Now that the Titans have held seven practices open to the public, we can begin to form some ideas on what the 2010 team might look like. I attended all seven practices and following are some of my thoughts and observations after the first week of camp.
QB - All four have been hot and cold thus far, which doesn't bother me. Vince has got a month to get into a groove and become more consistent. I'm impressed with Rusty Smith's arm.
RB - Chris Johnson's temporary holdout did nothing to diminish his speed. Although Javon Ringer is getting the ball more than he did in last year's camp, it's difficult to tell how much he's improved, since he's often behind a suspect #2 o-line. He'll get a lot more carries in the preseason games, many of them behind the first o-line, which will give us a better idea. LeGarrette Blount is a pile-mover.
WR - The wideouts have been the stars of training camp so far, often making difficult catches and with relatively few drops. While Justin Gage has been very good and Nate Washington has had his moments, Lavelle Hawkins and Marc Mariani have stood out. Dominique Edison has also been catching the ball. The Hawkins-Mariani-Edison trio looks to be in good position to give the Titans the best #4-6 WRs they've ever had. Third-round draft pick Damian Williams hasn't seen the field yet but he'll figure somewhere in that #4-6 mix. Mariana has great hands, he's looked like he's using stickum.
TE - Craig Stevens is showing that he's more than just a blocking TE. The QBs have been throwing to him often, usually on 6 to 10-yard dump-offs over the middle, and he's showcased some reliable hands. Bo Scaife hasn't been utilized quite as much, though he caught a bomb from VY. Stevens and Scaife have been getting all of the first-team work, often together. Jared Cook had been rather quiet with the second and third-string offenses but had a fine day as the team was fully padded today (Saturday.)
O-line - The first unit looks about as good as it did in last year's training camp; it ought to since it's the same except that Eugene Amano and Leroy Harris have switched positions. The second unit, which often has individual matchups against d-line starters, has had its issues. I'm concerned about the depth here. Now that Harris is starting, I don't see any backups as being ready to start if necessary. Hopefully one of them will show something as the preseason progresses.
Most improved offensive players: Hawkins and Stevens
Most impressive newcomers: Blount and Mariani
D-line - Jovan Haye and Sen'Derrick Marks seem to be doing well. Marks has been hustling a lot, even chasing backs downfield like KVB used to do. New DE Justin Babin has a motor too. He and Eric Bakhtiari remind me a little of Travis LaBoy, though both are better against the run and neither is quite as fast off the edge. As a whole, the d-line has been extremely active, something I expect we'll continue to see throughout the year.
LB - If the first week of camp is any indication, Will Witherspoon will lead the Titans in tackles this year. There's no hesitation in his first step; he's all over the field and around the ball. Spoon seems to be picking up the defense quickly and fitting right in. Gerald McRath is noticeably more vocal. I am not particularly impressed with any of the other LBs outside of Stephen Tulloch. Rennie Curran is showing a lot of potential but he's awfully small.
CB - This is a tough one. The WRs have been making a lot of plays, so how much of that is on the corners? The CBs have often been in decent position and the WRs have been making some tough catches. Still, when backups like Hawkins, Edison and a seventh-round draft pick are getting a step on them and making plays, imagine what opposing starters will do. The corners have also been moving around like a game of musical chairs. Jason McCourty, Ryan Mouton and Alterraun Verner have been alternating as the #2 starter. Nickel back Vincent Fuller, once a boundary corner in college, has filled in for depth and to help carry some of the workload. Verner had a good day today, breaking up a potential TD pass and making an interception on another play.
S - I have the same problem here as with the corners. How much of the good showing by the WRs and TEs is on them? The number of bombs the secondary has given up is also troubling. I haven't seen enough of the rookie safeties to give me any good feelings. Robert Johnson was getting an earful from secondary coach Marcus Robertson in Friday's practice. How much of that was constructive criticism and how much was simply instructional, I don't know, but it seemed to be more of the former. One good sign - Michael Griffin was doing some hitting today.
Most improved defensive players: Marks and McRath
Most impressive newcomers: Witherspoon and Verner
Finally, a photo from Titans training camp at sunset.