By Christian Kaposy
It was a hot weekend at Saint Thomas Sports Park and the Titans held two practices open to fans. Here are three observations from each day of practice:
Saturday, August 10th
Roster Shuffle Before Practice
Following Thursday’s preseason opener in Philadelphia, General Manager Jon Robinson made some changes to the roster heading into Saturday’s practice. The team waived wide receiver Jalen Tolliver, while also waiving injured linebacker Riley Bullough and offensive lineman Cody Conway. Fifth-round draft pick D’Andre Walker was placed on injured reserve, ending his 2019 season. To fill out the 90 man roster, the team signed running back Akeem Hunt, defensive end Eric Cotton, receiver DeAngelo Yancey and linebacker Ukeme Eligwe. Finalizing these roster moves close to practice, the newcomers were forced to learn on the fly.
“We’re well into our install and what we’re going to be doing, so these guys are just kind of coming in here with a few hours notice to try to be able to operate practice. You’re just trying to identify guys that can help us,” said Head Coach Mike Vrabel.
Jurrell Casey Returns
The Titans welcomed back a familiar face to practice on Saturday. After finishing the 2018 season on injured reserve, Casey was removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list and practiced with the team for the first time since the start of training camp. The four-time Pro Bowler currently ranks eighth in franchise history with 46 career sacks and only needs six sacks to tie Jevon Kearse for most sacks in Titans history. With Casey back, that only leaves tight end Jonnu Smith and kicker Ryan Succop on the PUP list.
“It’s great. We need everybody to try to get him to progress on,” said Vrabel. “We’re just excited to get him back and start working with him.”
Secondary Converts on Tip Drill
The secondary totaled three interceptions throughout Saturday’s practice. Undrafted rookie Kareem Orr started the day with a one handed INT to conclude the one-on-one period. The final two interceptions were thrown during team periods and both were caught off of a deflection. Following his first professional pick on Thursday in Philadelphia, rookie JoJo Tillery intercepted a tipped pass in one of the first team periods. Kevin Byard caught the third and final interception of the day, after the ball hit off the hands of tight end Delanie Walker. It was not the offense’s best day, but the battle continues each day between the two sides.
“The snapshot today, the defense won and you can print that and write whatever you want, but there’s back-and-forth,” said Vrabel.
Sunday, August 11th
A.J. Brown Joins Practice for the First Time Since Day 1
If you visit St. Thomas Sports Park for a practice, you will find that most players have a routine they follow before the start of practice. Beau Brinkly, Brett Kern, and Marcus Mariota are typically the first three players on the practice. But, when #11 walked onto the field Sunday morning with helmet in-hand, that caught everyone’s attention. This was the first time Brown participated with the team since exiting practice early on July 26th. Although he only practiced for a short amount of time, his presence on the field was certainly a good sign.
“You do a little bit one day and you do a little bit more the next. I would say that we’re hopeful that A.J. can get out there and do more than what he did today,” commented Vrabel following Sunday’s practice.
Orr Continues to Make Plays
After a one handed interception during Saturday’s practice, Orr followed it with another pick on Sunday. The Chattanooga native continues to make plays, as he has had an impressive training camp up to this point. This week’s joint practice with the Patriots could serve as another opportunity for Orr to make a good impression with GM Jon Robinson and Head Coach Mike Vrabel.
“He’s kind of shown that early on that he loves football. It’s never perfect, but he’s fun to coach,” said Vrabel.
Two Players Exit Early
OLB Jordan Williams and RB Akeem Hunt both exited practice early on Sunday. With 2019 fifth-round draft pick D’Andre Walker being placed on IR on Saturday and David Fluellen missing the last two practices, outside linebacker and running back are two positions where the Titans cannot afford to lose depth. Williams, who played his collegiate ball at Tennessee, joined the Titans on August 1st. Hunt, who was participating in just his second practice with the team, left the practice field during the final team period.