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Tennessee Titans: Notes From OTAs and Minicamp

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The Tennessee Titans have wrapped up their offseason work, and there were things to take away from OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
The offseason is in full swing, and the Tennessee Titans have finished up their offseason work, with training camp the next big phase before preseason. With OTAs and minicamp in the books, let’s check in on what’s going on with the Two-Tone Blue.

Let’s go through them in order.
OC Matt LaFleur’s primary responsibility is to continue Mariota’s development and get the most out of his mouthwatering potential. That work has already started, as LaFleur has begun tweaking Mariota’s technique from the waist down, instructing him to throw from a “wider base”. We’ll see if this leads to more accuracy from the signal caller, who threw one too many interceptions in 2017.

Defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs could end up being the best signing of the offseason. We all know about his track record at Ohio State, but his ability to motivate players, especially established veterans, could prove huge for a Titans secondary that hasn’t been elite in about a decade.

It’s very normal for a rookie to have a tough learning curve, especially an inside linebacker who will be tasked with leading the defense and defending in multiple ways and in multiple schemes. Fans shouldn’t worry about Evans not being “where he needs to be” to start on defense. Head coach Mike Vrabel himself said that it’s okay and that there’s time to improve.
As the vice president of the Taywan Taylor Fan Club, it’s good news that he received some praise from new Titans WRs coach Rob Moore. Taylor didn’t have the impact many expected of him last season, but he wasn’t used in the ways that he consistently won in college. He’s in a battle for the Titans’ slot receiver position with Tajae Sharpe and others. He’s certainly more talented than his other competitors, but he needs to put it all together.

Veasy is an intriguing prospect due to his size and where he played in college. Veasy spent two season at Cal, playing a part-time role in both years. In his final season, he caught six touchdown passes. At 6-3, 225, Veasy provides a frame that the other Titans receivers simply don’t have, outside of Corey Davis. If Veasy continues to impress in practices throughout the offseason, he could secure a spot as the 5th or 6th receiver.

The Titans made a couple of roster moves at the end of minicamp, releasing WR Zach Pascal and DB Jeremy Boykins. They added WR Brandon Shippen and DB Jarell Carter in the process. Both are likely just camp bodies.




Dion Lewis says he and Derrick Henry can be NFL's best RB duo

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The Tennessee Titans' top two running backs couldn't look more different to observers. Derrick Henry stands tall at 6-foot-3, weighing an imposing 245 pounds. Newcomer Dion Lewis stands 5-foot-7, but after a few minutes of watching the 190-pound back run through arm tackles, it's clear he's not all that little.

There isn't a more diverse NFL backfield, and the Titans hope what makes them unique will also make them great together.

"I see him every day, so he's not as big as he was the first day," Lewis joked about Henry. "I don't know if I'm growing or he's shrinking."

Whether on the field or in fantasy football, one of the biggest storylines in Tennessee will be how Henry and Lewis split the running back load. They know there will be people who try to pit the two uber-competitive players against one another, because only one can be the starter. They don't believe it will work.

"We both know we're two good backs. We're pushing each other every day. We feel like we can be two of the best running backs in the league," said Lewis, who had 1,110 total yards and 10 total touchdowns in 2017. "We feel like we can be the best duo in the league."
That means they're aiming to surpass the Saints' Mark Ingram-Alvin Kamara tandem and the Falcons' Devonta Freeman-Tevin Coleman duo. Early looks at Henry and Lewis during offseason workouts show they might not be blowing smoke.

Though pundits will debate Henry vs. Lewis through the summer and fall, the backs are confident it will be Henry and Lewis, not Henry or Lewis. Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur says he has devised a scheme where both backs will have the opportunity to excel.
"They'll work together fine. I think they both have shown they don't have to be the guy to get 30 carries," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "Those 30-carry-a-game guys, I don't think they exist anymore."

Titans running backs coach Tony Dews added: "I don't view it as a problem. I'm fortunate to be in a situation where you have a group of guys that are all capable of playing well. I'll let coach LaFleur and coach Vrabel figure out the rep count, carry count."

Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner who is entering his third NFL season, will likely be the Week 1 starter for the first time in his career. He was the more effective back for Tennessee in 2017, rushing for a team-high 744 yards and five touchdowns despite taking a back seat to struggling veteran starter DeMarco Murray for much of the season.

For Henry, 2018 was supposed to be his season to own the Titans' backfield alone. But general manager Jon Robinson saw there was room for improvement, so the Titans signed Lewis and have assured a backfield share once again. The Titans aren't paying Lewis $6 million in 2018 to be a "breather" back.

"Until you get the pads on and really get going through the preseason, I look at them as 1A and 1B," LaFleur said last week. "I feel confident in both of those guys. They both bring a little different qualities to what they do. But I think we've got two really good backs that we're excited about."
They are physical backs who require strategic defensive planning by opposing teams. Both finished in the top-three in yards after contact last season.

Henry and Lewis say they have a great relationship, boosted by having neighboring lockers and maintaining frequent conversations on and off the field.

After organized team activities and minicamp practice drills, they can be seen together working on pass protection one-on-one or going over particular routes. There seems to be more of a natural camaraderie compared to the Murray-Henry duo from last season.

The Titans consider Henry a big first- and second-down back who has the ability to occasionally step in on third downs. Lewis is a more versatile player who can be effective on all downs, but will likely see a prominent role as a pass-catcher lined up out of the backfield and as a wide receiver.

Lewis saw a career-high 36 percent of the offensive reps in New England last season. With injury concerns and size limitations, there will likely be a cap on Lewis' workload. But he still could match or even surpass his workload from last season and still leave plenty on the bone for Henry.

Last season, Murray claimed 63 percent of offensive snaps to Henry's 40. A reasonable June estimate for 2018 would be a similar workflow, with Henry getting about 60 percent and Lewis 40 percent.

"We can help each other. We can both eat. We have a lot of confidence in our abilities," Lewis said with a smile. "And we both feel like we have something to prove. When I'm playing hungry and want to prove myself, that's when I'm at my best."




Tennessee Titans: Which button would you press?

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A fun game for Tennessee Titans fans.

You may have seen this already, but if you haven’t there is a tweet by ESPN that I think is really interesting for Tennessee Titans fans.
We are in the doldrums of the NFL calendar, so there isn’t a lot of hard, concrete news. That means it is a fun time to either look to the past, look to the future or speculate some fun scenarios.

Then that tweet popped up and I thought it would be interesting to think about what each button could be and try to figure out what would be the best case scenario for the Titans. There are two in particular that really intrigue me.

Let’s go through what each “button” would be:
This one is intriguing because if you are a Titans fan and you know this, you could live it up all you wanted to this year and just move forward with your alegiance towards the Nashville Predators, Memphis Grizzlies, the Vols, or another team.

Still, it kind of sucks dooming a team for half a century. Sure the Titans may not win a title this year, but you have to think over the next 51 years Tennessee will win more than one title right?

Blue Button:  Your team gets a new coach.

I don’t know that this appeals to Titans fans very much. I think the vibe on Vrabel right now is cautiously optimistic.

The most important thing he has going for him to this fan base is that he isn’t Mike Mularkey. On top of that, he is a young rising coach that has ties to New England and whose body of work Jon Robinson was very familiar with.

The thought is that with these two leading the team off the field and with a talented roster, the team is in good shape.

I think that if you are trying to sell someone as a HC that might be better, guys like Lincoln Riley and Dabo Swinney are names that could excite you but there is no “dream coach” out there right now.

Green Button: Trade your best player for the NFL’s best player.
That is really interesting. First of all, I assume tat the Titans best player is either Marcus Mariota, Taylor Lewan or Jurrell Casey.

Then the NFL’s best player is who? Tom Brady? No thanks, he is already talking about retirement and I can’t see him going for three more years.

Aaron Rodgers? Ok, now we are talking…but I still think that the way he views his contract would make him hard to keep on a roster long term.

This one is tough, but it would probably be great for the Titans short term unless you think Mariota will be the best QB in the NFL next year.

Pink Button: Free season tickets for life.

If they are box seats then it is almost impossible to turn this one down if you are just thinking about yourself. I mean, if you get the best seats in the house, you are looking at $130,000 per year.

So I mean, yea I am not turning down a million dollars every 8 years.

Yellow Button: Suit up for one game with your favorite team.

Hahahaha. Absolutely not. I’m not getting destroyed on the field.

Orange Button: Your team gets the #1 prospect for the next two years

If I am thinking about the best thing for the team and money is not an option to me then this is what I pick.
This year, the top prospect is either Nick Bosa or Ed Oliver. Let’s say it is Bosa because EDGE>IDL.

In the 2020 NFL Draft the top prospects will probably be either Dylan Moses, Cam Akers, Jaelen Phillips, or a QB. If I am playing just for the Titans, I would probably say Dylan Moses.

So now this is your projected defense in 2020 would be:

EDGE: Harold Landry, Nick Bosa

DL: Jurrell Casey, Austin Johnson, DaQuan Jones

LB: Dylan Moses, Rashaan Evans

CB: Adoree Jackson, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler

S: Kevin Byard, Dane Cruickshank

That would be a top-5 defense in the NFL with 5 players on rookie contracts.

What would I pick?

-For me: Pink Button

-For the Tennessee Titans: Orange Button

Spending all your other money and resources into offense while having an elite young defense would be amazing. In this dream scenario, this would be my best case scenario.





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