NFL Team Report - Tennessee Titans - INSIDE SLANT
Quarterback Jake Locker says he can visualize the plays in his mind regarding the Tennessee Titans new offensive scheme and believes new head coach Ken Whisenhunt's system is going to be beneficial for him and the entire offense.
Locker is learning his third NFL system in four years, previously toiling under the tutelage of Chris Palmer and Dowell Loggains when Mike Munchak was head coach.
"Once you learn the verbiage, that's the toughest part," Locker said. "Once you get the verbiage and you're able to paint a picture when you call a play, that's when it becomes really comfortable."
In seeing that "picture," Locker said he knows that he has the play mapped out as to what is supposed to transpire.
"When you're calling the play, you're picturing the routes that you have downfield, and that's when I know when I'm getting really comfortable with what we're doing offensively. I'm comfortable with most of the stuff that we've put in, that I can see it and call it at the line of scrimmage," Locker said.
While most of what Whisenhunt and the offensive staff are installing is ordered to be kept under wraps for now, Locker did offer a little insight that the new system could be more up-tempo and give him more responsibility at the line of scrimmage, especially in no-huddle sets.
"I think it's a nice mix, doing the more conventional huddle, calling plays and having the change-up of being able to go to a no-huddle with a pretty large playbook," Locker said. "You run a lot of different plays from that, a lot of different formations and you have the flexibility to try and put some pressure on the defense a little bit."
Whisenhunt has noticed some good things from the quarterback he inherited when he became the Titans coach in the offseason. Those things include not only his ability to quickly digest the new system, but to be a team leader.
"What you learn about him as a player, spending time in the meetings is how he interacts with his team, how he works and it's all been very positive. Jake works hard, and he is doing a great job as far as studying the offense and understanding his reads," Whisenhunt said. "He's really done a good job with a lot of the little things, his footwork, his technique and that's really exciting to see.
"And one of the things you really like is the way the team rallies around him. It's obvious he has great innate leadership and the players respond to that."
NFL Team Report - Tennessee Titans - NOTES, QUOTES
--After missing nine OTA workouts because of school obligations at the University of Washington, running back Bishop Sankey was back with the Titans on Thursday and took part in his first workout since rookie orientation.
Sankey, a second-round pick, is trying to make up for lost time, even though he had an iPad playbook with him on which the Titans sent updates, by getting acclimated to on-field work in the backfield.
"It was a little tough because you just want to be here and get in the mix, and sometimes you feel like you're falling behind," Sankey said. "But today, it felt good just getting back in the swing of things.
"But at times it was a little tough, just being clear across the country and everyone else is here getting their work in."
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said he liked what he saw of Sankey on his first day, even though he did look a bit rusty at times.
"It's pretty apparent watching him today in practice he's a good runner, he's got a good feel," Whisenhunt said. "You can see that with the way he moves. He's in good shape. It's just the mental part of it.
"I guess the best way to say it is, mentally he's in good shape, but when you get on the field and things start moving quickly the normal thing to do is have a little bit of hesitation, and you see that."
Sankey admitted that there was a mental error or two on the first day, but knows those will be corrected in time.
"One or two times, I did slip up and didn't run the right play," Sankey said. "But again, I think that'll be corrected easily with time and the more reps I get, it'll be corrected."
The school rule that kept Sankey at Washington for most of the OTAs also kept his former Huskies teammate Travis Coons away as well.
Coons is battling Maikon Bonani, who was in camp last season with the Titans, to replace veteran Rob Bironas as the Titans' kicker. Coons signed with Tennessee as an undrafted rookie.
--Defensive end Jurrell Casey, making the switch from a 4-3 defensive tackle to a five-technique end (as well as some other assignments as the defense is installed), is in preliminary talks with the Titans about a contract extension.
Casey, a third-round pick in 2011, has blossomed into the Titans' best defensive player, with 10.5 sacks a year ago. Casey said he wants to stay in Tennessee long-term if possible.
"That's always great that they see me and see my value and that I can help this team and do good things," Casey said. "I would love to be here long-term, so if we're able to get something done, great."
NFL Team Report - Tennessee Titans - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Chris Johnson might be trying to create a new chapter to his NFL career with the New York Jets, but the former Pro Bowl running back isn't completely ready to turn the page on his six-year tenure with the Titans that ended with his release following last season.
Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio with ex-Titans teammate Keith Bullock on Tuesday night, Johnson said the Titans "did me wrong" by releasing him on April 4, several weeks after most salary-cap cuts were made.
Johnson said he wondered if the Titans were trying to get revenge on him for his contentious 2011 holdout.
"I think they were just being nasty, to be honest," Johnson said.
Johnson, who has been limited to individual drills with the Jets as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, said he still loves the Titans' fans but that he looks forward to having his say when the Jets visit Tennessee on Dec. 14.
"I'm going to make them regret letting me go," Johnson said. "They're going to regret it -- trust me."
--The Titans invested a $15,000 signing bonus in undrafted linebacker/defensive end James Gayle, thinking he could be a nice project as a rush linebacker after being a defensive end at Virginia Tech.
Gayle, however, suffered a shoulder injury very early on in minicamp, and when the injury did not improve, he underwent surgery last week that was going to keep him out for several months. So much for Gayle making an impact on the Titans this season. He was waived/injured and reverted to injured reserve, where he will either stay to rehab all season or reach an injury settlement and move on.
Tennessee signed wide receiver Rico Richardson to take his spot on the roster.
--General manager Ruston Webster and coach Ken Whisenhunt continue to look for ways to create competition behind his top three wide receivers. On Tuesday, the Titans signed journeyman receiver Derek Hagan, who had a good workout in his tryout with the club. Hagan has previously played for the Dolphins, Giants, Raiders and Bills in seven previous NFL seasons.
"He's a veteran receiver. We liked what we've seen of him. He had a good workout," Whisenhunt said. "We're just trying to get better as a team. We're trying to create competition."
He should compete with holdovers Michael Preston and Marc Mariani and fellow veteran free agent Brian Robiskie, signed at the start of OTAs for the fourth and fifth receiver spots.
The Titans also had Dorin Dickerson, a veteran tight end/fullback, in for a tryout, on Tuesday.
--Wide receiver Justin Hunter is being counted upon to make a much bigger contribution in his second season, after 18 catches and four touchdowns as a rookie. Hunter has been impressive in OTAs and minicamp, showing the athleticism the Titans knew he had when they traded up in round two last year to draft him.
"I want to hold myself accountable and stay in the whole game and not get pulled out," Hunter said regarding what he wants to improve on in year two.
Hunter has gained 15 pounds in the off-season and reported to camp around 205 pounds.
A closer look at the Titans' picks:
Round 1/11 -- Taylor Lewan, T, 6-7, 309, Michigan
--The Titans weren't necessarily looking for a big left tackle when they went into this draft. But when Anthony Barr was taken at No. 9 by Minnesota, their plan for a pass rusher went by the boards. Lewan might not even start as a rookie, but will be the heir apparent to Michael Roos and could man the left tackle spot for a number of years.
Round 2/54 -- Bishop Sankey, RB, 5-10, 210, Washington
--Tennessee traded back 12 spots and still managed to get the running back of their choice in Sankey. Sankey's versatility as a pass catcher, a blocker and a runner made him the preferred choice over Tre Mason, who had no real track record as a pass catcher, or Carlos Hyde, who is a similar type back to Shonn Greene.
Round 4/112 -- DaQuan Jones, NT, 6-4, 322, Penn State
--Jones is the type of defensive lineman the Titans need as they switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 system. He is plenty big to handle the nose tackle role, and also could see some time at the end positions. Jones has a high motor and has some pass-rush ability from the interior, which will help as the Titans make a scheme transition.
Round 4/122 -- Marqueston Huff, CB, 5-11, 196, Wyoming
--Huff will initially make his mark on special teams, but fits the new buzzword around the Titans, which is "versatility." Huff played free safety as a senior and played cornerback and nickel prior to that at Wyoming. The Titans will initially look at him as a corner, but he could also evolve into more of a utility role as he learns the system.
Round 5/151 -- Avery Willimson, ILB, 6-1, 246, Kentucky
--Williamson is a local product, having played high school football a couple of hours from Nashville in Milan, Tenn. He will also start on special teams, but projects to be an inside linebacker eventually. The Titans love his ability as a tackler, much like another former UK player on the roster, Wesley Woodyard.
Round 6/178 -- Zach Mettenberger, QB, 6-5, 224, Louisiana State
--When Mettenberger tumbled into the sixth round because of character and injury issues, the Titans spent their seventh-round pick to move up to obtain him. Mettenberger fits the mold of quarterback that Ken Whisenhunt likes (big, strong-armed pocket passer) and could be the quarterback of the future if Jake Locker doesn't pan out in a make-or-break season.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--C Kevin Matthews (not tendered as RFA); once his father, Bruce Matthews, was relieved of his duties as offensive line coach, the writing was on the wall for Kevin Matthews, who was a fringe player re-signed in the middle of the season after injuries.
--T Mike Otto (not tendered as UFA).
--C Rob Turner (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--RB Bishop Sankey (2/54): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--NT DaQuan Jones (4/112): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Marqueston Huff (4/122): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Avery Williamson (5/151): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Zach Mettenberger (6/178): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Jackie Battle: Potential UFA; $855,000/1 yr.
--DT Antonio Johnson: UFA; terms unknown.
--WR/KR Marc Mariani: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Ropati Pitoitua: Potential UFA; $9.6M/3 yrs, $2.175M SB.
--S Bernard Pollard: Potential UFA; $6.3M/2 yrs, $850,000 SB.
--C/G Chris Spencer: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Leon Washington: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Dexter McCluster: UFA Chiefs; $12M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--OT Michael Oher: UFA Ravens; $20M/4 yrs, $4M SB/$9.35M guaranteed.
--LB Shaun Phillips: UFA Broncos; $6M/2 yrs.
--WR Brian Robiskie: FA; terms unknown.
--QB Charlie Whitehurst: UFA Chargers; $4.25M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$2M guaranteed.
--DE Al Woods: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
--LB Wesley Woodyard: UFA Broncos; $16M/4 yrs.
--K Rob Bironas (released).
--WR Kenny Britt: UFA Rams; $1.4M/1 yr, $550,000 guaranteed.
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (released).
--RB Chris Johnson (released).
--FB Quinn Johnson (released).
--QB Rusty Smith: UFA Giants; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T David Stewart (failed physical).
--CB Alterraun Verner: UFA Buccaneers; $26.5M/4 yrs, $14M guaranteed.
--WR Damian Williams: UFA Dolphins; $800,000/1 yr.