To headline the day, there were no team brawls, so it was a positive day one from joint practices between the Titans and the Bucs. The day was spent with the Titans offense and Bucs defense on one field, and then the Titans defense and Bucs offense on another, until the final portion of practice where both teams lined opposite sidelines for a real-game feel.
The offense had a solid day, going up against an athletic Buccaneers defense. In one on one matchups, Taywan Taylor was able to outleap M.J. Stewart of the Bucs and take the ball right out of his hands for a phenomenal catch, drawing a lot of applause from the fans. Taylor continued to make plays throughout the day, another highlight being a sideline catch on a quick out route during 11 vs 11s.
In the first play of 11 vs 11 situation drills, Mariota hit Delanie Walker coming across the middle for a big chunk. A few plays later, he hit Corey Davis coming the opposite way across the middle, and though it was a bit behind him, Davis was able to juggle it a few times and reel it in for a great catch. Corey Davis continues to impress and has strung together a number of good days. The timing between him and Marcus is getting better with each day, and Davis is becoming less of a flash play type of guy, and more into a consistent go-to guy. He had six catches on six targets today, aside from any 1 on 1 drills.
The receivers as a unit looked great, with plays being made by almost everyone in the group. Devin Ross took an end around for 10+ yards, and look for him to be utilized in similar fashion throughout training camp. Anything that allows Ross to show his speed is going to be where he excels.
Darius Jennings continues to make plays. On an out route to the sideline, the cornerback tipped the ball but Jennings was still able to snag it out of the air and get both feet down for a highlight catch. As good as that might’ve been, it was nowhere near the catch of the day made by Tajae Sharpe. The throw from Mariota looked to be just too far out of bounds for him to go and get it while still getting his feet down, but somehow he seemed to stretch his arms a few extra inches and make the grab without his toes ever leaving the ground, making it as good a toe-touch grab as I’ve seen. He had absolutely no right to be able to stay in bounds, yet his body control was put on display for the catch of the day.
Deontay Burnett had another good day in the slot, making catch after catch and shaking loose from defenders time and again for some YAC.
These practices are still being played without tackling, so it’s hard to gauge the running backs’ performances, but just based off the eyes Derrick Henry looks every bit as much a powerhouse as you would think. During individual drills, the backs were going up against the Buccaneers linebackers in blocking drills, and Henry nearly put a guy on the ground during his rep. He and Dion Lewis were also able to break loose a few good runs during team drills, and Lewis continues to impress with his athleticism and catching out of the backfield.
For the defense, the secondary got their first test against big time wide receivers in Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Early in practice we saw WR/DB 1 on 1 drills where the Tampa Bay wide receivers won on the vast majority of reps. Throughout the day, no matter who was covering him, the Titans really had no answer for Evans. During 7 on 7 drills he caught a pass against Adoree Jackson and then was held by Malcolm Butler on a pass that he would have taken to the endzone had the penalty not occured. During full team periods, Evans caught three balls on Butler, one on Logan Ryan, and another on Adoree Jackson where a holding penalty was called on the defense, but the catch was made for a big gain nonetheless.
To look at today and say that the secondary is a weak position group would be a wrong impression though. During these practices, it is normal for the secondaries to struggle. They have not been watching film on their opponent because it is still training camp and they are more focused on themselves. The defensive backs also do not have the benefit of a pass rush to disrupt the quarterback. Yes, the defensive line is playing, but even Jurrell Casey admitted after practice that they are not going 100% during these practices.
The pass rush was not a huge takeaway from the defense today, but the run defense looked to be stout. The interior D line bottles up must inside rushes and some secondary players came in to help on outside rushes. Adoree Jackson and Kenneth Durden both came from the outside to make plays on runners heading their way.
The linebackers fall right into place with the rest of the defense. Their coverage was lackluster while the run stopping was impressive. Many times tight ends would catch passes in the short, mid area of the field between a couple of linebackers. On rush plays though, Aaron Wallace and Sharif Finch both stuck out as linebackers finding their way into the backfield. But the run stopping ability was definitely not limited to those two.
The Titans take on the Bucs again tomorrow in practice before a day off and then the preseason game on Saturday. Coach Vrabel said a lot of the work tomorrow is going to be spent in the red zone, with first teamers getting the majority of the reps.