Training Camp Report: Titans will be a run-first team in 2016
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After a quick stop for some hot chicken at Hattie B’s, the PFF training camp crew took in it’s first night practice of the tour on Monday in Nashville. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and the team was fresh off a dominating performance over the weekend against San Diego; the energy was evident all around. Here are the biggest takeaways from our time at Titans camp.
‘Exotic smashmouth’ isn’t going anywhere
After handing it off 33 times for 288 yards against the Chargers, the Titans’ practice looked just as run-heavy. I’d venture to say that over 50 percent of the passing snaps taken Monday night came off play-action, with the majority of those also coming from under center. Mike Mularkey wasn’t attempting any misdirection when he stated that Marcus Mariota was going to have to be an under-center quarterback. Tennessee will be a run-first team in 2016.
Now, the merits of that still remain to be seen. Dominating the worst run defense in the league from a season ago in a preseason game isn’t proof enough that this offensive style is a good long-term solution. In the end, it will depend on whether or not rookie right tackle Jack Conklin (Michigan State) can assimilate quickly to the NFL game (he graded out very poorly Saturday night) and if DeMarco Murray and/or Derrick Henry (Alabama) can continually put the Titans’ offense in favorable down and distances.
With Dorial Green-Beckham gone, wideout seems wide open
Dorial Green-Beckham obviously wasn’t meshing with the coaching staff in Tennessee, and as such, he’s out of the running for snaps after being dealt to Philadelphia Tuesday morning. How the Week 1 depth chart will shake out, though, is still anyone’s guess at this point. Rookie Tajae Sharpe rising to the top of the group is almost bittersweet news for Titans fans. It’s obviously great news in the development of the former UMass receiver, but it’s bad news in the development of Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, who we’ve been waiting on take that next step for some time now. We still haven’t mentioned the likes of Andre Johnson, Rishard Matthews, and Tre McBride, who are all in the mix, as well. I don’t envy whomever is responsible for drawing up this depth chart.
Who brings the pressure?
We know Jurrell Casey will be a force in the middle—he’s been so for three straight years now—but will anyone else be able to bring the heat on opposing QBs? Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan have far more talent than what they showed a season ago, and the Titans will need each to bounce back to form. Orakpo’s seven sacks were his fewest in any full season of his career, while Morgan’s 30 total pressures were 61 percent of his 2014 total (albeit some of that is due to injury).
The wildcard here is obviously second-round pick Kevin Dodd (Clemson). Our grading of him didn’t justify his draft status, but the Titans are banking on his 2015 late-season development—when he posted dominant grades in each of his last three outings—as a sign of things to come.