By Anna Glenn Grove and Christian Kaposy
Stand-out Rookie of Minicamp: Amani Hooker
4th round draft pick Amani Hooker had an impressive few days on the practice field at St. Thomas Sports Park. Although the pads have not been put on yet, it is evident that Hooker has an opportunity to make an immediate impact on this Titans defense. After playing a hybrid safety/linebacker position at Iowa, his past experience could suit him well in the secondary. Possibly even more important for his rookie campaign, Hooker will be heavily involved with the special teams unit.
“Special teams was huge for me in Iowa,” Hooker said. “That is where I made my money my freshman year.”
Most Noticeable on the Field: Cameron Wake
Entering his 11th year in the NFL and at the age of 37, Cameron Wake has your attention as soon as he steps onto the football field. The outside linebacker joined the Titans this offseason via free agency and fills a need on the edge of the 3-4 defense left by the departure of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. The pads have not been added, but you could not tell by looking at Wake. Standing at 6’3”, 263 pounds, Wake is in extremely good shape and his teammates have noticed.
“He does everything he can to take care of his body,” said cornerback Malcolm Butler on our flagship station 104.5 the Zone. “I want to play a lot of years just like him.”
Most Impressive Performance in Minicamp: Titans Defense
The defensive unit brought the heat to minicamp. Veteran defenders were full of spirit and support as the younger players took the field and made some plays. Throughout scrimmages, the defense continued to control the field and many balls were picked off of Marcus Mariota. Butler had a near interception, but broke up the pass during scrimmage on day one and Kevin Byard had a pick on day two of practice. Safety Kenny Vacaro was all over the field slapping, blocking and breaking up passes.
“We got a lot of depth on this team. We just want to be the strongest all the way down to the weakest link, but there’s no weak link on this team,” Butler said. “We are just coming out here, playing football and having fun and living free.”
Best Catch of Minicamp: Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
At the end of practice on day two of minicamp, the players and coaches had a little friendly competition between the offensive and defensive coordinators. Arthur Smith and Dean Pees were put up against each other to catch punts from the JUGS machine. Offense went first and Smith was unable to get under the ball as it fell to the ground. Pees, however, followed the ball perfectly and made his catch. Following this, he proceeded to spike the ball and his defense went absolutely nuts. We weren’t sure if he was going to make it out of the dog pile.
“Dean’s our new punt returner,” head coach Mike Vrabel jokingly said. “Everybody wants to know, we’ve got one position filled for 2019 and that is Dean Pees at punt returner. Arthur, not so much, that’s what it looks like when offensive linemen try to catch punts.”
Coolest Moment of Minicamp: retiring of Eddie George and Steve McNair’s jerseys
When Eddie George showed up at day two of practice, everyone knew a special moment was on the horizon. What we did not know was how historic that moment would actually be. Following practice on Wednesday, controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk announced that the No. 9 and No. 27 jerseys would become the 152nd and 153rd NFL jerseys to be retired. A note from McNair’s wife was read and George was able to stand up and speak on the honor with his family in attendance.
“This puts the period on my career,” George said. “I really didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to the game of football the way I wanted to.”
Most Likely to Enjoy the Final Day of Minicamp: Golfers
Rather than practice on the third and final day of minicamp, the Titans made a trip to TopGolf. While Vrabel had repeatedly said he would love to practice, he wanted to insure that his team goes into the break as health as possible. “I don’t think we are going to beat anybody on this last day, but I think we could certainly lose to some teams by losing guys,” Vrabel said. “You are just trying to improve, but stay as healthy as you possibly can.”
Mariota, who said he enjoys the game of golf, is one of many players who benefitted from this excursion.
“I’ve played a little golf, I find that golf is a fun way to be competitive without being too strenuous,” Mariota said. “I’m the worst by a long shot.”
Most Important Dates following Minicamp: Training Camp
The rookies will report back to Titans facilities on July 22nd. The team’s first practice will be on July 26th and the first open practice to fans will occur on July 27th.
“We expect to be really close to full strength by the start of training camp,” Vrabel said.