It took several months for the Tennessee Titans to reconstruct their identity of a timing-based passing offense to an “exotic” smash-mouth one.
But it only took a few days for the new identity to be tested…
Much has been made of head coach Mike Mularkey’s vision of becoming a physical running team this offseason. It’s been the lead story all spring and summer in Nashville.
Running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, newly acquired center Ben Jones, and rookie first round pick Jack Conklin garnered much of the offseason attention.
Something that I’m sure wasn’t lost on the defensive side of the ball.
Tennessee’s defense improved by leaps and bounds last year, jumping 15 spots in total yards allowed in 2015.
In fact, one could argue that the defense played well enough for the Titans to have won a few more games than they did, and somehow they entered training camp with little to no fanfare.
The guys on defense are a prideful bunch. They know the offense wants to impose their will this year…this training camp. They embrace the challenge.
They were also the 8th best unit in the league in yards per carry allowed last year, and rarely conceded a big play on the ground.
Translation…the new-look offensive won’t have to travel far to find a willing sparring partner for their new physical philosophy, they will see them everyday in practice.
Running the ball and stopping the run often comes down to a test of wills, and we’ve already seen some tremendous battles in the trenches so far in camp.
As to be expected, the defense looks much sharper in team drills right now, but the new-look run game has shown early signs of life.
Rookie right tackle Jack Conklin has looked impressive early on, drawing praise from Marcus Mariota and new offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
DeMarco Murray’s presence is being felt already, on and off the field. He’s been explosive in team drills, and has already earned a reputation of being the most intense player on the practice field.
His veteran presence and league success gives the team a much-needed culture changer in the locker room.
Free agent center Ben Jones is as physical as advertised, and Quinton Spain has been solid at left guard early on.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan seems to have matured, coming into training camp in the best shape of his career. He will need to play his best this season if Tennessee’s new identity has any chance of working.
If you’re the Titans then you want to see both sides of the ball find success this training camp, with the overall objective of developing a physical team mentality.
With the smash mouth mindsets of the offense and defense this year, that may happen by default this training camp.
As for the offense, if they are able to win their fair share of run game battles against their own stout front seven, then it bodes well for success in the regular season.