NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans kick off organized team activities this week at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Here’s a look at five things I’ll be watching:
Mariota’s comfort level**
It’s still early in the offseason, at the start of OTAs and still several weeks away from the team’s mandatory minicamp in June. And compared to last season, when Marcus Mariota was still working his way back from an injury, the quarterback is way ahead in the game. In a new offense, OTAs will allow Mariota to work through some things with new plays, and players around him. Already he’s developing a good relationship with offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara.
First-round pick Rashaan Evans and second-round pick Harold Landry, III stood out during the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month. Now they’re playing alongside veterans, trying to prove themselves to new teammates and coaches. The Titans expect the pair to make an impact in 2018, and draft picks Dane Cruikshank and Luke Falk, along with the undrafted free agents, will see things get cranked up in OTAs as well. All of them want to get their footing in competition, and gain confidence along the way. It’s always fun to watch the young guys find their way.
The news guys**
The rookies aren’t the only ones adjusting to a new team. The Titans have added a total of 12 veterans through free agency or the league’s waiver system, starting with running back Dion Lewis and cornerback Malcolm Butler back in March. Safety Kendrick Lewis (Ravens), receiver Nick Williams (Falcons) and offensive lineman John Theus (49ers) are the team’s most recent additions, and they’re trying to catch up as quickly as possible.
Depth charts in May don’t mean a whole lot. The pads aren’t on, and the real decisions aren’t made until much closer to the season. So whether it’s Will Compton or Rashaan Evans with the first group at inside linebacker, an intriguing combination between Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson at cornerback, or some new combinations on the offensive line, it's not the time to get too worked up. (And don’t expect coach Mike Vrabel to share that information either). What coaches do want to see is fierce competition, and guys starting to establish themselves.
Vrabel has already started to put his stamp on the team, with his approach on the field and in the building. The same goes for the rest of his coaching staff. Vrabel is a hands-on coach, something that’s been on display during open periods of practice. Some of his assistants are more vocal than others (fans should look forward to seeing and hearing secondary coach Kerry Coombs in training camp). Vrabel expects to see improvement – and fewer mistakes – as the team edges closer to the end of the offseason, and training camp.
Titans players take the field for Wednesday's minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn)