Rookie running backs agree to contract terms with Titans

That takes care of the rookie running game.

The Tennessee Titans announced Thursday that they agreed to contract terms with two more draft picks, fullback Jalston Fowler and running back David Cobb. Their deals come a day after four others did the same.

Deals are now done with all six players the franchise selected on the final day of the 2015 draft. All that remains is to sign the top three picks, including quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The rundown:

• Fowler (fourth round, 108th overall): He was a role player who started just six times in 53 appearances for Alabama. Part fullback and part running back, the 6-foot-1, 248-pounder figures to help the Titans in short yardage situations either as a lead blocker or a ball carrier (he averaged 6.5 yards per rush for his career). He also showed last season that he can catch the ball when needed with 11 receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

• Cobb (fifth round, 138th overall): He was a two-year starter at Minnesota yet still ended up seventh on the program’s career rushing list thanks to a senior season in which he set school records for carries (314) and rushing yards (1,626) in a season. The Titans were 26th in rushing yards and next-to-last in rushing touchdowns (six) last season. He’s not the fastest or the biggest guy (he’s 5-11, 220), but he’s sturdy, consistent and productive, which means he will have an opportunity to earn playing time right away.
 

May 14, 2015 2:03 PM

Titans agree to contract terms with four 2015 draft picks

The Tennessee Titans got down to business Wednesday and agreed to contract terms with four of their 2015 draft picks.

Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson, linebacker Deiontrez Mount, center Andy Gallik and wide receiver Tre McBride all were third-day selections but were the first ones from the nine-member draft class to sign.

The rundown:

• Blackson (fourth round, 100th overall): The 6-foot-4, 306-pound defensive tackle played 52 games for Auburn but started just 18. He averaged more than 16 tackles per season but set a career high with three sacks as a senior. He also blocked four kicks in his career.

• Mount (sixth round, 177th overall): A 6-foot-5, 249 pounder who played both defensive end and linebacker at Louisville. His size mandates he will play linebacker in the NFL but his experience as a high school sprinter and hurdler speaks to his speed, which could make him and effective pass rusher.

• Gallick (sixth round, 208th overall): He is 6-foot-3, 304 pounds and was a four-year starter at Boston College and a Rimington Trophy finalist as a senior. Given that current starter Brian Schwenke has missed 12 games the last two years, he provides real competition at that spot.

• McBride (seventh round, 245th overall): He is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound wide receiver who was a three-time all-conference wide receiver and the 2013 conference special teams player of the year at William & Mary. His reception total improved every year of his college career, capped by a career-high 64 in 2014. He also averaged 7.6 yards on 28 career rushing attempts.

May 13, 2015 3:23 PM

First season with Titans won't be Douglas' first with a rookie QB

Harry Douglas’ efforts to break in a new quarterback ought to be helped by the fact that he broke into the NFL with a new quarterback.

He was a third-round pick (84th overall) by Atlanta in 2008, the same year the Falcons drafted quarterback Matt Ryan third overall. Ryan immediately was installed as a starter – and to good effect. The Falcons had a winning record in each of the next five seasons and made the playoffs in four.

Douglas signed with the Titans as a free agent in March and his personal view of Ryan’s professional development figures to be worth something now that Tennessee drafted Marcus Mariota second overall and planned to make him the starter immediately.

“I think I’ll be able to help him in some areas,” Douglas said Tuesday. “I’ll open up if he wants to ask me anything. I’ll try my best to talk to him a lot and try to pick his brain and help him be as efficient as possible.”

Although he was mostly a role player, Douglas missed just one game in his seven seasons with the Falcons. Thus, virtually all of his 258 career receptions came on passes thrown by Ryan, who missed just two games over the same span.

Now he has the chance to start fresh with a new quarterback although the two won’t take their first professional steps together.

“It’s one of those things where you want to help those guys as much as you can,” Douglas said. “And Mariota, he’s a smart guy. He’s going to get a lot of stuff down, but the more that you can help him – and myself being an older guy and being around for a while – the better off a quarterback will be also.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

May 13, 2015 2:45 PM

Playing with Heisman winner nothing new for Titans' Warmack

For most, the opportunity to play with a Heisman Trophy winner is rare.

For Chance Warmack, it’s just another football season.

The Tennessee Titans’ decision to draft 2014 winner Marcus Mariota last week completed something of a Heisman triple crown for Warmack, the team’s 2013 first-round choice and starting right guard. It means he will have played with a Heisman winner in high school, college and now professional football.

As a sophomore at Westlake High in Atlanta he was a teammate of Cam Newton, who eventually won the 2010 Heisman at Auburn. He was a freshman at Alabama when running back Mark Ingram won the award for college football’s most outstanding player in 2009. Now comes Mariota, the Oregon quarterback.

“You can always tell how they're different in the way they prepare for the game, and I'm pretty sure Mariota is going to be no different," Warmack said via the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "You could tell that Cam and Mark Ingram were cut from a different cloth, and I'm excited to see what Mariota will bring to the table to help the team."

Warmack was a four-year starter at Alabama and was a part of just seven losses in 45 games.

He experienced twice as many defeats last season alone, his second in the NFL, when the Titans went 2-14 and tied for the league’s worst record. Of course, that just put them in position to draft Mariota.

"I've heard a lot about him, but I haven't met him yet," Warmack said. "I've heard he's a good leader. Obviously he's a good quarterback. He won the Heisman. I've heard he's an all-around good person, so I am excited about getting things rolling.

"There is definitely a buzz going on around the team."

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

May 8, 2015 6:18 AM

Mariota is Titans' latest attempt to find franchise QB early in draft

The Tennessee Titans need to be right this time.

After all, they have been wrong more than anyone else over the past decade.

From 2006 through 2015, NFL teams used top 10 overall draft picks on quarterbacks a total of 16 times. Only two teams did so more than once. One was Jacksonville, which took Blake Bortles third overall in 2014, three years after it used the No. 10 selection on Blaine Gabbert.

With last week’s pick of Marcus Mariota at No. 2, the Titans did it for the third time. They took Vince Young third overall in 2006 and Jake Locker eighth overall in 2011.

That means 19 of the NFL’s 32 teams have not picked a QB in the top 10 once in the past decade. That group includes 10 franchises that have made a combined 17 Super Bowl appearances over that time.

So why should anyone believe the Titans finally drafted the guy who can turn around the franchise and end a playoff drought that is at six years and counting?

“He has many, many strengths,” General Manager Ruston Webster said of Mariota. “He throws the ball well. He’s an excellent decision maker. I think his intelligence is very important for the position. … He’s an accurate passer. He has the ability to avoid the rush and make plays on his own – turn a bad play into a good play. I think just his character and his leadership is also strong. He has a lot of good points.”

To be sure, it all sounds good.

Former franchise officials were equally optimistic about Young and Locker when those two were selected as well. Both were dual-threat quarterbacks who offered the ability to make plays with their feet.

THIRD TIME A CHARM?
A comparison of the college football statistics for the three quarterbacks the Titans selected among the top 10 overall in the last 10 years:

Marcus Mariota
Passing: 779-1,167 (66.8 percent), 10,796 yards, 105 TDs, 14 INTs
Rushing: 337 carries, 2,237 yards (6.6 per carry), 29 TDs

Jake Locker
Passing: 619-1,147 (54.0 percent), 7,639 yards, 53 TDs, 35 INTs
Rushing: 454 carries, 1,939 yards (4.3 per carry), 29 TDs

Vince Young
Passing: 444-718 (61.8 percent), 6,040 yards, 44 TDs, 28 INTs
Rushing: 457 carries, 3,127 yards (6.8 per carry), 37 TDs

Mariota, of course, won a Heisman Trophy (2014), which neither of the others did. Young, though, won a BCS title. Mariota failed in two tries to lead Oregon into a BCS title game but did get the Ducks into last season’s inaugural College Football Playoff championship contest, where they were whipped by Ohio State.

All three averaged between 12.3 and 13.8 yards per completion. Young was the most accomplished runner of the bunch in terms of total yards, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns. What distinguishes Mariota from the other two is his touchdown-to-interception ratio, a whopping 7.5:1. Neither of the other two even were 2:1 in that regard.

Perhaps most important is simply the fact that the Titans believe in him. Coach Ken Whisenhunt repeatedly has said that he expects Mariota to be the team’s starter when the season opens and plans to do everything necessary between now and then to make sure that is the case. Locker waited one full year until he got the chance. Young’s first turn came in the fourth game — at the behest of late owner Bud Adams.

“At Oregon, we talked about winning the day,” Mariota said. “That culture for me is kind of instilled. I’ll kind of bring that with me, and it won’t change who I am, and will hopefully provide some of that here. For the most part, just be who I am and get to know my teammates and earn their respect and move forward from there.

“… I’m looking forward to this challenge. Pressure to me is when you’re not prepared. For me, I’ve prepared myself for this moment, and I’m looking forward to it.”

It sure beats looking back on what has happened to the others in his position.

 
(Photo: Getty Images)

May 6, 2015 2:07 PM

Titans' offensive emphasis in draft a long time coming

There’s a simple explanation as to why the Tennessee Titans used so many of their picks in the 2015 NFL Draft on offense.

It was time. Beyond time, in fact.

Sure, it makes sense that after they took quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick that they wanted to get him some help. Part of the reason that help wasn’t preexistent, though, was because recent Titans’ drafts were decidedly defensive.

The seven offensive players the Titans selected (they had nine total picks) last Thursday, Friday and Saturday were the most since 2008, when they took eight. In the previous five drafts Tennessee never took more than three players on offense and this year’s haul was one more than in the previous three years combined.

ONE-SIDED DRAFTING
A year-by-year look at the number of players on offense and defense the Tennessee Titans drafted:

2015: Offense 7, Defense 2
2014: Offense 3, Defense 3
2013: Offense 3, Defense 5
2012: Offense 2, Defense 5
2011: Offense 3, Defense 6
2010: Offense 3, Defense 6
2009: Offense 6, Defense 5
2008: Offense 3, Defense 4
2007: Offense 6, Defense 4
2006: Offense 4, Defense 6
2005: Offense 8, Defense 3

“There were situations where we could have taken a defensive player and didn’t and just went with the offensive player and thought it was the best thing to do,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “It could have been a little bit closer with the gap, but that is the way it worked out.  We did work in free agency to make sure we could take some offensive players in the draft.”

After Mariota, the Titans drafted two wide receivers, a running back, a fullback and two offensive linemen. The final pick was wide receiver Tre McBride out of William and Mary, a player coach Ken Whisenhunt said was too good to pass up at that spot.

Second-round choice Dorial Green-Beckham should figure into the wide receiver rotation from the start. Third-round pick Jeremiah Poutasi will have the opportunity to compete for the job as starting right tackle, and fifth-round selection David Cobb offers a powerful running style to an offense that lacked a between-the-tackles presence in 2014.

“Well when you go with a quarterback at two, especially one you feel so strongly about, it’s pretty exciting,” Whisenhunt said. “I feel good about where we are and the pieces we have in place and what we can do with this. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how much we can grow in this offseason.

“… Whenever you throw competition into the mix, like I’ve said a couple of times, it makes us all better. I’m excited to see that. I know the competition that we are going to have against the defense and those practices on the field will go a long way towards helping build a foundation for us to be better offensively. That’s one of the things that we absolutely have to do. We have to be a better offensive unit.”

May 4, 2015 5:20 AM

Titans spend second day of draft getting help for first-round pick

There was no real mystery to what the Tennessee Titans did on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft.

A day after they selected quarterback Marcus Mariota (pictured) with the second overall pick they got him some help. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, an obvious talent with some character questions, was their second-round pick (40th overall) and tackle Jeremiah Poutasi was their choice in the third round (66th overall).

“What we wanted to get out of this is if you’re going to draft a guy that high you have to give him some weapons and you have to give him protection,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “So that definitely played into our decisions [Friday].”

The notion was not lost on those players.

Green-Beckham is a 6-foot-5, 237-pound receiver who played two years at Missouri before off-the-field issues led to his dismissal. He enrolled at Oklahoma but was ineligible to play last season.

The top 2011 high school recruit, according to many, offers the potential for big plays the Titans have not gotten often enough in their passing game in recent years.

“I have a vision that we’re going to have a great career,” Green-Beckham said. “Me and Marcus Mariota are going to connect well. He’s going to have a big receiver like me to be able to go get the ball and he’s not going to have to worry. I know that I’m going to be able to help him out on a lot of things.”

Poutasi was three-year starter at Utah whom Webster described as a “huge man with power.” He’s 6-foot-6, 330 pounds and played both right and left tackle in college. The Titans first plan to have him compete to be the starter at right tackle.

“Man, I’m excited to block for that guy [Mariota],” Poutasi said. “I’ve seen him play in person and it’s just an honor to be on his team. He’s a valuable guy and my job is to not let him get hurt or even get touched.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

May 1, 2015 9:41 PM

Titans risk second-round pick on talented, troubled receiver

Dorial Green-Beckham didn’t get to step on a football field for anything other than practices last fall. That was the bad news.

The good news, as far as the Tennessee Titans were concerned, was that the 6-foot-5, 237-pound receiver from Oklahoma via Missouri also never stepped out of line as he did the previous two seasons, when he did play games – and played well, for that matter.

That was enough to convince the Titans to take the first-round talent in the second round Friday (40th overall). Initially, they had the 33rd pick but traded spots with the New York Giants and picked up an additional fourth and seventh-round choice as a result.

“There’s a player there that football is very important to and him not having football has had an effect on him,” General Manager Ruston Webster said. “He went to Oklahoma and handled himself well and stayed out of trouble when he wasn’t playing. He was just practicing. He was basically a scout team player.

“… My impression [was] that he understood that he probably made some mistakes and, if he wanted to continue to play football, he had to do the right thing.”

There was no ‘probably’ about it. Even Green-Beckham readily admits he made mistakes.

Three off-the-field incidents led to his dismissal from Missouri after two years.

He confirmed two arrests for marijuana possession. The first was when he was with four other teammates and another when he was in a car in which the drug was found. Charges in the latter incident ultimately were dropped when the owner of the car assumed responsibility.

Then he allegedly forced himself into an apartment and pushed a female down some stairs.

No one pressed charges in that incident and when asked about it Friday he denied that he pushed anyone, but Missouri coaches and administrators had seen enough. He transferred to Oklahoma but the NCAA denied his petition for immediate eligibility was denied.

“I feel like myself as being the best receiver in the draft,” he said. “I know my off-the-field issues have caused me to drop out of the first round but I’m just blessed to have this opportunity right now to play for the Titans.”

In his two seasons at Missouri, he caught 87 passes for 1,287 yards (an average of 14.7 per reception) and scored 17 touchdowns. He looked to be well on his way to living up to the expectations when he was widely considered the top high school player in the country back in 2011.

“Missing that year really hurt,” Green-Beckham said. “It made me a better player, a stronger player. … Now feel like I missed a season but I get to play in the National Football League then I’m going to give everything I’ve got and just show everybody what they missed out on for a year.

“… There’s not one day I’ve taken lightly. I’ve always competed and I’ve always stayed focused.”

Similarly, Webster conceded that the decision to draft Green-Beckham was not one the organization made lightly. It included the approval from ownership.

“You have to go through and do all your work,” he said. “Our scouts and our people put in a lot of time. We brought him in here, spent time with him. From that standpoint, it’s a difficult decision. It really is.

“He’s a talented guy that, if everything goes well, he probably goes in the first round.”


(Photo: Getty Images)

May 1, 2015 8:38 PM

Titans quickly ran out of reasons not to draft Mariota

If it was a race, Marcus Mariota won it with his finishing kick.

The Oregon quarterback started out as one in a pack of elite prospects the Tennessee Titans planned to analyze in preparation for the 2015 NFL Draft. By the time the first round started Thursday and the Titans were on the clock for the No. 2 overall selection he had left the others in the dust in the minds of the franchise’s brain trust.

“There was a real feeling as time went on that he was worthy of being this pick and being our quarterback,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “So there was some of that ‘Tell me why we shouldn’t do this.’ In the end, I think – to a man, in the draft room, with our coaches, in our meetings – it was unanimous.”

In addition to other top players such as USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Florida linebacker Dante Fowler, Mariota had to distance himself from concerns that he was ill-prepared to run the pro style offense of Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Mariota won the 2014 Heisman Trophy with his prolific and proficient execution of Oregon’s spread offense. He threw 105 touchdown passes with just 14 interceptions in three years as a starter, including 42 and four last season. He added 2,237 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing and was the starting quarterback for 36 victories.

Even with that body of work, it was his mind that convinced the Titans the transition would be a smooth one.

“We got to spend a lot of time with him,” Whisenhunt said. “We got to actually talk about his plays on tape and what he looked at, what he saw and how he processed things. Then we got a chance to send him some things and he came in here talking our language a little bit, and that’s always a good assessment of how he processes things. So we felt really good about him.”

Whisenhunt said he expects Mariota to be the starter when the season opens and plans to add some things to the playbook designed to take advantage of the 6-foot-4, 219-pounder’s particular attributes.

The second-year coach is convinced, though, that those things will not alter the basic philosophy of the offense, which relies heavily on a pocket passer who can get the ball down the field.

“I think in any situation as rookie coming into the league and going through this process you have to try to market yourself,” Mariota said. “I did my best trying to convince any team to give me this opportunity. The Titans were able to do that for me and I’m going to make the most of it. I’m just so excited and happy to be a part of this organization.”

The feeling is mutual because – in the end – the Titans did not think there was any other choice.

“I don’t think anybody starts knowing who their pick is going to be,” Webster said. “But he was one of the guys that we said, ‘OK, we are going to do our work on him and see if he is the guy.’ Obviously, with him being the quarterback, he was going to be in the mix all the way. There were other players there during the early parts of this process and he was part of that group.

“We kind of went through every step with (Mariota) along the way, from going through the season watching him play to the combine and visits and those types of things. … It went well. Every minute we spent with him it just felt better and better.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
 

Apr 30, 2015 10:18 PM

Mettenberger not going anywhere, except down the depth chart a spot

All is not lost for Zach Mettenberger.

Just his place as the Tennessee Titans starting quarterback.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt maintained throughout the run-up to Thursday’s first round of the 2015 NFL Draft that the team expected any player it drafted with the second overall pick to be a starter from Day One. He reiterated that stance Thursday shortly after the Titans tabbed Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota with that choice.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “That’s what we anticipate being the case. We’re going to work hard. We’ve got OTAs and [training] camp and a lot of reps and we’re going to push (Mariota) to try to get him prepared.”

They don’t intend to push aside Mettenberger completely, though. The sixth-round pick in 2014 who started six games as a rookie still has a reserve of goodwill with the coaching staff and management that remains unchanged. Plus, this is a franchise that has used at least two different starting quarterbacks in 11 of the last 12 seasons — including last year, when it had three.

“One of the things that was important for Zach to understand was he built up a lot of good equity with what he did,” Whisenhunt said. “There’s a lot of potential there and we’re excited about Zach. But the way this league is going now, very seldom do you get a quarterback that goes through the whole season. So Zach will get an opportunity at some point. When he does, he’s got to be ready to take advantage of that.”

Mettenberger was 0-6 as a starter and was fourth among all rookie quarterbacks in pass attempts last season. Of those four, though, he had the best yards-per-attempt average (7.9), the second-highest completion percentage (59.8) and the second-highest passer rating (83.4).

He now drops to No. 2 but remains ahead of veteran backup Charlie Whitehurst.

“He’ll get a lot of work in preseason,” Whisenhunt said. “He’ll get some work with the (starters) and he’ll get prepared.”

And while he has moved down the depth chart a notch, there is no chance he will move to another team. Not according to general manager Ruston Webster, that is.

“I think (Mettenberger) will embrace the situation here,” Webster said. “And he won’t be traded.”

 
(Photo: Getty Images)

Apr 30, 2015 9:46 PM