Buck Reising, Tennessee Titans reporter and host of Tackling Music City, provides four items of note from the team’s Tuesday mandatory mini-camp.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Day 2 of Tennessee Titans mandatory mini-camp is officially in the books. Here is what stood out from Wednesday’s practice:
- Where Art Though, Kevin Dodd?
- Outside linebacker has been back in the team’s facility for two days while the media has been there and, for the second day in a row, has avoided the questions of reporters. When approached, Dodd put his helmet on and walked through past those asking to speak with him without responding, as veteran Brian Orakpo put his arm around Dodd and escorted him into the locker room. It begs the question: what, exactly, is he hiding from?
- “(He) was basically unavailable at some times at practice,” coach Mike Vrabel said when asked about Dodd’s status. “We always ask our guys to focus on things they can do as opposed to things they can’t. I think that through the course of practice, whether that be in an individual drill, if a guy can’t go on we’re certainly not going to have him go out there in a team period and finish. We have a plan for everybody that’s out there.”
- Dodd did not participate in the team’s 11-on-11 drills, staying on the sideline instead. The former second-round pick did work through Tuesday’s individual drills with the defensive lineman, despite being listed as an outside linebacker.
- Advanced Analytics
- Football remains one of the more difficult sports to quantify efficiently with advanced analytics for a variety of reasons, such as coaching and the interconnectedness of each position with another. Slowly but surely, though, the NFL is being dragged into the 21st Century.
- “I think analytics is going to play a big part of what we do going forward with that,” Vrabel said when asked how the numbers might affect personnel groupings. “But right now, I think we’re trying to put a system in and so I don’t think that goes into it. I think we’re trying to call plays that we think are a foundation for our offense, as opposed to scheming maybe our defense or what is going on on the other side. I think we’re trying to just worry about offensively or defensively, getting those plays in. But, those are valid points. Once the season starts where can look at success that certain teams had against 11 personnel on first and second down, or maybe somebody has had success in 12 personnel on third-and-three. Those are all things that go into it.”
- With more information at NFL clubs disposal, the question has long been posed whether coaches and front offices are utilizing analytics to their full potential to maximize their teams’ results. Vrabel’s acknowledgement of the concept and his allusion to future utilization should come as refreshing to Titans fans and football fans alike.
- Offensive Growing Pains
- The theme of Tennessee’s offseason through three weeks of voluntary organized team activities has been quarterback Marcus Mariota and the offense getting their feet under them with new coordinator Matt LaFleur. That held true through the majority of Wednesday’s mini-camp practice as the defense looked to be the sharper of the two units during 11-on-11 drills.
- One thing that may be steepening Mariota & Co.’s learning curve is the length of LaFleur’s play-calls and the speed with which he rattles them off.
- “I think what’s hard early is to say, ‘I know this play, and we used to run this play,’” Vrabel said. “Whether it be in college, or in the NFL. And, ‘I know what this play is called, but I’ve had it called two different things prior to this year.’ That’s what happens sometimes, is guys get caught up. You have to understand you’ve got to wipe your memory so that it’s not called that anymore. It’s not called this defense. This same defense that I might have run is not called that, or this same offensive play is not called that anymore. We’ll make sure that everything we do is player-friendly, and that our players understand. If they’re not, it’s my job to make sure that it gets fixed.”
- LaFleur’s play-calling speed and length are not abnormal but it will take time for Mariota to be able to fully understand them and then interpret the play in a digestible way for the 10 other players on offense. There will be time to iron out the kinks.
- Did Someone Say Dez?
- Two months removed from being released by the Dallas Cowboys, wide receiver Dez Bryant is still on the open market. And, as of late, Tennessee’s receiving corps has been “limited.” Veteran Rishard Matthews has been present at St. Thomas Sports Park but has not participated in voluntary OTAs or the two mini-camp practices, free agent acquisition Michael Campanaro has not been available and former fifth-overall pick Corey Davis has been limited in full team drills.
- “I think (wide receiver is) always a position that you worry about,” Vrabel said. “They do a lot of running and it’s got to be done at full speed to be able to have the timing with the quarterback, whoever it may be in there. I think that the young guys, when they’re coming in, they’ve been doing a lot of Combine training. So, now we try to get those guys in condition to play football. We’d certainly like to have a full group but that’s probably not going to happen until training camp.”
- With Bryant available, undisclosed injuries to Campanaro, Davis and Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker’s recent comments, it’s not unfair to wonder whether the Titans would consider bringing in the former Cowboy. Vrabel said, however, that he had not been asked to evaluate Bryant as of Wednesday.