The Titans are returning to the field at Nissan Stadium for the first time since the regular season finale, a loss to the Texans on Dec. 27.
Admission and parking are free, and all lots are open for the Titans’ intrasquad scrimmage from 6-8 p.m. Saturday at Nissan Stadium. Gates open at 4 p.m. Players will sign autographs before practice.
“I’m anxious to see it,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “You know, we’re going to simulate a game as much as we can. There’s going to be a couple goal line periods that are live, but as far as situational, they’re going to get a lot of that – like (how) they’re out here right now, but a little more in a controlled environment. I’m looking forward to it, especially the rookies.”
It’s the beginning of training camp and as the practice conditioning begins, our Titans Insiders talk about the biggest news of the day, the hiring of Andre Johnson for the Tennessee Titans and coach Malarkey’s plans for the team. George Walker IV / The Tennessean
Titans coaches and players excited about renovations at St. Thomas Sports Park. George Walker IV / The Tennessean
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota needs to improve on ball security and accuracy on deep passes, as well as remaining healthy. Jason Wolf / The Tennessean
This position was a strength of the team last year, thanks to Pro-Bowler Jurrell Casey. Titans also saw development in two young players, DaQuan Jones and rookie Angelo Blackson. Expect Austin Johnson to be a big part of the line rotation this year. John Glennon / The Tennessean
What impact will Titans wide receiver newcomers Tajae Sharpe, Rishard Matthews have, the unrealized potential of Justin Hunter, Dorial Green-Beckham and the possible roster-spot battle between Justin Hunter and Harry Douglas. John Glennon / The Tennessean
Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker has established himself as Marcus Mariota’s favorite target. Jason Wolf / The Tennessean
Kicker Ryan Succop and punter Brett Kern both had strong seasons last year. Dexter McCluster needs to make some big plays as a returner while Titans may have to adapt new special-teams strategies for kick return and coverage. John Glennon / The Tennessean
Titans gave up far too many touchdown passes and big plays last year. We look at the health of the top 2 cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Perrish Cox and free-agent addition Brice McCain and draft picks LeShaun Sims and Kalan Reed. John Glennon / The Tennessean
The Titans’ outside linebackers rushed the passer well until Derrick Morgan was hurt and teams focused on Brian Orakpo. They added depth with young outside linebackers, particularly with second-round draft pick Kevin Dodd and insider Nate Palmer. John Glennon / The Tennessean
There’s at least two new starters and a three-way battle for the job of starting left guard for the Tennessee Titans. Jason Wolf / The Tennessean
The Titans revamped their rushing attack by acquiring bruising running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Jason Wolf / The Tennessean
Titans rookie free safety Kevin Byard should eventually start ahead of veteran Rashad Johnson.
For those heading to the stadium for the first time, there are a few things you need to know. The NFL’s bag policy is in effect, which limits fans to clear plastic bags that are a gallon or smaller. Exceptions are made for medical necessities, after inspection. Prohibited items include but are not limited to purses larger than a small clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, any luggage, seat cushions, computer bags and camera bags.
The scrimmage also serves as an opportunity for the team’s newcomers to begin to grow accustomed to their home stadium. There are plenty of new faces on both sides of the ball, as well as a new playbook, coaching staff and general manager, so there is plenty to pay attention to. Consider it a dry run for the team’s preseason opener Thursday against the Chargers.
“Yeah, we’ll do a pre-game warm up. Not exactly the time frame that they’ll come in and out, but for the most part we’ll get a good dry run of it. Then we’ll go in like we will in a real game and then come out and have a halftime. (We’ll) try and simulate it, try to get their bodies to adjust … ‘I’ve got 10 minutes off, I got to come out and play at a high level immediately again.’ I’m trying to get as much out of it as I can for these guys.”
Here are five players to watch:
Marcus Mariota: The young franchise quarterback is entering his second season in the NFL after throwing 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 12 games as a rookie. He missed four games with knee injuries. Mariota’s 87-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars in December was the longest play from scrimmage in the league last season. But he didn’t often flash his elite speed, running just 34 times for 252 yards, nowhere near what he produced during his stellar career at Oregon. That’s going to change. Mariota put on about seven pounds, which he hopes increases his durability, and his legs will factor into the game plan this season. He’s broken several designed runs during practice and is always a threat to scramble.
‘Thunder and thunder’: Running backs DeMarco Murray (wearing number 29) and Derrick Henry (2) will be focal points of this year’s offense, as the Titans try to employ a power running attack. Murray, acquired in a trade of fourth-round draft picks with the Eagles, led the NFL in rushing yards in 2014 but is coming off a disappointing season in Philadelphia. He managed just 702 yards and six touchdowns on 193 carries, but those stats would have led all Titans running backs last season. Henry, who won the Heisman Trophy and national championship last season at Alabama, is difficult to miss, standing 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds. He was drafted by the Titans in the second round and has impressed during training camp, but the coaching staff would like to see him start quicker.
The first-round pick: Jack Conklin (78), the eighth overall pick in the draft, is lining up at right tackle, despite playing on the left side for the bulk of his career at Michigan State. Conklin has received glowing reviews from his teammates and the coaching staff since arriving in Nashville, and could help solidify the Titans’ offensive line for years to come, protecting Mariota and opening holes for the running backs. He’s one of two new starters on the offensive line, which surrendered 54 sacks last season, the most in the NFL. The Titans also signed veteran center Ben Jones (60), who started the last four seasons for the Texans.
The local guy: Kevin Byard (19 or 20, blue jersey) set the school record with 19 career interceptions at MTSU, and proudly donned the Titans hat he already owned when he was selected with the first pick in the third round. Byard has impressed the Titans in the classroom and has been making plays on the field. He’ll eventually start at free safety, but will need to beat veteran Rashad Johnson, who leads the league with nine interceptions since returning from a hand injury in 2014. Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Titans after the Cardinals cut him loose.
Sharpe route running: The Titans made national headlines last week by signing future Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Johnson (81). But the talk of the offseason and training camp has been the play of rookie fifth-round pick Tajae Sharpe (19, white jersey), who led the nation with 111 catches last season at Massachusetts and has been a revelation in practice. Sharpe runs precise routes, meaning Mariota knows where he’s going to be, he knows how to get open and catches virtually everything that comes his way. Sharpe has been running with the starters on the outside, opposite former Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews (18), who signed in free agency.