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Notebook: Titans' Confidence Boosted by 10 OTA Practices

Posted Jun 12, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It could be summarized as the power of 10.

Titans offensive and defensive players said they felt more confident and comfortable with the new systems that they put into action over the past three weeks in 10 organized team activity practices.

That sentiment is shared throughout the locker room, from veterans like Michael Roos, who is preparing for his 10th NFL season, to younger players.

“I feel a thousand percent more comfortable after this practice than after practice one,” Roos said. “We installed everything, had a break and then came in for the minicamp without any on-field work so everybody’s heads were spinning, but it’s been good so far. Everybody’s getting more comfortable with it.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt estimated that the Titans have run approximately 600 plays during the offseason program that included the OTAs, a voluntary minicamp at the end of April that was allowed of teams with new coaching staffs and a rookie minicamp.

“As far as the way we’re practicing, I’m pleased with that,” Whisenhunt said. “The challenge is going to be to sustain that. We’ve put in a lot of different things. Some have looked good, some have not looked so good, which you expect, but what we do have is a bunch of plays on tape that we can coach off of going forward: situationally, individual plays, individual players. “We can talk about techniques, we can talk about how we’ve got to do better on the communication, if we’re working together defensively or offensively. All those things help you, and it’s been really good.”

Tennessee will open a three-day mandatory minicamp Tuesday that, like OTAs, will include non-padded practices. The big difference, however, is an expansion of the time that players are allowed to stay at Saint Thomas Sports Park from six hours daily during OTAs to 10 hours daily during the minicamp, which Whisenhunt said will allow for walk-through practices and increased film study.

Cornerback Jason McCourty said he’s seen the team improve its chemistry through the OTAs and doing so should help the offense and defense execute better next week and when training camp opens next month.

“I feel like Xs and Os are going to come. We’re learning a new offense and defense and we’re definitely moving forward in that, but I think the most important thing we’ve been able to develop is just our bond together as a team,” McCourty said. “To see guys out there during these practices, standing up for each other and wanting to better one another is going to pay huge dividends for us in the future.”

FILM CRITIC: The offseason program has been valuable to the Titans because it’s given them footage of themselves in an offense similar to what Whisenhunt utilized as San Diego’s offensive coordinator in 2013 and a defense that Ray Horton brought from Cleveland.

Veteran receiver Nate Washington said he’s also taken a look at film from the rookie minicamp because he wanted to see what second-round pick Bishop Sankey “was bringing to the table.” Aside from the rookie minicamp, the running back wasn’t allowed to join the Titans until he completed academic requirements at the University of Washington. Sankey arrived in Nashville Wednesday night, practiced Thursday and is expected to participate in next week’s minicamp.

“Watching the rookie camp film, he’s a lot faster than I thought he was and really surprised me,” Washington said. “I’m excited about that opportunity to get that speed on the field, and he can do some stretching (of the field) with his ability to catch also.”

The receiver said he also likes the mature approach he’s seen from the rookie so far.

“He’s a quiet guy, a humble kid,” Washington said. “From what I understand, he’s willing to listen to (running backs coach Sylvester) Croom and make sure he’s doing everything required from him.”

FOR KICKS: Undrafted rookie kicker Travis Coons, a Huskies teammate of Sankey’s, also arrived Wednesday and participated Thursday. Coons and Maikon Bonani, who spent training camp with Tennessee in 2013, will be competing for the job.

“There will be lots of time in camp for (Coons) to get kicks, and he’ll have situations where he’ll get a chance to kick the ball,” Whisenhunt said. “Bonani has been doing a great job. We had a field goal session inside last week, and he really did a nice job, so there’s going to be some competition there, which is what you want, and we’ll see how Travis does.”

Bonani is believed to have been the first player born in Brazil to participate in an NFL game during the preseason last year. His journey to that point included immigrating to Florida, earning a scholarship at South Florida and returning from a broken back injury he suffered after falling from an amusement park ride.

Bonani, who grew up playing soccer and grew to love American football just as much, told Titans Online’s Amie Wells he is proud that Brazil is hosting the World Cup and his mother traveled there for the festivities.

SURGERY FOR ROOKIE LB: James Gayle, an undrafted rookie who played collegiately at Virginia Tech, has undergone shoulder surgery. Whisenhunt said the Titans were still evaluating what that might mean for the linebacker in terms of designation on the roster.

“He came out of college with a shoulder dislocation,” Whisenhunt said. “We were aware of that and felt like it was maybe an injury where we could harness it and get through the season, so it just came to the point where that wouldn’t work, so he had surgery.”

Whisenhunt said the Titans wanted to see Gayle compete for a spot as an outside rusher, but the injury kept the evaluation from happening.

A potential option for Gayle, Whisenhunt said, could be placement on the physically unable to perform list, which could provide a window for him to return after recovery, instead of injured reserve, which would be season-ending.

OTHER UPDATES: Whisenhunt said Marc Mariani was given the day off, Marcus Dixon did not participate because of a calf injury and Eric Olsen was held out because of a hamstring.

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