and Darius Jennings got handoffs during team periods. That was a big part of the Rams offense in 2017 and it looks like it might pop up in Tennessee this year as well.
- I thought LeShaun Sims had his best day of camp today as he filled in for Malcolm Butler with the top defensive unit. He had a nice breakup against Nick Williams and looked like he belonged out there.
- After Cyprien went down with an injury, the first safety in to the starting rotation was Demontre Hurst. He’s consistently been playing high in the safety pecking order this camp and has a real shot at making the roster.
- Kendrick Lewis made his best play of camp today as well when he jumped in front of a Blaine Gabbert pass to make a diving interception (though I’m not 100% sure he held on to the catch).
- Austin Johnson had a really nice win versus Xavier Su’a-Filo in a pass rush drill between the offensive and defensive line as he used a nice club-rip combination to quickly dispose of his blocker.
- Bennie Logan flashed a couple times as a run plugger in team period. He is tough to move off the spot.
- The defense broke out a pass rush package featuring Aaron Wallace, DaQuan Jones, Derrick Morgan, and Harold Landry from left to right at one point today and it was quite effective, resulting in a split sack between Morgan and Landry. I would imagine that group will be Orakpo, Casey, Morgan, and Landry when everyone is healthy this season and that should be a ton of fun to watch.
- One defensive wrinkle I noted was a set that looked like man to man pre-snap, but morphed in to a cover 2 zone with cornerback Adoree Jackson dropping in to one of the deep half positions across from Kevin Byard. It was an interesting look.
- Josh Carraway flashed in team period with the 2nd team, picking up a sack on a nice speed rush around the right tackle.
Odds and Ends
- One thing that I like about Vrabel is that he really tries to bring the energy in practice. He sprints from station to station during individual periods and at one point ran by a group of offensive lineman, showing off his speed.
- Despite Landry’s overall strong day today, the battle between him and the Boss Hogg Taylor Lewan have been mostly one-sided in favor of the two-time Pro Bowler. That’s no surprise, but the cool thing to see is that Lewan makes a point to give Landry tips after each rep, trying to help the rookie improve. Working against Lewan will only make Landry better when he gets to have a go at lesser tackles.
- The handling of injuries has been a little frustrating for fans and media so far because the team simply doesn’t give any information about what’s happening with a player, but I will say that I think the very cautious approach with shutting guys down if they’re even a little banged up is a smart one. Being as healthy as possible entering the season is crucial for any NFL team. It seems like the Titans are monitoring practice reps and the amount of work that players put in on a day to day basis and giving days off to try to manage that workload.
- Tim Shaw was out at practice today. It’s always great to see him and the relationship he has with this team.
- The Titans got some kick return work in today and had five guys working as possible returners: Adoree Jackson, Michael Campanaro, Dion Lewis, Akrum Wadley, and Rico Gafford.
- The Titans are back at the normal practice time on Thursday morning at Saint Thomas Sports Park. On Friday they will travel down to Williamson County to practice at Centennial High School for their second annual “Friday Night Lights” practice. Then Saturday, they’ll host an open practice at Nissan Stadium from 3:30-6:00. Lots of good opportunities to come out and get a glimpse of the team.