Tennessee Titans: Titans coaching closeup

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Most days of camp I hope to position myself to watch a new Tennessee Titans assistant coach work with his position group.

“I want them to be good teachers and set the right environment for our players, from a learning aspect,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

A few days ago I watched Mike Mularkey work with the tight ends, but I didn’t have a vantage point to hear Mularkey much.

The tight ends worked with offensive tackles early on, concentrating on synchronizing blocks as they come off the line of scrimmage. A tackle-tight end duo worked on double-teaming a defender, with one of them then breaking off to take a player coming from the second level.

When the tight ends broke off to work on their own, they spent time on getting into position to be ready for initial contact with a defender after the snap. That expanded into setting, giving a shove to the first defender, fanning out a bit to hit a second, and fanning out more to get a third. Thud, thud, thud on the blocking pads being held by teammates.

Finally they ran some simple routes -- five or six strides and an out cut that came slightly back to the quarterback.

When they moved to join receivers and running backs to take throws from the QBs, Mularkey positioned himself in the middle of the field about 10 yards deep and offered feedback to many of his guys after they ran a route and collected a throw.

Mularkey’s top player, Delanie Walker, talked in the offseason about some of his coaches theses: lifting the keg, stepping on toes.

Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson and the other tight ends are getting more and more stuff like that now.

Walker said forcing a defender to replace his hands is a big point of emphasis. Mularkey uses Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid" and his lesson in "wax on, wax off" with the tight ends. Titans tight ends are repeatedly swiping away a hand on their chest and looking to gain ground and dictate a play as that defender has to spend time and effort replacing his hands.

Mularkey is also big on playing through the whistle.

“He says the referee better blow the whistle,” Walker said. “Because if he doesn’t, we won’t ever stop playing.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Most days of camp I put myself in position to watch a new assistant coach work with his position group.

“I want them to be good teachers and set the right environment for our players, from a learning aspect,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Saturday, I watched the defensive backs, and then specifically the cornerbacks, do drills under the watch of Louie Cioffi.

Cioffi was detailed, low-key and encouraging.

All the DBs worked together at the start, following zigzagging lines on the field intended to help with drop depth.

Assistant secondary coach Steve Brown was seeing them first and emphasizing eyes, while Cioffi was a bit further down the line and repeatedly encouraged them to stay down and concentrate on their feet.

His reviews were loaded with compliments. “Nice,” he said. “Good.”

Then Brown went to work with safeties while Cioffi stuck with corners. Corners were inside a small space where they stood on a line parallel to their feet while the guy working as a “receiver” went down a line on either side which tilted away at a 45 degree angle.

Cioffi hit on finer points. One corner let his hands go down and behind him and was reminded they needed to be up, in front of him.

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton stopped by and talked about how guys covering an X receiver close up on them like that needed to be a bit patient and slow to see what was going to unfold. The receiver wants the corner to make a move, and the Titans want the corner to stay square longer.

Against Z receivers who are further off the line of scrimmage, even more patience is needed.

Cioffi and Brown worked comfortably together, and Horton’s interjections helped the drills move and improve.

Players moved on to a segment where corners tracked a receiver who was repeatedly cutting to change directions.

As Cioffi told them to water up and be ready to compete in one-on-ones against real receivers, he reminded them to be sure to get two reps in press coverage and one rep of off coverage in what was about to unfold.

“He’s a good guy, if he wants something done a certain way he’ll tell you and he’ll explain why it needs to be done that way,” Tommie Campbell said. “There is not a lot of gray area. You listen to him, you can understand him. I haven’t heard him raise his voice, but if he says something he gets his point across. Once he explains something, if he’s talking to another corner, he’s talk to me as well.

“He says just be strong with what you’re strong at. If we need to be inside leverage on a certain route, a certain formation or whatever it is, and they throw an outside breaking route, then they just throw an outside breaking route.”