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Notebook: Titans Striving for Intensity During Installations of New Offense & Defense

Posted Jun 2, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was pleased with the intensity he saw Monday as the Titans continued installing new elements on offense and defense when in their fourth of 10 scheduled organized team activity practices.

“It was good. I think one of the things you have to make sure they understand is we’re going to install more things,” Whisenhunt said. “That doesn’t mean you can forget about what we did last week, so the pressure is going to continue to build on them to perform as we put more and more things in, and the ones that are successful in it, they’re the ones that are going to get the opportunities.”

Quarterback Jake Locker said the learning process can sometimes slow down the speed that players can display, but that wasn’t a problem with the way the Titans handled new challenges as they entered their second of three weeks of OTA practices that lead up to a mandatory minicamp June 17-19.

“Intensity has been great throughout practice,” Locker said. “That’s usually the first thing that goes. When you’re thinking a lot, things slow down, and I don’t think we’ve had that (problem) to a large extent thus far.

“We put in a lot of red zone stuff (Monday) that we haven’t had in yet,” Locker said. “That’s another thing that’s a testament to this team and how these guys are preparing daily and in the offseason. Coming in and having 20 new plays a day isn’t easy but going out and being able to execute them full-speed against a defense, it’s nice to know it means that much to your teammates and everybody is spending that much time away from this building to understand what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Marc Mariani said there is a “constant volume” of material being installed.

“They keep throwing more and more at us, and like I said, it’s very tough right now. It’s very stressful,” Mariani said. “There’s a lot of stuff going in, but I think it’s a challenge, that if we can live up to it, we can push ourselves right now when we come back for camp and hit the preseason and eventually the regular season, we’ll be able to hit the ground running. We’re not going to have to look back. We’re going to have everything installed and ready to go, so these are extremely important days for us, especially with being behind the curve with a whole new coaching staff, so we’re just coming together as a unit, grinding every day and getting better.

“Nobody wants to be the guy that gets left behind, so we’re working hard and then you go home and rest a little bit and get back in the playbook, so it’s been going really well,” Mariani added.

Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator Jason Michael and defensive coordinator Ray Horton are progressing through an installation schedule designed to present players with everything the coaches want to see before the break between the minicamp and training camp, when they’ll want players to show an even better grasp of the systems.

Defensive players want to meet every challenge the offense poses and present some of its own, raising the level of competition between the sides.

“I would say this is probably the high point of intensity that we’ve had since I’ve been here with guys actually getting after it, guys wanting to win, guys wanting to compete,” said Jurrell Casey, who is prepping for his fourth pro season. “I would say this is one of the higher intensity practices we’ve had so far.”

Bernard Pollard, who was brought in as a free agent in 2013 to raise the intensity on the defense, said he likes the progress.  

“We’re competing all the time. We had guys making interceptions, we had guys knocking balls down,” Pollard said. “Of course the offense gets paid as well, but I think for the most part, if we do not give up the big play — if you look at any good defense, it was limited as far as the big plays they gave up during the year. We need to keep that down on the defensive side of the ball. We cannot allow balls to go over our head. If the ball gets past our front seven, we as a secondary have to tackle that, and yes, we don’t have pads on, but we’ve got to put ourselves in a position to practice it. If we’re doing these things in practice, it’s going to translate over to game time.”

Kamerion Wimbley, who along with Derrick Morgan could play some at linebacker and defensive end this season, credited the extra time the team has been putting toward class study to correct any mistakes and prevent future ones.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but the guys are attacking this with enthusiasm, and if we keep at it the way we are and keep on the pace that we’re at, we’ll give ourselves a chance to be successful,” Wimbley said. “I just think we’ve got guys who realize we have the opportunity to do something special here and we want to take advantage of that. We don’t want to waste opportunities because you only get so many.”

HUNTER’S HOPS: Receiver Justin Hunter was one of several current and former Titans who participated in a charity basketball game last week.

When asked about Hunter’s dunks during the game, Whisenhunt joked, “that was a 9-foot rim, at least that’s what I was told.”

Hunter said Whisenhunt told him “it was a weak dunk.” As for the joke about the height of the rim, which was a regulation 10 feet above the hardwood, the second-year receiver said, “That’s what I get all the time. That’s what I make it look like.”

The lanky Hunter (6-feet, 4-inches) turned in a vertical leap of 39.5 inches at the 2013 NFL Combine and showed he still has hops despite a conscious effort to increase his weight to 207 pounds from his 2013 low of 193.  

In all seriousness, Whisenhunt said he’s “excited about Justin.”

“I think he’s been working hard, but he’s got to bring his game to a whole new level to understand what he can be,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s what’s exciting about him. He’s working hard, and hopefully he’ll continue on that track.”

WEEKLY PROGRESS: Locker has been able to participate in team periods of practices each week, which is ahead of the projected schedule for his recovery from foot surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury.

“Throughout the course of the week, it’s working through some soreness and getting it warmed up in the morning and then being able to perform during practice and then having those three days on the weekends to kind of recover and let everything kind of calm down and heal up has been helpful,” Locker said. “I’ve always felt really good on Monday, and then each week progressively gets better where the soreness is less and less and it’s easier to come back the next day, so I’m excited about the progress I’ve been able to make.”

Linebacker Akeem Ayers said he is also making progress from separate surgeries that repaired his right and left patellar tendons. Ayers said he injured the right knee first and had problems in his left knee that were caused by trying to overcompensate. He is targeting a complete return by training camp.

“Every day is getting better and better, and I’m just learning how to deal with it and constantly treat it to make sure it won’t be any worse, but taking it one day at a time,” Ayers said. “I’m excited to be able to hit the field and be at 100 percent and play to the best of my ability. Last year I wasn’t at my best ability. With this new defense, there’s a lot to be excited for, especially on my part.”

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