The Titans and Patriots squared off at Saint Thomas Sports Park today in the first of two joint practices between the two teams. The day got started off on a fun note with Tom Brady and his former teammate Mike Vrabel exchanging verbal jabs as the quarterback walked out onto the practice field.
A few minutes later, the 42-year old Brady dispatched the Patriots rookies to go sing happy birthday to the 44-year old Vrabel.
Patriots players serenading Mike Vrabel before practice pic.twitter.com/2eMufcMBYn— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
I’ll get into videos and my observations from watching the Titans offense compete against the Patriots defense today, but first, let’s check in on the Titans injury situation.
The Titans had another wide receiver go down with an injury issue today as Adam Humphries left with a trainer midway through a team period and did not return. There was no big fall or collision with him and he didn’t seem to be limping at any point so it’s unclear what the issue might have been, but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Delanie Walker didn’t practice for a third straight day. Mike Vrabel continues to suggest that this is just maintenance for the 35-year old tight end. We will see if he’s out there tomorrow.
Cameron Batson and D’Andre Walker: On IR and won’t play in 2019.
Jonnu Smith, Ryan Succop, and Jeffery Simmons: On PUP, but working towards a return. The team seems to think Succop will be ready for the regular season. Smith did some extensive work on the side field today, running routes at what looked to be 80-90% effort while sporting a knee brace. That’s the most I’ve seen him do up to this point.
Derrick Henry: Henry was also seen doing side work with the injured players today. He wore a compression sleeve on his lower leg, but looked to be moving around well. That’s certainly progress for the big back as he recovers from a calf strain suffered on day one of camp.
Nate Davis: No sign of Davis at all again today as the rookie right guard continues to recover from a mystery injury. It’s highly unlikely that he will play in the preseason game on Saturday and the time for him to make a serious challenge to earn a starting job is beginning to run out.
David Fluellen: No Fluellen today either. He continues to miss time with an ankle injury. Dion Lewis and Jeremy McNichols are handling the heavy lifting at running back with the top groups.
Frank Herron: The big defensive lineman returned to practice today. I think he’s got a lot of work to do to make the roster.
Adam Humphries: Humphries is the one of two new additions to this list and he’s one that no Titans fan wanted to see land here. As mentioned up top, he walked off with a trainer during a team period and was not seen again. No word on what the injury might be.
James Folston: Folston — the Titans recently signed outside linebacker — left practice early with a trainer. He’s a guy that is unlikely to make the roster, but this is a position that the Titans seem to be struggling with from a numbers standpoint.
A.J. Brown had his most active practice of camp today as he got work in all periods, though he did seem to still be on a bit of a rep count. Here is Brown getting some work in an early individual drill.
AJ Brown in action in individual drills pic.twitter.com/YROM2J9lhT— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
The Titans receivers and tight ends really struggled against the Patriots secondary during the one on one period of practice. Here, Anthony Firkser gets bodied off his route by J.C. Jackson who picks off Marcus Mariota. Not much Mariota could do here as Jackson basically ran the route for Firkser and during one on ones, there are no options for other spots to throw the ball.
Firkser gets bodied off the route by JC Jackson pic.twitter.com/wtQp5MC68N— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
A few reps later, undrafted rookie Anthony Ratliff-Williams managed to get deep against Stephon Gilmore, but Ryan Tannehill’s pass overshot him.
Ratliff-Williams vs Gilmore with an overthrow from Tannehill pic.twitter.com/DlPNbd9Gvn— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
This entire period was just a mess from the Titans offense. Here, Taywan Taylor runs a great route — check out that quick inside release — to beat J.C. Jackson, but Mariota’s throw is too high.
Taywan Taylor getting good separation, but the throw fails him pic.twitter.com/17ePxdaGmh— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
And it wasn’t just on the quarterbacks either. Patriots defensive backs had great coverage consistently and a couple normally sure-handed receivers — Tajae Sharpe and Cody Hollister — dropped a couple balls that should have been caught as well.
A period that is designed to favor the offense and should see receivers win close to 80% of reps, had entirely too many passes hit the ground. I’d be shocked if the Titans completed more than 40% of their attempted passes during this period (which is awful). It should be noted, however, that Corey Davis was completely held out of this period and I believe A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries only got one rep each.
Unfortunately, that was the only competitive period that we were allowed to video so there aren’t many great shots of Titans having success today, but here is the best play of that period. Tajae Sharpe makes a one handed grab going out of bounds (which is naturally the one play where someone walked right in front of my view).
My view of the best play from one on ones today as Tajae Sharpe made a one handed grab going out of bounds (and of course dude walked right in front of the shot) pic.twitter.com/OccQCguRY4— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
Luckily, things would only get better from there, but that was a rough start to say the least.
Setting aside the horrible one on one period, the Titans offense was up and down for the rest of the day. There were a few explosive plays, but I’d say the biggest theme was a lack of ability for receivers to get open against a tough Patriots secondary. Corey Davis was on the field only sparingly and while A.J. Brown did far more work than he has before, he still didn’t take what I would consider to be a full compliment of reps. Combine that with Adam Humphries leaving early and Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith not practicing, and you have a pretty bare bones group of pass catchers on the field. There was a lot of snaps featuring Darius Jennings, Tajae Sharpe, MyCole Pruitt, and Kalif Raymond (in the slot) with Marcus Mariota. Things would have to go really wrong for that group to ever see the field together in the regular season.
I focused on the Titans offense against the Patriots defense today so almost all of these notes focus on that side of the ball. I’ll be watching the Titans defense against the Patriots offense tomorrow so check back for those notes tomorrow.
- A.J. Brown didn’t get a ton of reps, but he made them count, including turning in the play of the day for the Titans offense. Brown took off deep down the left sideline with Jason McCourty trailing him in man coverage, then made an outstanding adjustment as he tracked the ball over his outside shoulder and pulled it in while sliding to the ground through contact from McCourty. The play showed off the natural tracking and ball skills that made Brown one of the best receiver prospects in the draft. It was great to see him getting back into the mix.
- Brown had the individual play of practice, but Taywan Taylor was the standout player of the day. He hauled in two deep bombs — one from a Mariota and one from Tannehill — in addition to a couple other nice grabs during seven on seven and team periods. He even had a nice leaping catch on a corner route, complete with a sideline toe tap. After a horrific preseason opener, Taylor has responded with his best week of practice as a Titan. It will be interesting to see if he can carry that over to a game situation Saturday night.
- The starting offensive line was once again Dennis Kelly-Rodger Saffold-Ben Jones-Kevin Pamphile-Jack Conklin from left to right. It seems that Pamphile and Jamil Douglas are the frontrunners for the open right guard spot right now, but there is still time for others to get in the mix.
- Speaking of the offensive line, it seemed like the Titans found more running room against the Patriots defense than they generally have against their own defense today. Dion Lewis and Jeremy McNichols both had several nice runs.
- Taylor Lewan continues to work with the second team and he’s an absolute animal out there. Being without him for the first four weeks is going to be painful.
- During team periods, Mariota hit Sharpe several times, particularly finding success on out routes towards the sidelines.
- Mariota was clearly the better Titans quarterback today. Tannehill struggled in team periods, throwing two interceptions — including a pick six to J.C. Jackson — and taking a couple sacks.
- Mariota had a nice moment of improvisation during one team period play. After faking an outside zone right, the quarterback rolled left and flicked a side armed pass around an oncoming defender to find Anthony Firkser in the flat.
- Adam Humphries had a rare drop during practice just before leaving the field with a trainer. The Titans slot receiver had gotten behind the defense on a skinny post and Mariota dropped a perfect throw in the bucket, but it went right through Humphries’ arms. I believe that is the first drop that I’ve seen from him so far.
Jason McCourty on getting to practice with his former teammates pic.twitter.com/za2iUB0CHG— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
Taywan Taylor on continuing to correct mistakes, even after a strong day of practice. pic.twitter.com/vWf0BfrwC2— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) August 14, 2019
I’ll be back out there tomorrow to watch the Titans defense take on Tom Brady. Make sure to check back here for more notes and videos.