The injuries continued to pile up at Saint Thomas Sports Park today and Marcus Mariota had a day to forget as the Titans returned to the practice field after a day off on Sunday. Overall, this was probably the worst practice the Titans have had so far. As usual, I’ll have the three stars of practice along with injury updates and practice notes below.
3rd Star: Adoree Jackson
The defensive backs were a bright spot from beginning to end today and Jackson stood out the most to me among the corners. He had some nice wins during the 1v1 period against the wide receivers and then followed that up with a strong performance in team periods as well. His highlight for the day was a beautiful break on a Delanie Walker speed out where he cut under the route and used his inside arm to bat the ball down.
2nd Star: Kenny Vaccaro
All eyes were on the newest Titan as Vaccaro got his first real practice field work with the team since signing on Saturday morning. The first thing to note was that Vaccaro was the first safety up with the first team defense across from Kevin Byard. Rookie Dane Cruikshank rotated in with that group as well, but it was usually Vaccaro that got the first rep. Vaccaro’s athleticism and physicality were on display frequently as he was often around the ball and nearly came down with a diving interception on a Marcus Mariota deep ball during a team period. I think Titans fans are going to like Vaccaro (and I’ll have more on him soon here so stay tuned).
1st Star: Dane Cruikshank
It’s impossible to know if the addition of Vaccaro had anything to do with it, but this was pretty clearly Cruikshank’s best day of camp so far. Not only did he get a chance to work with the first team defense, but he flashed with some really great plays in run support. The highlight was a pitch left to Derrick Henry where Cruikshank quickly recognized the play and slashed through the defense to make a tackle for what would have been a big loss. He followed that up a few plays later with another nice stop.
- Corey Davis: This is obviously the big news of the day. Davis sat out practice today after reportedly leaving Saturday’s practice at Nissan Stadium early. Of course we don’t know anything about what that injury might be, but Vrabel did sound optimistic afterwards saying that “your buddy will be fine” referencing Davis. Obviously, Davis missing any time in camp creates widespread panic among Titans fans after last season, but luckily it sounds like this injury may be on the shorter end of the spectrum.
- Nate Palmer: This was a new injury from camp today as the veteran inside linebacker/special teams contributor was carted off with a leg injury. That’s never a good thing and there is a decent chance this spells the end of the line for Palmer in Tennessee as he was already on the roster bubble.
- Deontay Burnett: Because the football gods hate Tennessee Titan receivers, they also decided to strike one of the more promising young receivers with an injury today. Burnett made a catch — as he seemingly does every time he gets on the field — late in practice today, but went to the ground after getting his legs tangled with the DB. He got up limping and talked to trainers. No telling how serious this injury may or may not be, but I’m really hoping Burnett will be able to play on Thursday.
- Kendrick Lewis: Lewis was back on the practice field today, but did not participate in team periods or 7-on-7s from what I saw.
- Sharif Finch: Finch remains out with a mystery injury. It’s too bad since I thought he was flashing early in camp. Hopefully he gets back out there soon.
- Brian Orakpo: No update on Rak as he continues to be held out with a shoulder injury.
- Rashaan Evans: No update on Evans either, he remains out.
- PUP List: Jack Conklin, Rishard Matthews
- Injured Reserve: Johnathan Cyprien, Tye Smith
- Woof, this was a rough day all around for the offense, particularly Marcus Mariota. The Titans QB struggled throughout the day with accuracy, often leaving balls too high or behind the intended receivers. It was easily his worst day of camp, but luckily it came one day in the middle of August and not during a fall Sunday. ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky has talked again and again about how uncomfortable this offensive system can be for quarterbacks who are new to it, so we shouldn’t be surprised or alarmed by days like this. Just a bad day.
- Without Davis out there, the wide receivers struggled against the excellent first team secondary. Taywan Taylor had one of the better plays of the day when he did a great job holding on to a tough contested catch over the middle on a deep dig route.
- One of the interesting parts of seeing the wide receivers without Davis was seeing the rotation for the other starting spot opposite Taywan Taylor. Darius Jennings was typically the first man up with the 1s with Tajae Sharpe rotating in behind him.
- Sharpe was on the receiving end of Mariota’s best throw of the day though as he got a step behind Logan Ryan and Mariota dropped in a perfect ball for what would have been a long touchdown pass.
- The Titans worked on some sets with 3 tight ends on the field — Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, and Luke Stocker — early during practice. Stocker was often used as the fullback in those sets.
- Jonnu Smith flashed with a great sideline grab on an out route where he hauled in the pass and dragged his toes in bounds showing nice concentration to hold on to the ball through the ground. He’s had a really good camp.
- Enormous backup tight end Tim Semisch had a really nice touchdown catch during a red zone period when he went up and over his defender to snag a Blaine Gabbert fade pass in the back of the end zone.
- Dalyn Dawkins has been the less talked about UDFA running back behind Akrum Wadley, but Dawkins has made some plays over the last couple practices that I’ve seen. He’s very similar to Wadley in regards to size and speed. He used that speed to get the edge on an outside run today which went for a nice gain.
- Logan Ryan got beat by Sharpe on the play described above, but he also got an interception as a high Mariota throw fell out of Walker’s hands and Ryan did a nice job concentrating through contact to catch the ball for the turnover.
- Malcolm Butler had some nice moments again today, though he didn’t get any turnovers. He had great coverage on Darius Jennings on a deep ball and was able to break it up. Butler and Ryan have been rotating snaps opposite Jackson in the Titans base defense. I would expect Butler to get the majority of those snaps during the season, but that may vary from game to game depending on matchups.
- Aaron Wallace had a good showing today, setting the edge well on the run and then reading and reacting to a screen pass to stop Derrick Henry for a loss. He also got a good pass rush to put pressure on Mariota during a team period.
- Austin Johnson and DaQuan Jones both made splash plays in the middle of the defense during team periods. The Titans front seven looks like it is going to be stout once again this season.
- With Sharif Finch and Brian Orakpo out, there are more snaps to go around for the outside linebackers. Derrick Morgan and Harold Landry primarily worked with the first team while Aaron Wallace and Gimel President were the primary edge rushers with the second unit. President appears to be working above Carraway in the rotation right now for what that’s worth.
Odds and Ends
- Mike Vrabel stopped practice at one point after a false start by the third team offensive line. He huddled the entire team around and got the message across that he didn’t like the way things were going. Things seemed to pick up after that.
- The Titans kickoff their preseason slate this week with a road game in Green Bay on Thursday night. It’s a 7:00 PM Central Time kickoff.