The Tennessee Titans took the field in pads for the first time of 2014 yesterday in Nashville. A few things stood out, but the best of the best was actually the weather.
Unseasonably cooler weather in Nashville helped bring in a new era for Titans Camp. It is not unusual for temperatures to reach near 100 during camp, so low 80’s was a welcome change. It was not the only change evident however.
I think the most glaring difference in this camp is the attention that first year head coach Ken Whisenhunt has on his offense. Make no mistake that this is his offense. Jason Michael is officially the offensive coordinator for this team and quite capable, but Whisenhunt is pulling the strings.
The Titan passing game was unleashed the day before the pads were put on. Quarterback Jake Locker time and time again picked on a secondary that was not ready to face the speed of Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright and Nate Washington. Locker was extremely accurate with the long ball, and the receivers caught everything thrown in their vicinity.
On this day it was evident defensive coordinator Ray Horton was not going to let that happen. His defense stepped up and was equal to the task in pads. It is going to be interesting to see where this group ends this camp as opposed to where they have started. Horton is intense, and he is engaged.
First Year Titan linebacker Wesley Woodyard is going to be a big plus to Bernard Pollard in providing leadership on the field as well as in the locker room. Wesley is all over the field, and although not quite as vocal as Pollard, he is definitely a leader.
Woodyard went undrafted out of the University of Kentucky. He has turned heads with his play over the past few year with the Denver Broncos. Woodyard has seen what it takes to get to the Super Bowl, and that experience will be imparted on the young Titans.
The defense looked decent with Woodyard absolutely lighting up rookie running back Bishop Sankey, and embattled linebacker Zach Brown intercepting a pass by taking the ball out of the hands of Tight End Taylor Thompson. Brown has been called out by the coaching staff mentioning the words “allergic to contact” when describing the linebacker. That is now what you want to hear about an NFL linebacker. Brown will hit you, he just has to learn to take on and go through blockers instead of trying to get around them.
The defensive line looks really good with Jurrell Casey and Sammie Hill looking comfortable in this hybrid 3-4. Casey looks like he may become a star in his 4th year out of USC.
Offensively, Bishop Sankey looks really good. At this point, I think he may end up being the starter. He runs well between the tackles. Shonn Green looks a little out of shape which is understandable due to the injury he suffered. He has not been able to work out over the Summer, but will work hard in this camp to lose a few pounds and get back in shape. The Titans will need his hard nose running style this season.
New Titan and ex Ole Miss star Dexter McCluster looks awesome. He is fast, and he has great hands out of the backfield. The first three receivers of Washington, Hunter and Wright are really good. This may be the best set of starters the Titans have had in a long time. One thing that is evident is that they are going to play more physical, and they flat get in the defensive backs’ face. The problem is after these three, where do you go? They have some work to do there.
So far Jake looks like Jake. He seems to be over his foot injury, and plays without any visible limp. He is growing up and is showing leadership. Jake threw the ball well, especially the long ball. I think this guy has what it takes to be serviceable in this league. He can move, he can throw, and he wants to win. He simply has to stay healthy, and that has just not been that simple.
My brother told me that while he was at UT Martin many, many years ago, they had a mascot called Pacer Pete. Some sort of horse I think. He told me that in that season the quarterback was so bad that when he dropped back to pass, Pacer Pete would put his hands (or hooves) over his eyes so he could not see the inevitable bad outcome of that throw. That is how the Titans fans and coaches have to feel about Jake, but not for the outcome of the pass. They will hide their eyes in hopes not to see Jake down on the ground, or limping to the sidelines. He has to stay healthy.