The Titans held their first practice in front of fans Monday evening at Nissan Stadium. Here’s what I saw.
Before the players even took the field, the team’s media department made an exciting announcement. A new documentary series, entitled “A Titans Story: Mississippi Made”, is to be released on youtube soon.
The production will chronicle the paths taken by star players A.J. Brown and Jeffrey Simmons through Mississippi high school and college football programs. It will detail their rivalry, as Simmons played at Mississippi State and Brown at Ole Miss, and their journies to being drafted to the same team in 2019.
Once the players took the field, they entered a drill period. Notable absences included RB Darrynton Evans and kicker Tucker McCann. Both players left Tennessee’s preseason opener Friday night with injuries.
Evans pulled up lame in the first half with a knee, and McCann’s foot was rolled up on during a long field goal attempt. Though neither made an appearance Monday night, coach Vrabel didn’t seem too concerned about either player having a long road to recovery in a press conference over the weekend.
Taking over kicking duties for McCann at practice was Sam Ficken, who had a very strong day. In a series of consecutive kicks during the team period, Ficken went 8/9, good from 44, 30, 33, 31, 41, 44, 53, 33. His sole miss sailed wide right from 38.
Also making an appearance was Bud Dupree, practicing full-out for the first time in front of fans. He looked healthy and ready to play.
However, his defensive teammate Caleb Farley, the team’s rookie first-round cornerback, did not strike me as fully ready. Though certainly engaged, even sticking around afterward to chat with fans, he seemed to still be taking things slow. In the open-field tackle drill, he gingerly attempted to get in front of his partner’s juke, making less of an effort than the others participating. I got the impression he’s still having to hold himself back, perhaps at the request of team medical staff. Farley is coming off of two back surgeries in the past year.
the biggest appearance of the night came mid-practice when Julio Jones came walking out of the tunnel with A.J. Brown. Wearing his number two practice jersey, a visor, and tennis shoes, Jones was there just to be a part of the team. His image on the jumbotron was met with applause by all the fans in attendance.
In the offensive line group, starters Taylor Lewan and Rodger Saffold were joined by David Quessenberry, Daniel Munyer, and rookie Dillon Radunz in the first group during drills. Radunz was lining up at right guard.
after practice had wrapped, Radunz remained focused and working on his footwork alone on the field. He kept at it until after all the players and coaches had long left.
Ryan Tannehill had an overall good night, suffering an interception early but bouncing back with a couple of really nice throws. One of his longest completions of the evening was to speedy Chester Rogers, who snuck behind Kevin Byard in the backfield. His best connection was to Josh Reynolds streaking downfield, getting behind Kristian Fulton to make the catch.
Reynolds had a promising practice, noting to the media afterward that he’s been dealing with an Achilles strain. He said the injury bothers him more on some days than others, and that it’s something new he did here in Tennessee. Mike Vrabel said after practice that he thought Reynold started poorly, but he liked how he bounced back to have a nice day.
On the defensive side of the ball, second-year DL Larrell Murchison had a standout team period, tipping a pair of Tannehill’s passes. One tip resulted in the only interception of the night, snagged out of the air by Kevin Byard.
Cornerbacks Breon Borders and Chris Jones knocked a couple of passes away, and LB Jayon Brown had a nice pass break-up down the middle intended for TE Anthony Firkser.
The growing concern for Tennessee at the safety position got worse when recently signed veteran safety Tedric Thompson went down with a leg injury. He was carted off the field. Depth at safety is in question, with Matthias Farley, Dane Cruikshank, and rookie Brady Breeze all missing practice Monday. the Titans signed two additional safeties Monday afternoon, Clayton Geathers and Bradley McDougald.
After Monday’s practice, the Titans are headed down to Tampa Bay to participate in joint practices with Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers. Tennessee plays Tampa in their second preseason game this Saturday.