Checking in on the latest observations and updates coming out of Titans training camp, which ended last Friday, and the first official week of Titans practices on Sunday and Monday… These notes go back to the resumption of practices last Friday following Thursday’s one-day stoppage as the team met to raise awareness and create change for social justice initiatives.
1. Ryan Tannehill’s strong performances continue
Multiple writers out at Titans practice continue to comment on how in-command Ryan Tannehill looks. Reports on Friday indicated a high-volume day for Tannehill that resulted in completions to numerous different receivers at all levels of the field.
During a red zone drill on Sunday, Tannehill reportedly finished 8 of 9 with a couple touchdowns, the only incompletion coming on a dropped pass.
It’s been noted also that Tannehill has connected downfield on a number of throws, including to Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Anthony Firkser, Jonnu Smith, and others. Hitting lots of different receivers usually means the quarterback is dialed in.
A 30-yard completion from Tannehill to Smith over Kevin Byard in coverage was noted as the “play of the day” at Monday’s practice by multiple Titans beat writers.
2. Checking in on the backup QB battle
After a reportedly rough start to on-field training camp practices, Logan Woodside has bounced back with a stronger performances of late. Jim Wyatt was complimentary of Woodside’s day on Friday, noting that he got “hot” in a late two-minute drive. Vrabel was also complimentary of the young signal-caller.
Trevor Siemian is settling in as well, throwing touchdowns during red zone drills on Friday. However, he also made a few bad throws on Sunday, including one that was intercepted by seventh-round rookie Chris Jackson.
3. Derrick Henry: Route runner?
The Titans’ Jim Wyatt, our own John Glennon, and others have noted the extra work Derrick Henry does each day catching footballs with assistant coaches and teammates.
In addition to these pass-catching drills with teammates, Derrick Henry has been doing extra pass-catching each day with an assistant coach. Originally tweeted by John Glennon (@glennonsports) on August 31, 2020.
At Sunday’s practice, Jim Wyatt noted that Henry was actually running routes against linebackers, and he later caught a pass from Tannehill in a team period.
This is an interesting development to track as the Titans try to remain unpredictable when switching up their running back personnel. Will Henry be used more in the passing game? As far as I’m concerned, the more touches for Henry, the better.
4. Kicker competition: new (old) blood?
Using Jim Wyatt’s practice reports from Friday and Sunday, and noting that there was no open kicking on display Monday, I’ve done some math to update the numbers for the two kickers currently on the roster as tracked during the open portions of practice, as follows:
- Greg Joseph: 42-of-49
- Tucker McCann: 42-of-48
Note that these numbers include the attempts from the same distances. They are different from the team’s “situational” practice period, but luckily, Jim Wyatt had some additional notes on the kicking during that session:
- Tucker McCann made one from 58 yards
- Greg Joseph made one from 55 yards
- Tucker McCann missed from 57 yards
- Greg Joseph missed from 53 yards
Jim’s kicking update thanked Erik Bacharach of The Tennessean and Turron Davenport of ESPN, so I feel inclined to mention them as well.
Overall, the competition between Joseph and McCann seems to be pretty even, at least based on these numbers. Joseph has received praise from the coaching staff and finished last season in Nashville, so it would make sense for him to have the upper hand by default.
It’s unclear if the team is dissatisfied with the kicking thus far or if Jon Robinson and Vrabel simply want to be as prepared as possible for a COVID-related disaster, but either way, two veteran kickers have been brought to the facility, recently clearing the COVID testing protocols necessary to workout for the team.
One, former longtime Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, recently bought a home in Nashville, leading many to speculate on his potential to join the Titans considering all the Patriots connections in the Titans organization. Gostkowski won three super bowls in New England but missed most of last season with an injury. The Patriots decided to move forward without the 14-year veteran in 2020.
The other veteran try-out is longtime Seahawks kicker Stephen Hauschka, a 12-year verteran who most recently kicked for the Buffalo Bills. Hauschka owns the NFL record for most consecutive field goals made from beyond 50 yards and didn’t miss any games last season. He only missed 2 kicks from inside 50 yards in 2019 and just 2 extra points in 32 tries, but he had the worst year of his career on kicks from 50 yards or further, making just 1 of 5 attempts.
The kicker situation is yet to be resolved two weeks from the Titans’ Monday Night Football opener at Denver (where kicking should be easier through the thinner air, if that has any importance).
5. Isaiah Wilson is still massive
We don’t get video from the portions of practice with actual live contact, but we still get these videos demonstrating rookie tackle Isaiah Wilson’s mammoth-like size towering over all of his coaches and teammates.
This isn’t an impressive block by any means—clearly MyCole Pruitt is going half-speed (as he should in this walkthrough setting)—but the sheer airspace that Wilson occupies while existing is plenty impressive enough for me #BlockOfThickness.
Here’s another video of Wilson working on his cut blocking technique:
6. Kalif Raymond’s dazzling footwork
Kalif Raymond has received buzz since Titans training camp started and it doesn’t seem to be going away now that practices are here. Raymond continues to cook his teammates in one-on-one’s with precise footwork and route-running.
While he may not be in line for huge production this season, he seems well positioned to make the roster as the primary deep threat, which will be an important although not prolific role.
His continued emergence puts added pressure on Cam Batson and Rashard Davis to make an impact on special teams if they want the best chance to make the roster.
Adding a short-area and red zone element to his game would allow Raymond to be a more consistent contributor on the field. At WR4, he would be an “injury away” from a pretty substantial role on offense.
7. Still searching for a punt returner
The Titans of course haven’t resolved the punt returner situation yet, either. Until Monday, the main candidates for the job seemed to all be wide receivers: Humphries, Rashard Davis, Raymond and UDFA rookie Mason Kinsey.
That changed on Monday, when veteran cornerback Adoree’ Jackson joined the group fielding practice punts.
Jackson was of course highly touted as an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands coming out of USC back in 2017, but after a couple seasons trying him as the primary punt returner, the Titans have gone with other options. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t worked out for Jackson as a punt returner, despite the immense strides he’s taken as a shutdown cornerback.
I would expect Jackson to get more practice fielding punts in case of an emergency situation, but my guess is this is Rashard Davis’s job to lose (as well as his path to making the final roster).
8. Injuries and absences
Vic Beasley’s status for the regular season debut continues to be up in the air. Mike Vrabel said today that there is still no timetable for his return.
One way or another, this situation will resolve itself by Saturday, September 5th, when final rosters must be submitted to the league office.
That means Beasley will be removed from the NFI list and activated for the start of season, or else he’ll be placed on PUP or IR—which would make him inactive for at least the first six or eight games, respectively.
John Glennon has more on Beasley coming Tuesday morning to Broadway Sports, so check back soon.
On Monday, in addition to Beasley, the following players were not seen on the practice field, per Jim Wyatt’s report:
- Receiver A.J. Brown
- Receiver Cameron Batson
- Cornerback Kareem Orr
- Cornerback Kristian Fulton
- Safety Dane Cruikshank
- Running back Darrynton Evans
- Guard Jamil Douglas
- Tackle Dennis Kelly
It will be considered “too early to panic” about any of these unexplained absences (which may or may not be injury-related) until Thursday, September 10th. That’s the day we should get our first Titans injury report for the Week 1 matchup in Denver.
If any of these absences show up in a week and a half, then you have my permission to panic.