Only nine of the Tennessee Titans training camp workouts at their MetroCenter training facility will be open to fans this year.
The majority of those will come in the first week of preparation for the 2015 season.
The Titans released the list of open dates for this year’s camp on Wednesday. Camp officially begins July 30, when players are scheduled to report. The first workout, July 31, will be open to the public.
As usual, fans may attend open workouts at no cost. A select group of players will sign autographs after each of the practice sessions at which fans are welcome.
The schedule of Titans training camp workouts open to the public:
Friday, July 31: 9:20 – 11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 1: 3:10 – 5:20 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 2: 9:20 – 11:30 a.m.
Monday, Aug. 3: 6:50 – 9 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 6: 3:10 – 5:20 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 7: 9:20 – 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 11: 9:20 – 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 12: 3:10 – 5:20 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 16: 3:10 – 5:20 p.m.
Everyone knows there’s no such thing as job security in the NFL.
Obviously top draft picks and established stars such as Jake Locker, Jurrell Casey, Taylor Lewan and Jason McCourty enjoy a far greater degree of comfort than the majority of the 90 players currently in training camp with the Tennessee Titans. Talent, experience and contract implications make it unlikely – if not impossible – for the team to decide not to keep them or others like them.
That being said, it’s likely that no one among the Titans enjoys a greater degree of certainty than Beau Brinkley.
If his name is not familiar it’s because he’s done his job well for the past two seasons. Even he says his primary goal is to make sure no one ever knows his name because the only time people talk about the long-snapper is when something goes wrong on a punt or a kick.
At a time when as many as five or six guys jockey for practice and playing time, Brinkley could not even say for sure who is the next option should something happen to him.
“On the depth chart there’s Taylor Thompson,” he said. “We’ve been working with him the past couple of years since he’s been here. That’s more on deep snaps. I’m not sure why we haven’t worked short snaps but we’ll probably start doing that [soon].
“He was our guy during the season last year and he’s on the depth chart so I just go with that.”
Sure enough Thompson, a third-year tight end who played defensive end in college, is listed No. 2 at that spot. The difference between him and Brinkley in that particular skill, though, is significant.
Brinkley began to snap as a young boy at the urging of his father, who did so in college. He continued in middle school and high school because he was “the one who knew how to do it.” By the end of his junior season at Missouri – his third as the snapper on punts and kicks – he said it dawned on him that a professional career was possible.
The Titans signed him in 2012 following the retirement of Ken Amato and he has been unchallenged ever since.
“There is a little bit of excitement on that part but it’s not going to tell me to slow down or not keep working,” he said. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and try to get better because no one’s perfect.”
Few things ever are in the NFL.
Weather conditions were far from ideal in Saturday’s preseason opener against Green Bay. Despite torrential rains that soaked the balls Brinkley successfully executed nine snaps – six on punts, three on placekicks.
“Two underestimated things were the snap to the holder on kicks and the snap to the punter in those conditions,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said Sunday. “Those aren’t just gimmes when the ball’s that wet, so we did get good work with that.”
Notice that he did not mention Brinkley by name.
If Marc Mariani is to return to his role as Tennessee Titans return specialist, it won’t be because of what happened Saturday night.
Then again, it’s possible that what took place had nothing to do with who will have that job this fall. It could be that it was about whether Mariani could convince another team that he can still do the job.
Given the current state of the roster, it was tough not to think that the Titans wanted to use their preseason opener to showcase Mariani, a Pro Bowl return specialist in 2010 who spent the last two seasons on injured reserve. He was called upon to handle all of the kickoffs and punts in the Titans’ 20-16 victory over Green Bay at LP Field but got little opportunity to show what he could do.
Of the five punts that came his way, two were downed, one went out of bounds and one was a touchback. He called for a fair catch on the other. Three of the four Green Bay kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Mariani returned the fourth 13 yards to the Tennessee 15 at the start of the second half.
With Leon Washington and Dexter McCluster — Pro Bowlers in their own right — now on the roster, it is unclear whether Mariani actually factors into the team’s plans for the return game at all. Coach Ken Whisenhunt admitted Tuesday that it’s not likely he’ll get another opportunity like he had against the Packers.
“I think that we’ve got to give (Mariani) a shot a some point, just because last week was so difficult, but we do have to work the other guys in, too,” Whisenhunt said. “At some point, we want to get (Washington) and (McCluster) some work, as well.”
Good return men are hard to find as the Titans proved last year with Darius Reynaud and Devon Wylie before they finally turned to Washington.
Who knows? If Mariani shows he’s still a good one, maybe Tennessee can get something for him in a trade — even a seventh-round pick would be worthwhile. The Green Bay game did nothing to help in that regard.
• Solid line: Whether he was offensive line coach or head coach, Mike Munchak liked to alter the makeup of his offensive line throughout training camp.
It was common in recent years for a rookie or a depth player to work with the starting unit for a period or even an entire practice. The thinking was that, if an injury occurred during the regular season, Munchak wanted everyone to be comfortable playing alongside the replacement.
Not so under Whisenhunt and his staff.
Since Andy Levitre returned from his appendectomy the same starting five have practiced together constantly. Even when Levitre was out, there was no variation with the other four — left tackle Michael Roos, center Brian Schwenke, right guard Chance Warmack and right tackle Michael Oher.
“Until somebody else beats them out, I think that’s an important thing,” Whisenhunt said. “It establishes an esprit de corps and pride in your unit, and that’s important. … I see them working together. I like what I hear in the huddle when I’m in there with them, so I hope it continues.”
• Quote of note: “It’s really been nice having the fans out here for the open practices, and I’m sorry that we didn’t have more than what we had this year. Maybe we’ll be able to work on that a little bit next year, but we appreciate their support in coming out here. Our fans are important to us, and I think next week we go into an in-season week schedule, and I think it’s really important for that to make it as much like an in-season week.” — Whisenhunt on the fact that Tuesday’s practice was the last of this year’s training camp open to the fans.
• Briefly: Scouts from a number of Canadian Football League teams have been in town the last few days, which is always interesting given that the CFL is already six weeks into its current season. The scouts annually come to town combing through the depth chart in search of players that could help their teams in 2015. … Defensive end Lavar Edwards is a long shot to make the roster. He simply does not have the size coaches want for their three-man front. With Mike Martin (hamstring) and Antonio Johnson (knee) out for more than a week now, other teams will get a good, long look at Edwards this preseason.
Dexter McCluster is ready to dive head-first into the plans the Tennessee Titans have for him.
“You have to be excited coming into it knowing the team or a coach may have high expectations of you,” McCluster said. “How are you going to face that challenge? Are you going to go into it knowing, ‘OK, I’m going to make something happen.’ Or are you going to stick your toe in the water and hope something happens.
“I’m the type of guy that feels, ‘You know what? You expect that from me and I’m going to give you what you want.’”
The question is when.
The Titans open the preseason Saturday against the Green Bay Packers, (7 p.m., LP Field) and have three more exhibition contests after that. That’s plenty of opportunity to experiment with the 5-foot-8, 170-pound big-play threat, if the coaches choose.
Then again, Ken Whisenhunt and his staff might want to keep McCluster, who has been listed as both a running back and a wide receiver in his career, under wraps until the start of the regular season, Sept. 7 at Kansas City – his former team.
If that’s the case, it will be a month before anyone outside of the team’s training facility glimpses any of the many ways the coaches believe they can use him.
“(Defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh used to run everything, all preseason, and (opponents) still couldn’t stop it even in-season,” Whisenhunt said. “You’d like to think that way, offensively, and I know (Titans defensive coordinator) Ray (Horton)’s going to throw a lot at (opponents) in preseason.
“Mostly, I think there’s some things that we won’t show, just because you feel pretty good about them. But at some point, people are going to see it on tape, so at that point it really comes down to being able to execute it.”
The Titans feel good about McCluster, a free agent who adds some much-needed versatility to the offense. In four NFL seasons, all with Kansas City, he rushed for 662 yards, had 1,500 more receiving, scored a total of nine touchdowns three different ways and was a 2013 Pro Bowler as a return specialist.
Tennessee’s roster lists him as a running back, but the expectation is he will line up at numerous spots (the backfield, the slot, wide, etc.) and will figure prominently in the passing game as well.
Last season at Kansas City, the Chiefs’ first under coach Andy Reid, he caught just two passes and did not carry the ball at all in the preseason. He finished the regular season as that team’s third-leading receiver.
With the Titans, he is eager to show what he can do, even if it is on basic plays out of basic formations.
“I’m definitely sure the fans are going to see a little sneak preview of what’s to come,” McCluster said.
Other newcomers worth watching this preseason:
• Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips: He has had 10 or more sacks three times in his career, including last season. It’s clear the Titans plan to use him as a pass-rush specialist. It’s not clear whether they will allow him to attack consistently from one side or if they will move him around in search of regular mismatches.
• Tackle Taylor Lewan: The first-round draft pick is undeniably the Titans’ left tackle of the future. During training camp, though, he has worked at both left guard and right tackle as well. No doubt, he will get a lot of snaps in the preseason but will they be at multiple spots or will he focus on learning left tackle?
• Inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard: The team’s new 3-4 scheme is designed for inside linebackers to make a lot of tackles. Woodyard knows the scheme well and if he is making a lot of tackles it will be an indication that players have adapted well to the change.
Things could not be more different for Jackie Battle than they were this time a year ago.
To hear him tell it, though, he is in the exact same situation – fighting for a spot on the roster.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be comfortable,” Battle said. “I’ve always been a guy, my entire career, that’s been a bubble player. I continue to play like that. I continue to practice like that. Because you never know. I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder, regardless of what position I think I’m in.”
Last summer Battle waited for the phone to ring. He remained unsigned throughout the entire offseason until the Titans called just before the start of training camp. He played his way on to the roster with 145 rushing yards and reliable special teams play during the preseason.
This time he quickly re-signed early in the offseason and was with the team throughout the offseason conditioning program, organized team activities and minicamp. By the start of training camp he figured prominently into the plans as a special teams ace and a fullback-running back combo.
“(Battle) can do a lot of things for us,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “One of the things that’s important for that position is contributions on special teams, and he’s a very good special teamer. He’s shown from early in camp, he’s doing a nice job with the blocking component of it. He can line up in the backfield as a running back, too, so those kind of guys are valuable on your roster.”
Yet Battle still sees himself in … well, a battle for a roster spot.
“I’m still a guy trying to find my way,” he said. “I’m still trying find a role in this offense, still trying to find a role on this team. That’s part of the process of training camp.
“…The biggest thing is being here. I was actually able to go through OTAs and all the spring training stuff. I actually got a grasp of the playbook and stuff. Before I just kind of got thrown into the mix and I was learning on the fly.”
Nearly two weeks into his first NFL training camp, Zach Mettenberger still has plenty of zip on his throws.
“My arm feels great,” he said Wednesday. “I’m throwing a lot less just because I don’t get the number of reps [I did in college]. It’s good.”
Things are about to pick up for the sixth-round draft pick out of LSU.
The Tennessee Titans waived Tyler Wilson on Wednesday, a decision that was surprising only in its timing. Mettenberger figured to win the job as the Titans’ third-string quarterback eventually but it became official three days before the preseason opener.
Additionally, tight end Dorin Dickerson was placed on injured reserve with a torn quad. Tight end Chase Coffman and defensive lineman Lanier Coleman were signed.
The fact that there is more opportunity for Mettenberger to play Saturday against Green Bay and get increased practice reps throughout the remainder of training camp and the preseason was part of the reasoning behind the move.
“It’s kind of three-fold,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We needed an extra spot so we had to make a move. Looking at that position, we just felt like we needed to get [Mettenberger] more work so we could find out.
“Also, we wanted to give Tyler an opportunity to get with another team. I think he did a good job with us and he’s exhibited qualities that he can play in this league. It’s tough if you go down to the last cut and then you’re out there. So it was a combination, probably, of those three things.”
Now there are just three quarterbacks. Mettenberger is third behind starter Jake Locker and backup Charlie Whitehurst. In the big picture, his job hasn’t changed much. The amount of work he’ll get, though, has.
“It’s just the nature of the business,” Mettenberger said. “Not everyone is going to be here when the season starts, but we all just have to keep working, keep progressing to be a great offense in this division.
“I don’t know … why they made the decision. Now, if I get more reps that’s just more opportunities for me to develop my game, develop my understanding of the offense and get those key reps that I would have been watching someone else do. So I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Jason McCourty can play.
That much is obvious in the fact that he has been a full-time starter at cornerback for the past three seasons. It was verified two years ago when the Tennessee Titans signed him to a new, six-year, $43.04 million contract.
The sixth-year veteran wants to make more plays, though.
McCourty is one of seven NFL cornerbacks who started at least 47 games for one team over the past three seasons. His six interceptions over that span are second fewest among that group.
“I definitely want to be able to come up with more plays for this team, more splash plays like that,” McCourty said. “When you can create a takeaway it’s huge. If I can do more of that and help this team win more games it would mean everything to me.”
PICKING UP PICKOFFS
A look at number of interceptions in the last three seasons by cornerbacks who have started at least 47 games for one team over that span:
12 – Patrick Peterson, Arizona (48 games)
11 – DeAngelo Hall, Washington (48 games)
10 – Antonio Cromartie, N.Y. Jets (48 games)
9 – Carlos Rogers, San Francisco (48 games)
9 – Tramon Williams, Green Bay (47 games)
6 – Jason McCourty, Tennessee (47 games)
5 – Josh Wilson, Washington (48 games)
It is worth noting that three of those seven – Cromartie, Rogers and Wilson – are with new teams this year, which speaks to the challenge of playing cornerback at a time when rules favor the passing game and teams are throwing the ball more than ever.
Good one stand to make a lot of money on the free agent market and often are on the move. Those who struggle won’t last long because teams can’t afford too many growing pains at that spot.
“[McCourty] is a good pro,” first-year coach Titans Ken Whisenhunt said. “I’m glad that he’s on our team. Good leader. Works hard. When you’re talking about just starting out, he’s a guy that you really like to have here just because of the way that he works, the respect that he has, and he’s a good football player.”
His quest to be better took him to Arizona this offseason with his twin brother, Devin, and several others, including Darrelle Revis, for two weeks of defensive back-specific training. It was the first time he had done son, and in between the two-a-day workouts the participants shared information about techniques and philosophies of the position.
“The good thing is when you’re able to get a nice, diverse group of guys everybody has different input,” McCourty said. “When you can kind of get knowledge from a different well of guys it can help improve your game. So that was big.”
Now comes the big plays. Or so he hopes.
“Interceptions are tough and depend upon defenses and different ways things come,” he said. “For myself, I’ve dropped to many of them. That’s a big thing for me and I’ve worked this offseason on being able to play the ball down the field. That’s a huge thing.”
One of the obvious differences between this year’s Tennessee Titans training camp and recent ones is the absence of music during the early portion of workouts.
That does not mean it is quiet, though.
Former coach Mike Munchak believed the music added to the energy level, but without it safety Bernard Pollard makes sure that there is never a dull moment. Not even when the players are stretching. One of the most vocal players in the locker room runs his mouth in entertaining fashion before anyone runs a single play.
As players loosen up their muscles, Pollard tries to keep things loose by calling out to half a dozen or so players on the offense and sees who wants to answer. Increasingly, wide receiver Kendall Wright has engaged in the banter. Nate Washington also has been a regular participant.
“I want to just loosen it up a little bit,” Pollard said. “Sometimes guys can be tight. We’re hitting now so guys are feeling it more now in their bodies – their necks, their shoulders, whatever it is – and I like to loosen things up. I like to talk trash.
“And for me, talking trash keeps me accountable because now I have to do what I’m supposed to do because everybody is going to be like, ‘Hey, you need to shut up’ if you’re not doing your job.”
Along those same lines, Pollard said he considers it part of his job to help his offensive counterparts prepare for anything are likely to see – or hear – during the season, and he is not about to let a minute – or a quiet moment – of camp go to waste.
“On the other hand I want to challenge you,” Pollard said. “I want to challenge our offense because things are going to be said worse than what I’m saying. Guys are going to come at your neck. We have to figure out how we’re going to overcome somebody saying something to you.”
• Kicker comparison: Between watching the two candidates and talking to people within the organization, the difference between kickers Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons is clear. Bonani has the stronger leg. Coons is more accurate.
The decision on Rob Bironas’ successor, therefore, will hinge on whether Bonani can show the necessary accuracy or Coons can improve the length of his kicks, particularly on kickoffs.
That might prompt coaches – if situations allow – to use Coons, the free agent rookie out of Washington, on a majority of kickoffs and Bonani, who was in camp with the Titans last summer, on more field goal attempts early in the preseason.
• Opportunity knocks: It is likely no player benefited more from Andy Levitre’s absence than tackle Jeff Adams, who regularly worked as the second team left tackle through the first eight days of camp.
Adams (6-7, 305) has been with Dallas, Cincinnati, Miami and Tennessee since he entered the league in 2012 as a rookie free agent from Columbia. He has yet to be on the active roster during the regular season or play in a game, though.
Levitre (appendectomy days before camp) was activated from the non-football injury list Sunday and participated in that day’s workout.
Much attention has been paid to the fact that first-round pick Taylor Lewan got a lot of work with the starters because he got the opportunity to work in Levitre’s spot, but Adams is the one who got a real chance to be noticed.
• Beefy front: Even with a three-man defensive front, the Titans will be able to occupy some real estate along the line of scrimmage this fall, if they are so inclined.
For a time during Friday’s public workout the defense employed a personnel group that included a defensive line of, from left to right, Al Woods (6-4, 307), Sammie Hill (6-4, 328) and rookie DaQuan Jones (6-4, 322).
• Briefly: Quarterback Jake Locker’s accuracy has improved from the first couple days of camp. Yet there are still throws that make it clear he has a lot of work to do if he wants to be considered a precision passer. … Even when players are in pads, they don’t tackle. The idea is to ‘thud’ – deliver a blow with the shoulder and keep going. No player’s ‘thuds’ resounded more consistently so far than those of second-year linebacker Jonathan ‘Tig’ Willard. … Through the first week of camp, special teams periods have included relatively little “team” work. Instead, players focus on particular skills needed to execute properly, such as how to transition from running downfield to blocking, the proper way to block a punt, etc.
It’s not a road game.
It is, however, a road trip. Just over a week into training camp and just under a week before the first preseason game, that is enough to make Monday’s joint workout between the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons and Flowery Branch, Ga. noteworthy.
“It’s close to simulating traveling on the road to play a game, so a lot of those things you’ll get a little bit of an insight as to how we’re going to be as a team,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “There’s really a lot more work to do, but at least it gets them out of what we’re doing every day.
“Maybe it will make it a little more fun. Maybe it will make it a little more difficult. We’ll see how it works.”
The Titans boarded six buses following Sunday afternoon’s workout for the drive to Georgia. Coaches planned to use time at the hotel Sunday night and Monday morning to simulate the meeting schedule and other things that will take place in advance of regular-season road games.
“It’s all part of the process,” running back Jackie Battle said. “There’s a lot of guys who haven’t been through that process yet. So it’s good for them to actually see how we’re going to do things when we’re traveling and it’s another thing to overcome, another distraction that a lot of young guys are going to have to see.”
Not to mention, players will enjoy the chance to see someone different opposite them for one workout at least.
By this point of camp, Titans players have grown accustomed to certain players and schemes they have faced on a daily or near-daily basis.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun in Atlanta to see a different colored jersey,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “I mean, we’re not going to be hitting [all-out], it’s going to be ‘thud’ or whatever. So hopefully we can keep this from turning into a brawl, but I think for the most part it’s going to be a lot fun getting to go against somebody else.”
Nate Washington has been around long enough that he has learned from a lot of different position coaches.
He also has learned a lot about coaches. And as far as he’s concerned he’s never had it so good.
“Some guys are emotional coaches, meaning they’re pushing you to go out and perform off the emotion,” Washington said Thursday. “Some guys are technicians, they can look at your routes and tell you what you’re doing wrong or why you’re not catching the ball right. Some guys are just there, honestly.
“… I think [Shawn Jefferson] has definitely been my best position coach here in my career.”
This will be his second season with Jefferson, who had a 13-year NFL career of his own as a wide receiver. For Washington, that’s as long as any of his player-position coach relationships have lasted.
From the time he entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2005, he has changed position coaches every third season. He had two in his four seasons with Pittsburgh and now is on his third in his sixth season with the Titans.
• Bruce Arians (2005-06)
• Randy Fitchner (2007-08)
• Fred Graves (2009-10)
• Dave Ragone (2011-12)
• Shawn Jefferson (2013-14)
Of the first four, only Graves is currently a wide receivers coach in the NFL. He is with San Diego. Arians is how head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Fitchner is quarterbacks coach with the Steelers. Ragone, fired after last season, is currently out of the league.
All of them, though, contributed something Washington, whose current streak of 128 consecutive games is the longest of any NFL wide receiver. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald is second with 100 straight games played.
None, Washington said, has done as much for him at once as Jefferson has.
“He can be the guy that you can talk to about things besides football,” Washington said. “He definitely lets you know why you’re maybe not getting in and out of your breaks like you’re supposed to. And he’s definitely going to push you emotionally.
“… Just to give all three of those things to the table is definitely going to help me out.”
Imagine if they actually stick together for a third season or beyond.
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS