Tennessee Titans NFL Training Camp Preview: Vince Young at QB, Then Who?
The world watched The Maturation of Vince Young, Football Player chapter by chapter last season after Fisher handed him the reins of an 0-6 team at the prodding of owner Bud Adams, who has a special place in his elderly heart for his Houston born-and-bred QB. Suddenly, Young, who had prepared in the '08 offseason to backup Kerry Collins and further learn the position, was given a winless team to command. The situation in itself was a softball tossed slow and easy to VY critics, assuredly awaiting shakey Young play. To stick with baseball metaphors for a moment, when VY and all his baggage from the past two seasons were asked to make something of an 0-6 team, it was a cutting fast ball hurled right at Young's earhole.
VY knocked the cover off the thing.
Young, a kid who was benched his second season and sucked into a whirlwind of questions about his inability to lead an NFL team, stepped up last season as a fourth-year full grown man. He won games, he broke records, he thrilled crowds, and with steel-steeped nerves went 8-2 as the mid-stream starter, including a game winning TD laser to Kenny Britt in the end zone to upset the Arizona Cardinals with 00:00 on the clock.
“That’s how he was at the University of Texas. National Championship game, game on the line and he’s back there joking around and laughing," FB Ahmad Hall told Nashville's The City Paper in November during Young's resurrection of a once dead offense. Hall is entering his eighth season sharing collegiate and NFL huddle time with Young. "That’s just how Vince does it. He likes to keep the huddle loose and keep guys motivated. That’s just his style of play."
Team officials hope Young's "style of play" off-the-field doesn't become a distraction. The quarterback apologized to his team for a recent incident involving assault charges at a strip club where Young says he was provoked. The security footage of the fight seems to back up Young's claim. It certainly wasn't a scene from "Big Fan," and Young certainly doesn't have the long standing soiled reputation of a Ben Rothelisberger. Fisher says he doesn't think the Young incident will be an issue henceforth, and is ever confident about Young on the field, as well.
"It was said over and over and over again: 'Vince, you know, he ran through college defenses week after week after week, well, guess what? NFL defenses are a lot faster'." Fisher said, mimicking Young's detractors. "They're a lot better. He's not going to do that at this level.' Well, guess what? He is."
While VY focuses on starting, Fisher will be keeping a training camp eye out for Young's backup in a motley crew that includes a grey beard, an also-ran, and a rookie.
37-year old journeyman (6 moves, 5 teams; played for Carolina twice) Kerry Collins makes entirely too much money -- $5.5 million this year -- to be an NFL backup, and don't think Bud Adams isn't noticing. If Adams can't deal him, Collins is safe for now as the token experienced veteran, but he's a free agent in '11 and may be in his last season as a Titan due to the bottom line.
Chris Simms is another Texas Longhorn Titans QB, now on his second consecutive season back with the Titans after stops in Tampa Bay and Denver. Phil Simms' kid will get yet another chance to show his stuff in yet another training camp, but this year he's crossways with the league and the Titans front office over an off-season marijuana arrest that brings into play the NFL substance abuse policy in a time when every GM in the league wants to stay as far away from that issue as possible.
The most intriguing back-up to be ball slinger to watch for next month in Titans preseason games is rookie Rusty Smith (6-5, 230), a cannon-armed quarterback from Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt Conference) who comes noted for his pocket presence, arm strength, awareness, and accuracy.
The Titans took Smith in the 6th Round (176th overall) after the QB ended his career throwing for 76 TDs and more than 10,000 yards, and shattered school and conference records along the way. Smith broke career records despite playing part-time his first and last seasons at Florida Atlantic. He was put out of The Owl's starting job his senior year after an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
Smith is a literal hometown hero of his boyhood home Jacksonville, Fla., where the Florida Atlantic and Rusty Smith faithful are still celebrating watching one of their own being drafted by an NFL team -- another Smith-induced first for FAU.
“It’s a dream come true to get that phone call,” Smith said in the Florida Times-Union post-draft. “It’s amazing to get the chance to play at the next level. The first thing I want to do is get up there and learn the offense so I can start fitting in.”
Smith should find his training camp groove soon, given he commanded a pro-style offense at FAU. His familiarity with what the Titans offensive staff will throw at him in camp and his purported on-field smarts may just be the ace in Smith's jersey he needs to win the No. 2 spot. Game films show that he excels when he has access to slot receivers, although he can obviously and easily hit every route, and likes to blast one deep when it's there. But, Smith's big arm does take a little winding up.
Downsides to his QB technique discussed during the draft included slow feet, inability to escape trouble, and a long, slow throwing motion. The Titans don't think it will be a problem. Scouts have noted that he has all the intangibles you want in a quarterback and has already choked up on his throwing motion to find the quicker release he'll need in the NFL.
"He had a really good workout on his pro day," said Titans Head Scout Cole Proctor. "He has a bright future."