AFC South: Taylor Thompson

Titans restock at tight end, fullback

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
8:40
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The banged-up Tennessee Titans jiggled their roster Tuesday to restock for Sunday’s game at Denver and the remainder of the season, adding veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

Shiancoe will join Taylor Thompson as the two healthy players at the position. Craig Stevens missed the Titans' game at Indianapolis because of a concussion. Delanie Walker was knocked out of the game against the Colts in the first half with a concussion of his own.

The Titans also have a new fullback who’s really not new. Collin Mooney is on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Titans replaced him with Quinn Johnson, who was the team’s fullback in 2012. Johnson went on injured reserve just before this season, and the Titans reached an injury settlement with him and went forward with Mooney.

Putting Mooney on IR created one open roster spot, and the Titans created two more by waiving linebacker Zac Diles and safety Shann Schillinger. Shiancoe and Johnson fill two spots, and Michael Griffin returns from a one-week suspension that came with a roster exemption.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 13

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
1:02
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 22-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium:

Fitzpatrick
Streaky: When he was bad in relief of Jake Locker after Locker’s first injury, we talked about Ryan Fitzpatrick being a streaky quarterback. In his second relief stint, he was far better. Until this game against the Colts. He made several bad throws en route to three interceptions and also lost a fumble. Fitzpatrick made some bad decisions -- including one that didn’t result in an interception, but cost them a chance to score points. The Titans faced a third-and-10 from the Indianapolis 31 with 8:23 left in the game and trailing 15-14. Seven yards would have gotten them in range for a 51-yard field goal attempt by Rob Bironas that could have put the Titans ahead. Instead Fitzpatrick threw a hopeless deep ball for Justin Hunter that fell incomplete. Fitzpatrick said in hindsight that a shorter option like Kendall Wright would have been better.

Tight-end trouble: When they traded up in the fifth round in 2012 to draft him, the Titans thought Taylor Thompson was going to be a game-changing tight end. He played more defensive end than tight end at SMU. With Craig Stevens already out with a concussion and Delanie Walker knocked out with a first-half concussion, Thompson was the lone tight end for most of the game. Reserve tackle Mike Otto reported eligible often. Thompson was targeted three times and didn’t make a catch. He hardly looks the part of a confident target. He looks very much the part of a draft-day reach.

Johnson
Not enough CJ: Chris Johnson finished the game with 18 carries for 69 yards. Ten carries for 48 yards came in the second half, when I thought Johnson and the Titans’ blocking were starting to wear the Colts down some and figuring out how to get places. But again, the Titans didn’t seem willing or able to stick with it as much as might have been possible. They got away from Johnson too quickly in their first loss to the Colts. In the second, they didn’t ride him enough late.

Low impact: There is a good deal of luck in recovering fumbles. The Colts fumbled three times, with Andrew Luck dropping two on sacks. The Titans couldn’t recover any of them. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick fumbled once and lost it. The Colts grabbed all their interception opportunities, while George Wilson dropped a potential interception that was as easy as they get. “Why can’t we grab that ball that’s lying there three times?” Mike Munchak said. “We had an interception that hits us right in the chest, and that changes the game; we missed it. They didn’t miss one of theirs. They intercepted all of theirs thrown to them. We’ll keep drilling those things, and maybe we’ll get better at it.”

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
4:13
PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 22-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts a Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Titans blew a chance to get back to leading the pack for the sixth seed in the AFC and couldn’t close to within a game of the Colts in the AFC South. They are now 5-7. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Kicker Adam Vinatieri made up for the Colts' inability to find the end zone until the end, when they drove 92 yards in 11 plays over 6:12, capped by a 4-yard Donald Brown touchdown that provided the final margin.

Stock watch: Tight end Taylor Thompson was called on for a major role with Craig Stevens inactive because of a concussion and Delanie Walker lost in the first half to a concussion of his own. Thompson looked thoroughly overmatched, booting a couple of catchable balls and hardly providing a reliable option for Fitzpatrick.

Four in a row: The Titans have played reasonably well in four games against the Colts since Chuck Pagano took over as coach and Andrew Luck took over as quarterback. But Tennessee is 0-4 in those games as the Colts have found a way every time in the second half.

Giant goat: Well away from the tackle at the very end of the first half, linebacker Moise Fokou shoved fullback Stanley Havili in the back and drew a personal foul penalty. The 15 yards put the Colts in range for a 37-yard Vinatieri field goal.

What’s next: The Titans travel to Denver for a matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
A look at the snap report from the NFL for the Titans in their win over Pittsburgh.

Offense, 67 total snaps
LT Michael Roos, 67
LG Andy Levitre, 67
C Rob Turner, 67
RG Chance Warmack, 67
RT David Stewart, 67
QB Jake Locker, 67

TE Delanie Walker, 51
TE Craig Stevens, 49
RB Chris Johnson, 43
WR Kenny Britt, 43
WR Nate Washington, 38
WR Damian Williams, 27
TE Taylor Thompson, 25
RB Jackie Battle, 19
WR Kendall Wright, 19
FB Collin Mooney, 17
RB Shonn Greene, 4

Greene got hurt early or would likely have had most of Battle’s snaps. The team said Wright’s preseason knee injury wasn’t going to be an issue, but he should get more than that if he’s fine -- especially when Britt is ineffective.

Defense, 53 total snaps
CB Jason McCourty, 53
LB Moise Fokou, 53
LB Zach Brown, 53
FS Michael Griffin, 53

CB Alterraun Verner, 52
SS Bernard Pollard. 51
DE Derrick Morgan, 49
DT Jurrell Casey, 45
CB Coty Sensabaugh, 36
LB-DE Akeem Ayers, 29
DE Kamerion Wimbley, 27
DL Karl Klug, 23
DE Ropati Pitoitua, 19
DT Mike Martin, 17
DT Sammie Hill, 17
S George Wilson, 3
DT Antonio Johnson, 3

The Titans are supposed to be reducing Morgan’s snaps, but Ayers is coming off an ankle injury and they were clearly measuring his work. He wasn’t very effective. Pitoitua showed well. Hill was a big free-agent addition. He had an elbow injury in the preseason and I would expect more action from him.

Four Titans played 18 special-teams snaps: Patrick Bailey, Tommie Campbell, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Daimion Stafford.

Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the only active player who didn't take the field.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 1

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
12:00
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 16-9 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

The defensive mentality: As the 2012 season ended, the Titans were already talking about the need to be more aggressive. Then Mike Munchak brought in Gregg Williams as a senior assistant/defense.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarJurrell Casey and the Titans sacked Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger five times in Week 1.
Munchak emphasized that defensive coordinator Jerry Gray called the Pittsburgh game. And the Titans didn’t go crazy with blitzing the way Williams’s defenses have in the past.

But the defense was well-prepared to keep Ben Roethlisberger hemmed in the pocket. The Titans sacked him five times. Though the Steelers found some plays to Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Jericho Cotchery, the biggest pass play was 22 yards.

Williams' influence and the swagger he brings seemed to be at work, at least to a degree. As I’ve said before, Gray is in a no-win situation. We’ll look at improvements because of Williams, and if they are bad we’ll say it’s the same old stuff.

Jake Locker's poise: One of his biggest issues has been his desire to do too much. So one of the Titans' biggest goals has been to shape a team that can shape games where he doesn’t feel like he has to overreach. And he didn’t overreach in Pittsburgh.

He was calm and efficient. He misfired a few times. But we’ve said in the right sort of context he could be a bit like former Titans quarterback Steve McNair, where the numbers don’t always look as good as the quarterbacking.

That was the case here. Locker did his part.

I think his confidence grew through a preseason where he showed steady improvement. And I am sure it will grow some more from helping engineer a tough win in a tough place against a tough defense.

Three tight ends: The Titans used a three-tight-end formation quite a bit, mostly with Damian Williams on the field as the lone receiver and a running back behind Locker.

It was pretty effective, but going forward the Titans will have to do more to show they can be balanced when Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson are on the field together.

By the count of Terry McCormick of Titan Insider, the Titans gave up a sack and threw just twice in 17 snaps with three tight ends, some of which was with Williams and a back, and some of which was with two backs. Locker threw incomplete once and connected on a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Nate Washington.

Williams said it won’t be too predictable.

“Sometime in that formation, you’ve got three tight ends and a receiver, that’s four eligible receivers that are capable of catching the ball,” he said. “You do have to throw out of it to keep them honest.”

Third-down defense: The Titans gave up some third-and-long conversions in their preseason game in Cincinnati that were of particular concern. The Steelers converted third-and-8, third-and-9 and third-and-8, respectively, on their opening possession.

That left me thinking the Titans were going to have some serious issues. But they settled down and played really well on third down the rest of the way, allowing the Steelers to convert just one of 10 the rest of the game.

“We knew those weren’t good on our part and those third downs were long, we weren’t happy,” cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “We came back to the sideline and said, ‘We can’t have that happen.’ We were able to respond.”

My 53-man Tennessee Titans roster

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
3:14
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rather than tell you this is what’s going to happen, I’ll tell you this is what would happen if I had influence in the Tennessee Titans meeting room when final cuts will be decided.

Some cuts are already trickling out from Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, so check his Twitter feed.

Quarterbacks: Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick

There just is no room for Rusty Smith and there isn’t a need for a third quarterback unless things go incredibly wrong. The difference between a random third guy and Smith isn’t giant.

Running backs: Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle, Quinn Johnson (FB)

Battle has to contribute on special teams, but he was better than Jalen Parmele through the preseason. Wyatt says Parmele is already gone. Johnson’s been hurt and could lose out to Collin Mooney.

Wide receivers: Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Damian Williams, Justin Hunter, Michael Preston, Marc Mariani (return specialist)

Preston is one of the best 53 players on the team. Even though he won’t be active on Sundays if everyone’s healthy, you keep extra quality depth at one spot if it’s better than weaker depth at another spot. Once he’s healthy, Mariani isn’t as explosive as a punt returner as Darius Reynaud, but will more regularly get 10 yards.

Tight ends: Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson

No need for a fourth on the 53. Sign Jack Doyle to the practice squad

Offensive linemen: Tackles Michael Roos, David Stewart, Mike Otto, Byron Stingily. Interior: Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack, Rob Turner, Brian Schwenke, Fernando Velasco

Velasco is guaranteed $2.02 million under his tender contract out of restricted free agency. I’m not sure he should stick over Scott Solomon at linebacker or Stefan Charles at defensive tackle. But the big push for revamping the line and the desire for depth after last year’s slew of injuries makes me feel like they will stay loaded.

Defensive ends: Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Kamerion Wimbley, Lavar Edwards, Keyunta Dawson.

Dawson is a good guy to have. I can see him staying and the Titans going five ends as opposed to six tackles. But linebacker Akeem Ayers is a nickel end so he factors in here as well.

Defensive tackles: Jurrell Casey, Sammie Hill, Mike Martin, Antonio Johnson, Karl Klug (swing)

I’ve got Stefan Charles over DaJohn Harris but neither making it. If one of them sticks, it’s the last defensive line spot probably over Dawson. I see Charles on the practice squad.

Linebackers: Akeem Ayers, Moise Fokou, Zach Brown, Zaviar Gooden, Colin McCarthy, Patrick Bailey

Scott Solomon is one of my last two cuts. I want to keep seven 'backers. The seventh guy would be a trade-off for Velasco, I think. Solomon is versatile, seems to be catching on to the position change and can still play end if needed. He’s not practice squad eligible. I just can’t fit him here. I might keep him over Bailey but I don’t think they rank him that way.

Safeties: Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson, Daimion Stafford

The fourth spot isn’t strong and Stafford could probably go to the practice squad. But if they choose a veteran -- Al Afalava or Corey Lynch -- as the fourth I could see them trying to upgrade it with an outsider.

Cornerbacks: Jason McCourty, Alterraun Verner, Tommie Campbell, Coty Sensabaugh, Blidi Wreh-Wilson

I’d expect Khalid Wooten on the practice squad.

Kicker: Rob Bironas

Punter: Brett Kern

Long-snapper: Beau Brinkley
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Who is the most indispensable Titan?

Not the presumptive team MVP. Not the guy they can least afford to lose.

Who’s the most distinct guy, the one who the team would have to alter its schemes without?

Here are the four I think qualify for the list, in the order of their distinctness:

Johnson
Johnson
RB Chris Johnson: There is one guy on the Titans who an opponent has to account for at all times, and it’s Johnson. He’s still got blazing speed, and if he gets free, he’s got as much potential to break off giant runs as anyone in the league. Having one guy with that speed is fortunate. It’s virtually impossible to have another. If the Titans were without Johnson, they’d still run the ball plenty. But it would be a lot more power-based with the stronger but much slower Shonn Greene taking the bulk of carries.

Walker
Walker
TE/F-back Delanie Walker: The Titans have yet to have him on the field for a preseason game, and they might leave him on the sideline this week to be extra cautious, and to keep him a bit of a mystery for Pittsburgh. As a “move tight end," he can line up in the backfield, on the line, in the slot, and even out wide. The Titans don’t have another guy anything like him in terms of being able to shift around and create mismatches. Craig Stevens is a more traditional blocking tight end. Taylor Thompson is more of a receiver. The Titans' offense is a lot different with Walker involved than without him.

Ayers
Ayers
LB-DE Akeem Ayers: At 6-foot-3, 253 pounds, Ayers is one of the biggest starting linebackers the Titans have had. He’s very much a strongside guy, and now he will almost exclusively be coming forward to be part of the rush. When the Titans go to nickel, he’ll often put his hand down and function as the right defensive end. Patrick Bailey played in Ayers' linebacker spot against the Falcons, but he can’t step up to be the defensive end. Scott Solomon is a defensive end who has been converted to strongside linebacker, and while his progress has been good, he’s not a natural.

Wright
WR Kendall Wright: At 5-foot-10 (and 191 pounds) he’s the shortest receiver among the guys who will be around. Shifty and quick, Wright has a knack for not taking a big hit in the middle of the field. The Titans don’t really have another guy in the same mold. Damian Williams is working in the slot as Wright recovers from a knee injury. Williams is a quality player and a bigger target. He’s a versatile guy who is technique-sound and a quality route-runner. But he’s not the same style or caliber of playmaker.

Observation deck: Titans-Falcons

August, 25, 2013
8/25/13
12:58
AM ET

 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If you’re going to post two duds and a stellar game in the preseason, it’s best if the stellar game comes in Week 3, the traditional dress-rehearsal week.

That’s what the Tennessee Titans got Saturday night at LP Field in a 27-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

The defense gave up too much on the Falcons’ first three drives but held strong in the red zone and surrendered a total of six points. The run defense still has room to improve, allowing 4.5 yards per carry to Steven Jackson in the first half.

But things got better overall as the game went on, with five sacks of Matt Ryan and much better shedding of blocks, hitting and tackling.

The headline, however, was provided by young quarterback Jake Locker.

He finished up the first half plus one series with a very solid line: 11-for-13 for 133 yards and a touchdown with a 134.9 passer rating. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble. He threw the ball well and had people catching the ball better for him but for a drive-killing Taylor Thompson drop of a pass thrown a touch behind the tight end.

The mandatory preseason disclaimer: It was a meaningless game against a team that went deep into the playoffs last season but was only 24th in overall defense and 23rd against the pass. Now, two of the Falcons’ top three cornerbacks are rookies -- Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.

Locker’s bad moments came on the move or under pressure.

On a third-and-7 from the Titans' 35, he didn’t seem quite aware enough and should have been sacked but shrugged out of a blitz. He rolled right and turned to run for a pretty easy first down. But linebacker Joplo Bartu hit him -- and the ball -- as he went down and jarred it loose; safety Thomas DeCoud recovered it.

Beside the fumble, Locker was helpless on two sacks -- one that came from super-quick pressure past right tackle David Stewart, one on which he was pinned in on both sides and taken down as the middle closed in.

In the third quarter, the first-team offense’s lone drive stalled when Locker saw pressure and put his head down rather than feeling the pressure and trying to do something against it.

The positive far outweighed the fumble and the sacks, however.

“This is the first week that we’ve actually put in a game plan. We’d been running base stuff the first two weeks,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “So I think that probably helped a little bit. It helped open up the play-action a little bit and helped Jake.

“I was probably too conservative early on, and once I let him go, he played really well.”

It was a very encouraging night for the quarterback. If the Titans could freeze him right here and put him in practice on Wednesday, Sept. 4, in preparation for the season opener at Pittsburgh, I think they might.

I’ve done some reporting and I’ve learned, exclusively, that such freezing is not an available option.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
AP Photo/John RussellTitans QB Jake Locker ran three times for 22 yards in addition to his 133 yards through the air.
Some other thoughts:

Run defense still an issue: Jackson took 10 first-half carries 45 yards.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who’s healthy and playing very well, didn’t like learning those numbers.

“We want to hold guys to 2 yards a carry. One or 2 yards a carry,” Casey said. “We don’t want to give up nothing more than that because then it makes it too hard, a game where they can just pound it down your throat. In order to get to the quarterback, you’ve got to stop them on the run on first and second downs.”

See more about the run defense in this video.

Even having allowed more rushing yards than they’d like, the Titans' pass rush was excellent, with five sacks of Ryan and six overall. Casey had 1½; Derrick Morgan, Mike Martin and Kadarron Anderson had one each. Moise Fokou, Karl Klug and Kamerion Wimbley each had half a sack. Nice distribution.

Double barrel: Chris Johnson looked solid in gaining 65 yards on 11 carries with a nice 20-yard sprint to the right sideline on the Titans' first touchdown drive.

Earlier, on the Titans' second possession, Johnson got the ball on first and second down, gaining 7 yards and then 2. Tennessee sent Shonn Greene on to replace Johnson, and Greene did just what the Titans brought him in to do: find 3 yards to convert the third-and-1.

I asked Johnson if he envisioned that being the way things are going to work.

“I don’t know,” he said.

Another not-smart hit by Bernard Pollard: In the Titans’ first preseason game, Pollard put his head down and hit a Redskin heading out of bounds. That got him a $10,000 fine. In the Titans' second preseason game, he twice got beat on third-and-long, failing to make tackles in situations when he should have. Against Atlanta, on the Falcons' very first drive, he unnecessarily jumped in late on a tackle of Julio Jones and drew another personal foul penalty.

Ankle sprains: The Titans announced that both receiver Nate Washington and running back Greene didn’t finish with the first team because of ankle sprains. Washington said his was actually a right foot injury that wouldn’t cost him time unless the Titans were super cautious; Greene said his was really existing ankle soreness and not serious.

Good red zone defense after allowing the Falcons to get there too easily: The Falcons marched into the red zone on their first three drives but wound up with three field goal attempts and only six points.

“They got down there way too easy,” Casey said. “We let them get explosive plays -- big passes, things like that. We can’t allow that. When they got down there, we did our job by not letting them get in the end zone. That was one of our goals this week -- stopping them in the red zone, and we did that.”

Making a case: Receiver Michael Preston is not going to outrank any of the five receivers ahead of him, but he could be making himself a guy the Titans have to keep as a sixth, and I am hard-pressed to believe he is not one of the team’s 53 best football players.

Preston had three catches for 68 yards from Ryan Fitzpatrick, with a 56-yard bomb setting up Justin Hunter's short TD catch before he hauled in a 6-yard touchdown catch of his own later on.

I wrote about Preston at work on Friday.

“He’s a really good player. He’s been doing that day in, day out at practice,” Loggains said. “He made a big statement for his case to be on this football team again tonight.”

Verner and Turner: Cornerback Alterraun Verner and center Rob Turner started and did nothing that should dent them as the favorites to be named the starters at their respective spots.

Verner was flagged for two penalties against Jones -- a pass interference on a short pass into the middle and an illegal contact on a longer throw. I thought the first one was a good play on a ball Ryan threw a bit behind Jones. Later, Jones beat Verner, who didn’t touch him near the line, on a 42-yard play up the right side. Jones is going to make plays against a lot of corners.

And while Tommie Campbell came in early enough to have a couple chances against Jones and wasn’t victimized in a similar way, he didn’t do anything that should change the Titans' leanings.

Battle vs. Parmele: I thought Jackie Battle was getting a bit too much hype heading into the game. He was running better than Jalen Parmele, but special teams will be a huge factor in one of them winning the No. 3 running back job. I was told before the game, however, that he's close to Parmele on special teams. Battle got a game-high 13 carries for 41 yards. Parmele didn’t get one. Advantage Battle.

Referee change: Ed Hochuli was the ref in the first half, but by design, the game turned over to Wayne Mackie in the second half. He’s typically a field judge. The league is looking for opportunities to get people experience. Mackie communicated well when he had to use his microphone.

But Mackie was buzzed to review Alford’s interception of Fitzpatrick on a throw intended for Hunter. There was absolutely no reason for replay assistant Roger Ruth to buzz Mackie to review that play except to give him practice at it.

And whether the league needs to get a guy game experience or not, two teams, a crowd and a TV audience should not be subject to an unneeded challenge for such purposes.

Pending cuts? The first round of cuts come Tuesday, when the Titans have to get from 90 to 75. Healthy guys who don’t play in the third preseason game are typically being kept from getting hurt, because a team can’t cut an injured player.

Healthy Titans who didn’t play in this game were receiver Justin Hilton, defensive end Nigel Nicholas, guard Oscar Johnson, tackle Barry Richardson, tight end Martell Webb and receiver Rashad Ross. It'll be a surprise if any of them are on the roster Tuesday evening.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some of what I noticed at Tennessee Titans practice Sunday night:

The Oklahoma Drill -- I cringe when I see it because I think of how Jacksonville defensive lineman Tyson Alualu suffered an unnecessary knee injury as part of Jack Del Rio's version. What the Titans did here wasn't nearly as extensive and Mike Munchak emphasized how he doesn't believe it's risky.

They did some work with linebackers and offensive linemen Saturday and then looked for coaches to request matchups today. They intend to do something like that, something competitive in practice, on the nights they are in pads.

"It's a safe thing, there not a whole lot that can go wrong there," Munchak said. "There are only a couple bodies in the way, it's low impact."

I'm not sure about the low impact part.

Michael Roos won against Kamerion Wimbley, Fernando Velasco beat Colin McCarthy, Taylor Thompson got the decision over Michael Griffin, and the timing on a Quinn Johnson-Bernard Pollard snap was messed up so it was hard to judge fairly.

Jake Locker -- The quarterback performed better than he did during Friday's practice. The offense as a whole, which got beaten pretty badly Saturday afternoon, bounced back nicely.

I saw him throw a dart in red zone work to Damian Williams in the back left of the end zone, a ball Williams caught with Tommie Campbell practically draped over him.

One sequence was particularly good.

Locker hit Kendall Wright on a midrange pass at the right sideline. Wright dove, pulled it in, and his shoulder landed in bounds. The next play Locker found Nate Washington in stride well down the right sideline for a big play on Jason McCourty.

Locker also took off a couple times on plays that would have produced real headaches for a defense in live action.

Drops or fumbles -- Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains isn't standing for them.

When Darius Reynaud fumbled, it might have been the result of a botched handoff, but it didn't matter. "Give me a new running back," Loggains shouted, motioning to the rest of the offense. "That can't happen."

Craig Stevens and receiver Roberto Wallace got similar requests to leave the offense after drops.

Fitzpatrick's block -- On a play where Reynaud started to run right but then cut back, backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick joined the blocking caravan and kept Alterraun Verner out of the play.

The crowd ate it up.

"I think he knew that, that he's wearing the red jersey and no one was going to hurt him," Munchak said. "You can see the energy it brings, I think quarterbacks realize that. They can get involved in a play like that when someone reverses fields, they can maybe get a cheap block and not get hurt on it. It brought a lot of energy to the practice for sure."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some observations from Friday evening’s Tennessee Titans training camp, the first open to fans...

In 7-on-7 work with no linemen:

Tight end Taylor Thompson angled away from a defender and was open about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, but Jake Locker missed him with a wobbly ball that sailed too long.

Undrafted rookie receiver Rashad Ross was well-covered by corner Tommie Campbell, but quarterback Rusty Smith zipped a short pass completion to him anyway.

From his own 15-yard line, Locker looked for receiver Michael Preston but his terrible pass found cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick on Thursday.

In team periods:

Locker rolled left, against his arm, a few times by design. On one, he did very well to square his shoulders and hit Craig Stevens. On another he hit Justin Hunter, but cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson had it so well sniffed out he would have leveled the rookie receiver if allowed.

Locker threw a deep ball over Nate Washington's head up the right sideline. After he bounced one to Kenny Britt, Locker hit Damian Williams on a very nice pass down the middle for roughly 20 yards.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey showed great lateral movement and got nearly to the sideline to end one breakout running play by Jalen Parmele. Later Casey managed to knock the wind out of Shonn Greene after tracking him on a dump off pass closer to the line of scrimmage and the center of the field.

You can already see stretches where the Titans are working to mimic the sort of no-huddle, high-speed offense they will sometime have to defend. With a new batch of offensive players quickly taking over for the group that just ran routes and blocked, the defense had to race to get back into position for a snap.

On a “now” pass, the quarterback throws immediately to a receiver split wide who hasn’t really moved off the line of scrimmage. The ball has to arrive in a way that the receiver can run with it immediately. Locker threw one left to Kendall Wright, but Wright had to bend at the waste to pull it in from too low. That doesn’t lend itself to the play working.

Line of the day, from Britt to safety Bernard Pollard: “Your name’s Bernard, you ain’t THAT tough.”

Receiver Marc Mariani let a Fitzpatrick pass bounce off his hands that was picked off by linebacker Tim Shaw.

Campbell does look very confident and was in good position a lot. On another play, where Locker had someone in his face as he checked down short over the middle, Campbell closed and batted down a pass thrown for Hunter.

Backup kicker Maikon Bonani has a gigantic leg. But during the field goal period he had one atrocious miss, shanking his ball low and left and missing the wide screen set up well behind the goal posts.

I wanted to note one play in particular: Fitzpatrick lined up in the shotgun and the defense couldn’t get lined up. Multiple players were shouting calls, waving each other around and didn’t know what to do or where to line up. It’s a play where Fitzpatrick has to get his guys set -- maybe one was late, but I didn’t see it -- snap it quickly and take advantage of the defensive confusion. Instead, however, Fitzpatrick waited a long time and the defense found some semblance of organization. He wound up throwing a short incompletion that may have been a throwaway. The defense can’t win that play but did.

“Yes, we’d want him to snap it,” Mike Munchak said afterwards. “I don’t know if he was waiting for the defense or waiting for one of our guys. Generally, in a game we’d go. In a practice, I think he was making sure, because we weren’t in a hurry-up mode. The offense should have an advantage there, yes.”
We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.

Today, we examine tight ends.

Williamson’s AFC South tight end rankings:
1) Colts (Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Justice Cunningham)
2) Titans (Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson)
3) Texans (Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, Ryan Griffin)
4) Jaguars (Marcedes Lewis, Isaiah Stanback)

I love the Colts' pair of young tight ends as well. I’ve not seen a lot of Walker yet, but if he turns out to be the player the Titans expect, I think Tennessee could be No. 1 here. But as of right now, my order would be the same.

My questions for Williamson based off of his list:

What was your overall thinking on tight ends? The Colts being first indicates you really like Fleener and Allen. Any doubts about them under Pep Hamilton and in their second years?

“Another pretty decent-and young-position group in the division overall, but I think the Colts stand alone. I am smitten with Allen and already believe he is the best tight end in this division and Fleener obviously has a lot of ability in the passing game. It’s way too early to write him off in any way. Zero doubts about Allen, minimal doubts about Fleener.”

SportsNation

Matt Williamson's ranking of AFC South tight end units is:

  •  
    51%
  •  
    26%
  •  
    23%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,069)

Can you rank the team in the order of what you expect in terms of tight end-reliance and usage?

“The Colts have a lot of weapons, but should be predominantly a two-tight end base offense, so they are first and have the best players at the position. Lewis is the clear No. 3 option for Jacksonville and is a pretty quarterback-friendly target, so I will put them second. Like the Colts, Houston runs a ton of multiple tight end sets, but I can see Daniels taking a small step backwards, so they are third. I really like the young collection of tight ends in Tennessee, but they are last for reliance and usage."

How much is the rationale for the Jaguars being fourth their poor depth behind Lewis? How much is it about Lewis?

"The lack of depth at tight end in Jacksonville is glaring and is a huge reason for them being fourth."

Who's the best pass-catching tight end in the division?

“Allen is probably the best pass-catching TE in the division, but it is debatable. There is a strong argument still for Daniels and Fleener's potential in this area is obvious.”

Who's the best blocking tight end in the division?

“Allen is also an excellent blocker, but the Titans have some serious blocking tight ends. Walker is exceptional in this department and can do so from all over the formation (will Tennessee utilize this skill like San Francisco did?) and Stevens is one of the best inline blockers in the game, while Thompson might have more overall upside as a receiver, but especially as a blocker -- as much as anyone in the division.”

As for me…

I fully expect the Jaguars to sort though tight ends who come free around the league to add better depth.

The Titans have the receivers to go three-wide a lot, but I think they will be two-tight plenty with Walker and Stevens on the field together. I’d rank them higher than the Jaguars in reliance on the position because it’s hard to see Jacksonville using much two-tight ends when we don’t know who the second tight end will be yet.

Fleener and Allen will be featured more and have increased production in Pep Hamilton’s offense. The Colts will run more, which means the two will also do more blocking.

I think it’s a bit dangerous to expect a drop-off from Daniels. With DeVier Posey out for at least the first half of the season, the Texans' No. 2 wide receiver is a rookie (DeAndre Hopkins). Daniels and running back Arian Foster will continue to be key pieces of the passing game.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Arian Foster has joined NFL players supporting LBGT Pride Month, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Breaking down the sacks and season of J.J. Watt with Cian Fahey of Pre Snap Reads. "Maybe surprisingly, half of his sacks, 12, came on first and 10, while six came on third down. Only three times did he sack a quarterback on second down, with one sack coming on fourth down. Twenty of his sacks came when the line of scrimmage was more than six yards away from the first down marker."

Indianapolis Colts

I believed we missed this from Clark Judge of CBSSports.com: A conversation with Andrew Luck.

Ryan Grigson has looked objectively at his roster and has done well to upgrade it, says Brad Wells of Stampede Blue.

Laura Calloway of Colts Authority considers the health-related disadvantages at play with regard to a team or teams playing in Europe.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Breaking down the Jaguars’ defense with Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. (Video.)

How coverages determine the methods a team chooses to defend the run, from Eric Stoner of Big Cat Country.

Tennessee Titans

Will a more comfortable Tayler Thompson be more productive for the Titans in his second year? John Glennon of The Tennessean looks at Thompson.

A look at the Titans third and fourth quarterbacks, Rusty Smith and Nathan Enderle, from Tyler Whetstone of The Tennessean.
Thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' decision not to place the franchise tag on tight end Jared Cook:

  • [+] EnlargeJared Cook
    Don McPeak/US PresswireThe franchise tag deadline expired Monday, and the Titans did not tag tight end Jared Cook.
    Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean indicated the team didn’t like the idea of fighting through an arbitrator with regard to whether Cook was a tight end, as they would have tagged him ($6.066 million) as opposed to the wide receiver tag he would have sought ($10.537 million). But had the team lost that arbitration, it would seem they simply could have pulled the tag if it got changed on them. Not intending to use it on anyone else, what would they have lost? What would have happened if, while a grievance was in process, Cook signed the tight end tag but then an arbitrator changed it to the receiver tag? There was room for a great deal of complication in a month during which the Titans have a lot of other issues to sort through. They decided they were unwilling to deal with those headaches in exchange for attempting to hold on to Cook.
  • Contract talks apparently broke down along the lines one would expect -- the Titans were looking at production and Cook was looking at potential. The question will now be what other team will pay him more for the potential than the production?
  • New tight ends coach George Henshaw was brought in to help get the Titans back to the short passing game that was a staple of the Steve McNair-Frank Wycheck era, when Henshaw previously coached the position. The Titans will have to get him a veteran to work with now. Options include Martellus Bennett of the Giants, Dustin Keller of the Jets, Brandon Myers of the Raiders and James Casey of the Texans, who’s been used as a fullback but has tight end pass-catching skills.
  • The Titans loved Taylor Thompson when they drafted him out of SMU in the fifth-round last year. He was a defensive end in college with a tight end background and looked raw as a first-year player. Tennessee can’t be envisioning him as its primary pass-catching tight end, he’s still very much a developmental player. Craig Stevens can make some plays, but is more of a blocker.
  • Since we learned that Mike Munchak would remain on as the head coach, there has been a distinct feel that he will sink or swim with his guys. I thought Cook ranked as enough of a playmaker to qualify as a guy he intended to swim with. But whether he was or wasn’t, a too-high price tag appeared to weigh things down and the Titans simply weren’t willing to go there.
  • When the Titans drafted Cook in 2009, they did so with a third-round pick they acquired from New England in exchange for a 2010 second-rounder. The production out of that expenditure: 59 games, 131 catches, 1,717 yards, a 13.1-yard average and eight touchdowns. The side effects: A lot of questions about his ability to be reliable and a lot of questions about how they failed to get the most out of him.
  • The Titans were already heading into free agency and the draft with multiple needs on the interior offensive line as well in search of a pass rusher and perhaps a safety even after signing veteran George Wilson. The big down side to this move is they've created another need.

RTC: Is Andrew Luck wearing down?

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
9:07
AM ET
Reading the coverage…

Pro Football Focus says J.J. Watt, Anthony Castonzo and Pat McAfee all had big weeks.

Houston Texans

The last time the Texans got embarrassed, they rebounded by blowing out Baltimore, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

A couple key players who missed the New England game could return for the Colts. Right tackle Derek Newton and tight end Garrett Graham are close to returning, says McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

His numbers of late suggest Andrew Luck is wearing down, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star. “It has me hoping the Colts clinch a playoff spot either Sunday at Houston or the next Sunday at Kansas City, so Luck can recharge his battery as much as possible and sit down after a series or two in that Dec. 30th season finale at home against the Texans.”

Running back Donald Brown is out for the season with a knee injury and fullback Robert Hughes is finished too. The Colts have added Deji Karim and Mewelde Moore, says Phil Richards.

Five Colts-Texans storylines, from Wilson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Russell Allen had a plan as an undrafted free agent for how he would find the best opportunity, and it panned out, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Mike Mularkey got back to work after his hospital visit, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Guard Mike Brewster is finished for the season because of his broken left hand, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

Is 2012 one of the Titans’ five worst seasons? Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean shares his list.

Chris Johnson is a big fan of Adrian Peterson, says Wyatt.

Titans rookie tight end Taylor Thompson could evolve into a perfect special teams player, writes David Boclair of Nashville City Paper.

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