The Tennessee Titans are halfway through their second week of training camp, and recently completed their annual scrimmage at Nissan Stadium.
With their preseason home opener just days away, here’s five early takeaways from camp so far.
1. New Look – New Culture
Remember when the Titans were rumored to be a…cheap franchise?
Well, today they have a brand new facility, a brand new practice bubble, new seats in the stadium, it’s like a home-makeover show for NFL teams.
They also spent money on the field, bringing in several free agents while extending Delanie Walker…their best offensive weapon.
Ken Whisenhunt, Ruston Webster, Zach Mettenberger. The faces that became synonymous with Tennessee’s 5-27 record the last two years are all gone now.
The new additions (DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Ben Jones, Jack Conklin, Andre Johnson) are the faces that you see talking to reporters today, and it literally looks like a completely different team from a year ago.
That’s a good thing for a franchise that’s trying to change its image and culture of losing.
2. No 1-A
When Tennessee selected running back Derrick Henry in the second round of this year’s draft, local and national pundits wondered how the rookie would fit with newly acquired DeMarco Murray.
General manager Jon Robinson wasted no time in answering that question, stating that Murray and Henry are 1 and 1a.
A week and a half into training camp, and it appears that Murray is having none of that “1a” talk. He has been explosive in team drills, and has already been tagged as one of the most intense players on the practice field.
Henry, on the other hand, has been plagued by slow starts to practice according to head coach Mike Mularkey. The rookie rebounded Monday during the team scrimmage at Nissan Stadium with a goal line touchdown and several impressive runs overall.
Yet and still, Murray is far and away the number one running back on the roster right now.
3. Who’s number 3?
With Murray and Henry firmly entrenched as the top two backs on the roster, the battle for the third spot is starting to heat up. Second year back David Cobb has looked impressive the last few practices, and did especially good work in Monday night’s scrimmage.
Antonio Andrews was slowed a bit last week with an injury, but is back in the fold and looking to gain some momentum ahead of Saturday night’s preseason opener. Both should see plenty of reps in the game.
On the other hand, Bishop Sankey is seeing his reps decrease, and is currently on the outside looking in.
Dexter McCluster’s versatility and special teams value puts him in a different category from the others in this discussion.
4. Shakeup at wide receiver?
If the first ten days of training camp are any indication, then we may see a brand new set of starting wide receivers when the Titans open the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings.
Rookie 5th round pick Tajae Sharpe has not only been one of the best receivers in camp so far, but he’s also had arguably the best camp of any Titans player. Veterans and coaches alike have publicly complimented the UMASS product on his precise route running and consistent play.
Tre McBride, last year’s 7th round pick, has also looked impressive in the early part of camp, as has newly acquired free agents Andre Johnson and Rishard Matthews.
This puts last year’s starters Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Harry Douglas on serious notice.
Wright has missed virtually all of camp due to a hamstring issue, and is not scheduled to return for a couple of weeks.
DGB continues to struggle with inconsistent play. During Monday’s scrimmage, he let Jason McCourty rip the ball from his hands on a pass play, and it led to an interception by the defense. Coach Mularkey called him out for it after practice.
Harry Douglas has benefited from Wright’s missed time on the field, working in his place as the slot receiver. And Justin Hunter’s days seem to be numbered as he has done nothing to remove the JAG (Just A Guy) stigma placed on him last year by his position coach.
5. First official depth chart released
The Titans released their first official depth chart for the 2016-17 season, and a few things immediately leaped off the page.
On offense, the depth chart shows that coach Mularkey is serious about this exotic smash mouth approach with two tight ends listed in the base package. Delanie Walker is no surprise, but it’s worth noting that Craig Stevens is listed as the second starter, ahead of last year’s veteran free agent acquisition Anthony Fasano.
Stevens is younger and more physical as a blocker in the run game.
There is one wide receiver listed in the starting base package, and it’s rookie Tajae Sharpe. This is good for two reasons. 1. Sharpe has outplayed the other receivers so far. 2. It serves as a warning to the other returning veterans that few jobs are secure on this team, that the best players will make the 53-man roster.
On defense, last year’s starting front seven returns in tact. In the secondary, Jason McCourty and Perrish Cox reclaim their starting cornerback positions from a year ago, while newly acquired free agent safety Rashad Johnson replaces longtime Titan Michael Griffin.
But things get interesting when you continue to scroll down the list…
Last year B.W. Webb and Blidi Wreh-Wilson played significant minutes for the banged-up Titans secondary. Today they are both third-string corners that were supplanted by newcomers.
Free agent corners Brice McCain and Antwon Blake, as well as rookie 5th round pick LeShaun Sims sit ahead of BWW and BWW on the depth chart.
The secondary was the Achilles Heel of an otherwise solid defense last year, and we may be getting an early inkling as to who will take the blame.
2. no 1 a
3. who’s #3
4. Shakeup at wide receiver
5. first official depth chart