Tennessee Titans: First Impressions from Training Camp
The Tennessee Titans held their first training camp practice of 2014 on Saturday surrounded by a swarm of about 2,500 fans.
The team won't begin to use pads until Monday, but the offense has gotten off to an encouraging start. With 90 players currently on the roster, the coaching staff has a very limited amount of time before having to make decisions on who stays and who goes.
Competition is the name of the game this part of the offseason, and the Titans are just getting prepared for the thick of it.
Dexter McCluster Is off to a Fast Start
Per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Dexter McCluster was one of the bright spots of the Titans' early training camp practices:
Although he didn't play the position all that often in his four seasons with the Chiefs, on this day he busted through the line of scrimmage and made multiple eye-opening runs.
McCluster exhibited an ability to shift into an extra gear when carrying the football out of the backfield and had his agility on full display.
Any excitement over the quality showings should be curbed since the team is yet to play with pads. McCluster shared similar sentiments:
It was a good starting point. I can get better, and with no pads on, a lot of things look good. When we get pads on and get into that grind, we'll see how it is and we'll try and keep it going.
Wyatt stated that judging by the first practices, McCluster should see a "significant number of carries with his new team."
While rookie running back Bishop Sankey is expected to be the workhorse of the Titans' three-headed rushing attack, with Shonn Greene also in the mix, we are still yet to get an extended look of his abilities at the NFL level.
Justin Hunter Still Has Things to Work on
When fellow Titans receiver Michael Preston compared Justin Hunter to a young Randy Moss, we got an idea of how high the expectations are for the second-year talent:
Hunter made 18 catches during his topsy-turvy rookie campaign, four of them for touchdowns. The Titans will need much more from him to end their playoff drought.
On Day 1 of training camp Hunter made a "great leaping catch" during seven-on-seven drills, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.
However, Hunter showed signs of regression on Sunday, dropping to the ground twice on plays he should have stayed on his feet. Coach Ken Whisenhunt noticed some of Hunter's foul-ups and commented:
I see him being overeager at times, and that's part of being out of control and being young. We're going to continue to work on that. Make no mistake about it, the guy's a talented young player.
It's a habit that Hunter will need to break, as he continues to work on his skills leading up to the regular season.
First Glimpse of the Defensive Depth Chart
On the first day of training camp, the Titans defense lined up with Ropati Pitoitua, Sammie Lee Hill and Jurrell Casey as the starters on the line.
Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley were the starting outside linebackers, with Wesley Woodyard and Zach Brown inside. Coty Sensabaugh got the start over Blidi Wreh-Wilson, with the rest of the secondary staying the same as last year.
Wreh-Wilson started at corner on the second day of camp.
The second-team defense consisted of: LE Al Woods, NT Antonio Johnson, RE Mike Martin, OLBs Shaun and Akeem Ayers, ILBs Zaviar Gooden and Colin McCarthy, safeties George Wilson and Daimion Stafford and Tommie Campbell at corner.
Big Plays Abound
Fans in attendance witnessed several big plays on the first day of training camp, per Joe Finn of Titans Online. Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst of the team's quarterbacks hit on long passes.
The explosive plays in the passing game continued throughout practice in the team drills. Jake Locker hooked up with veteran receiver Derek Hagan, beating second-year corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson on a double move. Charlie Whitehurst stepped in the very next play and threw a long pass down the right sideline that Nate Washington hauled in.
The offense's big-play ability was tempered on the second day of camp, as the defense switched to Cover 2 and benefited from a bit of wind during the practice session.
Jake Locker Continues to Progress
Jake Locker threw two interceptions on Day 1 of training camp, he then sailed a few passes during the windy Sunday practice. Despite some of his few poor passes, Terry McCormick of Titans Insider tweeted this out after Sunday's practice:
Won't know till the bullets are live but thus far in camp any signs of Jake Locker having accuracy issues are non-existent— Terry McCormick (@terrymc13) July 27, 2014
Locker appears to be fully recovered from his foot injury, but the real worry is whether he'll get injured again. We'll have to wait and see.