AFC South: Craig Johnson
Sherman was on Jeff Fisher’s staff in 2005 and 2006, hardly a monumental time for receivers with the team. He was on the Oilers' staff in 1988 and 1989 as well. So Bud Adams knows him from two stints.
Now he’s a candidate for the Titans' head coaching vacancy (somehow Adam Schefter tweeted that Chris Mortensen is reporting it).
Sherman interviewed with the Cowboys, fulfilling their requirement under the Rooney Rule to discuss a head coaching vacancy with at least one minority. Skeptics will say he’s a token interview in Nashville, particularly if Mike Munchak is hired quickly as Fisher’s replacement. Munchak interviewed Monday.
John Wooten is chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that works with the NFL promoting diversity among front office executives, coaches and scouts.
He said he spoke with Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt Monday to let him know of the group's “ready list.” Sherman is one of seven remaining minorities the group promotes as ready to be head coaches. Three others from the earlier version of the list – Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera and Hue Jackson – have attained head coaching jobs.
Wooten said he’d love to see Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Packers assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Winston Moss get a look from the Titans. Moss cannot interview until after the Packers play in Super Bowl XLV Sunday.
I know Jim Wyatt’s conversation with Bud Adams that I cited in this morning’s RTC entry indicated the owner sees things happening quickly. Maybe they will.
But general manager Mike Reinfeldt and senior executive vice president and general counsel Steve Underwood are sorting out the pool and doing the interviewing.
They are deliberate guys who emphasized Friday that they would take as long as they need to. That makes me think we learn the new coach later rather than sooner.
Of course, this franchise has not been in this position for some time, its lead by an eccentric owner and anything can happen.
As for minority presence: of the four assistants that are gone from Fisher’s 2010 staff, running backs coach Craig Johnson and receivers coach Fred Graves, are African American.
Now only two of the 14 assistants who are under contract to the team are minorities -- secondary coach Marcus Robertson and defensive assistant/quality control coach Rayna Stewart.
Whoever the new head coach is, he will have to consider diversity as he pieces together his staff.
"The Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher have agreed to part ways and Fisher will no longer be the head coach of the team," said a release just issued by the team.
The parting was initially reported by SI.com's Don Banks.
Banks reported it’s unclear whether it will be couched as a firing, a mutual separation or a resignation.
- Just talked to #Titans owner Bud Adams about Jeff Fisher news "“Where did you hear that? I better check on that. I can’t talk about it now."
- More Adams: " I really can’t talk about it now because I don’t know what’s been said. I want to see what is going on.’’ #titans
With Fisher’s remaining one-year salary of more than $6 million in play, Adams elected to retain his long-time coach earlier this month. That came after he announced the team would part ways with quarterback Vince Young, whose relationship with Fisher had become unmanageable.
I find it hard to believe Adams has changed his mind and will pay that salary to someone not working for him. My best guess is that they reached some sort of agreement in which Fisher will get some but not all of the money, and we will see him surface as a TV analyst for a season before becoming a candidate for open jobs in 2012.
Since the initial decision, Fisher has been operating as a lame duck. He lost highly regarded defensive line coach Jim Washburn to Philadelphia (though the Titans did offer him a three-year deal to remain) and running backs coach Craig Johnson to Minnesota.
Last week, Fisher surprisingly fired defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, his close friend who The Tennessean reported actually signed his one-year contract offer late in a disastrous 2010 season.
Fisher has two NFL disciples who’ve gone on to success. Jim Schwartz is under contract as Detroit’s head coach. Gregg Williams is currently defensive coordinator in New Orleans, and while his stint as head coach in Buffalo was a failure, some strong coaches have fared better in their second chances.
But if Adams has a clean slate, he’d be wise to go a new direction as he looks for someone to take hold of a team in disarray, with no starting quarterback and, as far as we know, only offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger under contract in terms of a coaching staff. Heimerdinger was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment late in the season.
When the Titans let general manager Floyd Reese’s contract run out in January 2007, the team’s top executive, Steve Underwood, created a list of GM candidates and helped Adams sift through them. I suspect the winner of that job, one-time NFL defensive player of the year Mike Reinfeldt, who played for the Houston Oilers, likely would be asked to run a similar coaching search.
A top candidate could be someone he overlapped with during his stints as an executive in Green Bay and Seattle.
Reggie Herring is the Texans new linebackers coach, says John McClain.
Brian Cushing had right knee surgery.
PSX’s unit-by-unit look at the Colts.
Mike Shula isn’t under contract with the Jaguars and interviewed with the Panthers, says Tania Ganguli.
Jim Washburn says he enjoyed it all, says Jim Wyatt.
Craig Johnson will endorse Vince Young in Minnesota if his new bosses ask, writes Wyatt.
It’s a big move for Fisher, who’s heading into the final year of his deal and was close friends with Cecil, whom he hired as a quality control coach in 2001.
“Nothing surprises you in this business,” Cecil told Wyatt. “You just have to move on. That's life in the NFL. As good a friends as we are, sometimes you have to put the professional things first and it is a profession….
“He felt like he needed a fresh start, so that’s what we’re doing.’’
Fisher’s been fiercely loyal to players and staff throughout his 17-year tenure. He has control over his coaching staff. So admitting a change was needed at the head of the defense was a real concession for a captain that many assumed would stubbornly go down with his ship if his ship was going down.
I had heard about a potential for creatively restructuring Cecil’s responsibilities, but didn’t think such a demotion could work.
It does seem odd that Fisher waited as some other staffs were filled out, but he likely couldn’t draw the same guys that have landed with new head coaches who had long-term deals to offer. It’s also highly unlikely he’s made the move without having his contingency in motion.
Linebackers coach Dave McGinnis has extensive experience and is a quality coach. But his group was at the root of the defense’s issues this season, making very few plays.
Fresh perspective from an outsider seems called for now.
Only one Fisher assistant, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, is under contract for 2011.
Two have left for other jobs. Highly regarded defensive line coach Jim Washburn went to Philadelphia despite what Wyatt reported was a three-year offer from the Titans. Running backs coach Craig Johnson, who worked with quarterbacks before 2010, took the quarterback coach position on the staff of old friend Leslie Frazier in Minnesota.
Part of why Washburn left was his unhappiness over the direction of the overall defense. Surely Fisher made the Cecil decision in time to use it in his case to retain Washburn and still came up short. If Fisher actually decided to let Cecil go a day after Washburn left, the lame duck coach really botched things.
Fisher cannot offer long-term job security, but is now in the market for a defensive coordinator, a defensive line coach and a running backs coach.
The patience he had with Gregg Williams and Schwartz early in their tenures as the Titans' defensive coordinator is a luxury he was unable to offer Cecil any longer.
The Texans could hire Reggie Herring today, but he said he has an offer to remain with the Cowboys, says John McClain.
Bob Sanders could return with a restructure and six other Colts' issues from John Oehser.
Vito Stellino’s story on Vic Ketchman’s pending move.
NFL fans cheer the game, not the greed, says Gene Frenette.
The Titans offered defensive line coach Jim Washburn a three-year deal, but he went to Philly, says Jim Wyatt. Offering an assistant a long-term deal when the head coach is a lame duck says a lot about how the franchise valued him.
Running back coach Craig Johnson could jump to the Vikings as soon as today.
But the math in the equation is off, and this is not a simple, one-against-one situation.
If the love-struck Adams chooses his favorite quarterback, he’s not only going to lose Fisher, he’s going to lose all, or most, of Fisher’s staff.
While Adams would be making a poor choice, even he’d have to admit that Young at his best isn’t going to do much to offset the loss of some excellent assistant coaches.
All but one Titans assistant coach is working with an expiring contract, according to a Titans source. Fisher’s contract runs through 2011.
In a typical scenario, Fisher would get an extension and then line up his assistants with deals of the same length.
“We are in the process of extending contracts for the entire staff," Fisher said after practice Friday. “I don’t comment on negotiations other than to say we’re in the process.”
But there has been no word on any talks about a new deal for Fisher, and now it’s a safe bet there will not be one before the Young issues are resolved. If they come to fruition, those staff extensions could be for only one season.
And the uncertain labor situation gives Adams the potential to hold off on anything new until after things are settled between the league and the players, in case he has to withstand a lockout.
Whenever it comes around, the staff issue is more significant now given the battle between Fisher and Young and Adams’ comments to The Tennessean saying he expects the two to find a way to co-exist next season.
I think we’re past the point where that’s a possibility and Adams is going to have to make a choice. Hopefully it’s a well-reasoned one.
Munchak is one of eight members of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s a steady teacher who recognizes talent and has consistently groomed quality guys. The Titans have regularly had good pass protection and solid run blocking in large part because of Munchak’s exhaustive work.
Pick Young, and you probably sacrifice Jim Washburn.
The Titans’ defense is tied for second in the NFL with 30 sacks. They’ve come from players Washburn has rebuilt such as Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Tony Brown or guys he encouraged the front office to draft, such as Jason Jones. A large number of franchises in the league would love to add a high-energy defensive line coach who can get production from such reclamation projects and draft picks.
Those two are key coaches on a staff that’s widely regarded around the league as one of the best. A staff Fisher has been able to shape and hold onto because of his stability and the loyalty he shows -- occasionally to a fault.
His staff also includes offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who has been mentioned as a candidate for head-coaching jobs and once interviewed with San Francisco for its top post; defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil; veteran linebackers coach Dave McGinnis, who has been head coach of two teams; defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson, who had an excellent career as a safety for the franchise; special teams coach Alan Lowry, who scripted the Music City Miracle; strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson; receivers coach Fred Graves; tight ends coach John Zernhelt; running backs coach Craig Johnson; and quarterback coach Dowell Loggains.
They are not all irreplaceable superstars, of course. And with expiring contracts, some of them could be moving on even if Fisher is firmly in place.
Washburn is a Nashville fixture who appreciates the second-chance Fisher gave him in 1999. But if he becomes a coaching free agent, perhaps a team with a bad defensive line would make him an offer too good to refuse.
Still, the chances he stays in Tennessee are far higher if Fisher is in the big office. I'd be willing to bet the same would be true for all the assistants.
If Adams chooses to stick with Young and Fisher negotiates out of his contract, or if another team strikes a deal to give the Titans picks to get Fisher out of his last year, I predict all the assistants would be totally turned off by Adams’ choice.
Some might have to stay if they could to ensure themselves of a job. But given any sort of choice, I believe they’d be unlikely to sign new deals with Tennessee to work under Fisher’ replacement.
More likely, these assistants would rejoin Fisher with a new team if he is able to move on for 2011. If not, they would find jobs elsewhere. The older guys might ponder retirement or take a year off with assurances from Fisher that they’d have a job with him once he re-enters the league.
The top in-house candidate to replace Fisher with the Titans would have to be Heimerdinger, and I believe his loyalty to Fisher would mean he wouldn’t even allow his representative to talk to Adams about the post.
Even Fisher’s harshest critics have to appreciate assistants like Munchak and Washburn and acknowledge they’d be difficult to replace. (You can make a case against Fisher, sure. But in a head-to-head against Young there is no way not to choose the coach.)
If Adams makes his move against Fisher, Fisher could have solidarity from his staff of 16.
If Young is the one shown the door, he’d be walking through it alone.
But it wouldn’t be good enough for Chris Johnson, or the Tennessee Titans.
A year after he ran for 2,006 yards and set an all-purpose yards record with 2,509 yards, expectations are gigantic. He pumped them even more with his prediction of a 2,500-yard season.
So far, however, his 3.8-yard average, league-high 94 carries and the Titans' 2-2 record are setting off alarms.
And no, he and the Titans' running game just don’t look quite the same.
“We’re an average run game right now,” running backs coach Craig Johnson said.
“We’re not as good as we want to be running the ball right now,” Chris Johnson said.
Here’s insight I gathered talking to key people and some of my own thinking on a bunch of issues concerning what’s “wrong” and what the Titans might be looking to do to maximize CJ’s chances as they prepare for a trip to Dallas.
Throw it more and better: The passing offense is limited and it isn’t scaring anyone into backing off the line of scrimmage and creating space for Johnson.
The Titans keep saying they are seeing defenses stack eight, nine, even 10 in the box -- I guess we’re talking goal line or major short-yardage situations there. The natural way to combat that is to complete passes behind all those defenders.
Craig Johnson said those defenses have been exceptionally disciplined in their run support.
“They are going to do everything they can to stop him,” receiver Nate Washington said. “So we have to do everything we can to open things up for him.”
The trouble is, teams aren’t real scared of getting beat over the top.
“As usual, the passing game is the problem here,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
Backing people off might not spring CJ for big yards anyway, Titans left tackle Michael Roos said.
“If you’ve got eight, nine guys in the box and you give him just enough of a crease, there’s nobody left to tackle him,” Roos said. “… If we’re physical enough, push people by enough, he can just run right past that ninth guy in the box and there is no safety left to make that tackle.
“You can beat it that way or, yeah, you can pass the ball and get them backed up. But I am pretty sure most teams, no matter how good we pass it for a week, two weeks, whatever, are going to keep saying, ‘Let’s try to make them beat us with the pass and load up to stop CJ.’”
Johnson joked Wednesday that he wished the Titans had gotten Randy Moss because he knows Moss would take defenders deep. That’s an unintentional commentary on the Titans’ threats.
Try three-wide: I’d like to see the Titans go with more three- and even four-wide sets to spread things, then run against personnel that’s made for defending the pass. The Steelers didn’t always go into nickel against three-wide, but that doesn’t mean Dallas and upcoming opponents won’t be more conventional. And it can be more about the spacing than the personnel.
Justin Gage is dealing with a hamstring injury. The Titans should let him rest and get Lavelle Hawkins, who’s not yet been active, on the field as the slot receiver. He’s different from the other receivers and if he can live up to the offseason hype the team generated about him, perhaps he can help alter things.
Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information ran some Chris Johnson numbers for me. Johnson’s been the ball carrier or target on only 14 three-wide plays this season.
On eight carries, he has averaged 11.1 yards and on 13 touches he has averaged 6.8 yards.
In all other packages, he has averaged 3.1 yards a carry and 3.3 yards a touch.
It’s certainly a small sample size on the three-wide numbers. So let’s see a bigger one.
Johnson’s home run rate has been spectacular, and you’d expect some regression to the mean.
In his first 32 games, Johnson had eight touchdown runs of 50 yards or more. That’s already third-most in NFL history. The only backs ahead of him are Barry Sanders (15 in 153 games) and Jim Brown (12 in 118).
Has that created ridiculous expectations?
“It’s not realistic,” right guard Jake Scott said. “What he’s done is ridiculous. You can’t look at it and say, ‘Oh, it’s been three weeks since he had an 80-yard run, he’s a failure.’ That’s not reasonable to say that. You can’t get caught up in that.”
Measure his carries: There has been some ridiculous talk of getting Javon Ringer on the field more because he’s looked good in spot relief work.
I’m fine with carries for the backup as spot relief work. None of them should be as an alternative to Johnson at anytime that could be considered a crucial moment of the game.
I’m not a big critic of the heavy workload, but I understand that stance and the numbers that support it.
In his first season and a half in the NFL, he averaged 17.2 carries and 5.54 yards.
In the four games after that (games eight-12 last season), he averaged 25 carries a game and 5.50 yards a carry.
In the four games after that (games 13-16 last season), he averaged 28.5 carries a game and 4.36 yards a carry.
And in games one through four this season, he averaged 23.5 carries a game and 3.77 yards a carry.
He’s probably better with a lighter load. But that doesn’t scream "run someone else" to me as much as it begs for a more balanced offense.
That doesn’t mean we’ll get it. I believe the Titans have trust issues with Vince Young as a passer and while the Titans would like to be balanced, Jeff Fisher’s teams almost always have run-first offenses.
“If they continue to gang up on CJ, we have other avenues we can attack,” Craig Johnson said. “But we also are never going to let any team dictate to us how much we are going to run the ball. Because we are always going to be a good running football team.”
In the summer while in Jacksonville, I asked Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio about the concept of reducing carries for a premier back like Johnson.
“I think they should limit his touches,” Del Rio said laughing. “Especially against the Jaguars.”
More runs by him could help Johnson’s cause.
“It’s another way of making the defense honor something else,” Roos said. “Whether it’s passing, him running or him running and then throwing on the move, it forces them to honor him, spread out and make sure they cover him. At least there is something else to think about every play and they can’t key on CJ too much.”
Block better: Roos said it’s tough to compare how the line is blocking now and how it was blocking last season when Johnson was running wild.
“Overall, I don’t think we’re any better, I don’t think we’re any worse,” he said. “Little things kind of happen here and there during the course of a game and this year they might be happening at more crucial times or farther away from the goal line so we’re not able to convert third downs and stay out in the field.”
I don’t believe much of the problem is related to the changes -- Kevin Mawae gone, Eugene Amano shifted to center, Leroy Harris installed as left guard. All involved say that although Mawae was an excellent communicator and crafty player, Amano is making the same calls.
Said Williamson: “Amano has been rather terrible and the offensive line overall is a smidge overrated.”
Be decisive: There are a lot of questions about Johnson’s decisiveness.
“I don't think Johnson is running with the same conviction,” Williamson said. “He’s dancing a little more than usual. He’s not ‘hitting it up in there’ as much. Still, if he gets free in just one of these ‘down’ games ... then no one is talking about him slumping. So, the nature of his game is a little hit and miss.”
To all that, Chris Johnson said: “I’m running the same.”
He also said he knows it’s dangerous to start swinging for the fences instead of letting things open up, a line of thinking he has clearly discussed in the meeting room with his position coach.
“What you don’t want to do in situations like this is panic and start looking for the big runs all the time, that’s what gets you in a lot of trouble,” Craig Johnson said. “That’s something as a coach I’ve got to make sure about, make sure he doesn’t get frustrated and start looking for the big run.
“His big runs have not come because he’s looking for them; they just happen. He hits the hole with a sense of urgency, he’s been able to keep his balance, we’ve done well on the front side and just as importantly the backside pursuit is cut down. The hope for any runner there is to get a one-on-one situation and the rest is history.”
3-4s: Dallas plays a 3-4, meaning three of the Titans' first five opponents use base 3-4 fronts. Different defenses require different means of attack, and the Titans haven’t done so well with that, particularly against Pittsburgh and Denver. Johnson totaled 87 rushing yards against the Steelers and Broncos.
After the Cowboys, there are four 3-4 teams left on the schedule: San Diego, Miami, Washington and Kansas City.
Figuring how to move and run the ball better against those teams is a must.
Continue to develop a key relationship: Craig Johnson has been around and knows the Titans’ offensive scheme very well. But he was shifted to the running back job a week before camp started after Jeff Fisher’s hand-picked guy, Kennedy Pola, bolted for USC before ever working a game with Tennessee.
Johnson’s previous position coach, Earnest Byner, played running back in the league and had experience coaching the spot in the league. Craig Johnson is a different sort of resource.
Chris Johnson has said it’s not a big difference to him, but that he gets a full picture of the offense more often in the classroom, rather than just the running back's perspective.
“That could be part of it, I don’t know,” Craig Johnson said of the different sort of relationship. “We’re still trying to find that out.
“But I have been around for a little bit, so I do understand the X's and O's and concepts of the game. The bottom line is as a backfield, it starts with us. Make sure we stay on our blocks, get our assignments … Then everything gets it going.”
Some of it is good. Some of it has to be painfully boring and predictable.
So whenever I see something new, I take note.
In Nashville, Dowell Loggains is the new quarterbacks coach and he’s changed things up.
Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Chris Simms and Rusty Smith have been throwing at a screen with three pockets. It’s common on a lot of practice fields for accuracy drills.
“They get to compete and they get into it,” Loggains said. “It's 'Twenty bucks says I hit the middle square' and stuff like that. It’s a way to get them to compete but they are really working.”
And when the QBs drop back in a drill where they need to shift away from pressure, instead of simply following hand signals from their coach, they are reacting to giant balls being rolled at them by Loggains from close range.
“With the ball rolling at them, they have to react,” Loggains said. “They’re not sitting there staring at me, their eyes are downfield and when a ball rolls at them they have to react to it. Very seldomly do you get to take a five-step drop, set up and not have to move your feet.
“And that’s what we want, them playing with a base and that helps create that. I want them to feel the sensation -- maybe the three-technique just swam our guard and he’s uncovered and you’ve got to drift and throw and get rid of the ball.”
Loggains said he’s just getting started and there will be plenty more to come to keep things fresh for his guys. The running backs are getting some new drills with Johnson, too.
It’s an example of why even on a stable staff, change can be good.
Five players Gary Kubiak is anxious to see in preseason action: Chris Henry, Troy Nolan, Trindon Holliday, Earl Mitchell and Malcolm Sheppard, from John McClain.
Joel Dreessen typically stays on the field well after practice is over, says Jordan Godwin.
Tim Bulman is out indefinitely, writes McClain and Godwin.
Brice McCain will start for Kareem Jackson in Arizona, while Jackson attends his grandmother’s funeral, says McClain.
Brian Cushing’s real syndrome is believing we’re dopes, says Mike Freeman.
Injuries are making for an offensive line scramble, says Mike Chappell.
The defense delivered some hits in practice, says Chappell.
John Oehser’s take on Jim Caldwell talking about Clyde Christensen. I hit on the same stuff in a different way Wednesday.
Criticism motivates Gerald Alexander, says Vito Stellino.
Rookie returners Deji Karim and Scotty McGee get their first big test against the Eagles, says Stellino.
Mike Thomas isn’t too small for anything, says Vic Ketchman.
Chuck Cecil is looking for a second-year jump, says Jim Wyatt.
So many fans wanted Chris Johnson’s autograph, they crushed a chain-link fence and a little boy was injured, say Wyatt and John Glennon.
Damian Williams came off PUP and made a quick impression, says Glennon.
Kerry Collins will get the least work in preseason games of all four Titans quarterbacks, says Wyatt.
LeGarrette Blount is trying to prove reliable, says David Boclair.
Robert Johnson is trying to stand out, says Phil Brame.
Craig Johnson talks about Blount, a player on the fringe, with Steve Wyche.
Rick Gosselin’s weekly NFL rankings.
Three hundred-pounders are the norm these days.
The Texans relish the opportunity to open against the Colts, says Dale Robertson.
Kevin Bentley’s spent a lot of time starting on the strong side, says Jordan Godwin.
Kevin Walter became an NFL success the old-fashioned way, earning his place in the league with hard work and perseverance, says Richard Justice.
Bob McNair’s backing of Brian Cushing is another example of why players like him, says John McClain.
Matt Schaub returned the most value on the money he earned in 2009 among AFC South quarterbacks, says Ben Alamar.
New England and Seattle look to be Houston’s primary competition for Aaron Schobel.
Tony Ugoh and Mike Pollak seem more comfortable and could be ready to turn things around, writes Philip B. Wilson.
A public intoxication charge against John Gill has been dropped, reports the Indianapolis Star.
Profiling Austin Collie with Coltzilla.
As the Jaguars head to Atlanta for practices with the Falcons, Jack Del Rio reviews some scrimmage developments, from Vito Stellino.
The safety competitions are wide open, writes Tania Ganguli.
Derrick Harvey is the best player on the Jaguars’ defense, declares Adam Sites.
The NFL is more concerned about concussions than ever, writes John Glennon.
Jim Wyatt runs down the Titans’ four veteran free-agent additions.
Is Kevin Mawae being black-balled? David Climer considers.
Take preseason games out of season-ticket packages and sell the seats for cheap, says David Boclair.
Does Craig Johnson have it easy coaching Chris Johnson? Climer’s take.
Antoine Caldwell’s confidence is a carry-over from late last season, says Jordan Godwin.
The Texans know their defensive fortunes are tied to stopping the run, writes John McClain.
A sore hip is slowing Mario Williams. McClain’s notebook.
McClain looks at the big camp competitions.
Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis both reported on time, says Mike Chappell.
The Colts will start out healthy for a change, says Chappell.
Howard Mudd is helping out the Saints, writes Chappell.
Zach Miller, who knows adversity, finally has a green light, says Vito Stellino.
The Oklahoma Drill was a hit, writes Tania Ganguli.
Reggie Nelson made a memorable play that could mean something, says Tania Ganguli.
The Jags say they have a deal with Tyson Alualu, but his agent isn’t sure, says Stellino.
Derrick Morgan is signed, but sitting hurt, says John Glennon.
Chris Johnson’s sizing up his new running backs coach, Craig Johnson, say Jim Wyatt and Glennon.
He'd like an MVP to come with it.
"They'd have no choice," he said. "No player ever did it twice back-to-back, so I don't think they'd have a choice."
In the salary adjustment that moved money from later in his contract to signing bonus this season, he said there were no discussions about whether the team intended to renegotiate after this season, the third of the original five-year deal.
He praised new running back coach Craig Johnson, saying the coach who recently shifted from quarterbacks knows the playbook like the back of his hand. Johnson did visit once with Kennedy Pola -- in Florida where Pola lived in Jacksonville and Johnson in Orlando.
I asked if a guy who considers himself “Every Coach’s Dream” thought the offensive coordinator post at USC was a better job that coaching him.
“It’s a business, so it’s about money at the end of the day,” Johnson said. “More money for him.”
The other player who spent the offseason away, Stephen Tulloch, was on the field as the starting middle linebacker after his unsuccessful bid for a long-term deal. He will play for his one-year tender of $2.521 million unless agent Drew Rosenhaus can pull off something.
“It’s just unfortunate that my year [for unrestricted free agency] I’m stuck in this bind with 211 other people,” he said. “… I understood how it works, let my agent work on it and he continues to work hard in Miami.
“You work tremendously hard, you sacrifice your body every week, every year you give it all you’ve got. You look at the situation, obviously you’re not happy with it, but what can you do? Your hands are tied. There’s a deadline, you’ve got to sign, you’ve got to move forward. I’m here, I’m going to put that behind me, finish this season off strong, get to the next level and try to be a Pro Bowl caliber-player.”
Gerald McRath, the outside linebacker who’s suspended for the first four games, wasn’t with the first team defense in team periods. Collin Allred, who’s spent the offseason in Tulloch’s spot, was outside opposite Will Witherspoon. Allred said he was told he’d get work outside, but he was surprised it was with the starters. He said he seeks to be a utility guy and special teamer.
David Thornton, the likely starter outside while McRath is out, was one of five Titans placed on the PUP list, along with Damian Williams, Tony Brown, Nick Schommer, Jamar Love and Willie Rose. Jeff Fisher made it sound like they would all be back in the short term.
- Justin Gage dropped out of practice with an intestinal problem and Lavelle Hawkins wound up working with Nate Washington on the first team. It would probably have been Kenny Britt – who made several nice catches along with Dominique Edison -- if he wasn’t dealing with cramping.
- Vince Young is used to joking around with Dowell Loggains, an assistant coach. But he said Loggains was far more serious in his first official action as the quarterbacks coach. The quarterback said he was glad to see Loggains in the post, replacing Johnson.
- Fisher said he believes Derrick Morgan is in Tennessee. GM Mike Reinfeldt indicated to the coach before practice that a deal with the first-round pick was getting close.
- Veteran tight end Sean Ryan, a relatively recent addition, said he thinks he will be given a chance to prompt the team to keep four players at the position.
- Some of Lane Kiffin’s recent thinking is absurd. News story on it here.
- Rookies report Friday evening. The first mandatory thing of camp for everyone is a Saturday breakfast. There is then conditioning testing. Players who attended 80 percent of offseason workouts run 300-yard shuttles in 50-yard spurts; those who did not attend have to stop and turn twice as frequently running in 25-yard bursts.
- He has no reason to expect linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who stayed away for the offseason upset that he didn’t get a long-term deal instead of a restricted free agent tender, not to show up.
- Linebacker David Thornton is healthier, but could still possibly land on the PUP list. Fisher expects him to play in the preseason.
- The Titans had been in some contact with Keith Bulluck, the veteran who recently signed with the Giants, despite Bulluck’s claim that he had talked with no one from the team since February.
- New running backs coach Craig Johnson will get extra assistance from coordinator Mike Heimerdinger if needed during the transition.
- It’s unrealistic to talk Super Bowl on Day One. Fisher operates in much smaller increments, setting short term goals for his team, he said. And any good from last year has to be rebuilt. “You can’t escrow stuff and withdraw it,” he said.
- A guy that rarely says something surprised him, or he didn’t anticipate something again took the blame for last year’s return issues: “I didn’t address that adequately enough,” he said.
Titans quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson is a candidate to be Raheem Morris' offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers, according to a report from Jim Wyatt.
Also, Wyatt reports the Detroit Lions have asked for permission to talk to Titans defensive assistant/quality control coach Matt Burke. Burke has worked under Schwartz in Tennessee for the last five seasons.