Injuries are a part of the NFL, and as the old adage says, the next man must step up.
A knee injury that sidelined starting nose tackle Sammie Hill in OTA’s, mini-camp and the start of training camp, it has allowed for others to step up in his absence and prove themselves to Titans coaches.
No one has taken more advantage of an opportunity this training camp that Al Woods.
The sixth year pro from LSU joined the Titans as an unrestricted free agent addition from Pittsburgh just prior to the 2014 season. He was signed to solidify the middle of the defensive line as the team shifted to the 3-4 defense.
With Hill as the starter, Woods was a solid yet unspectacular backup last season. He along with his fellow line mates struggled mightily against the run and must improve this season if the Titans are to improve.
Woods has taken the challenge to heart and has played like a man possessed so far in this training camp. He has been almost unblockable at times, including on Thursday when he split a double team and attempted to strip the football from backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Woods missed the football with his clubbing arm, but managed to knock the 6’5” 230 quarterback to the ground with one shot.
Tempers flared as offensive players took exception to their quarterback taking a hit in practice, though none of the frustration was aimed directly at Woods.
Woods apologized immediately to Mettenberger and all is good between the two teammates, but the play itself was an indicator of how Woods is dominating so far.
Center Brian Schwenke has faced Woods daily since the start of offseason work and shared his thoughts on his teammate following Thursday’s practice.
”He’s a really talented player. He’s a big body, athletic with the longest arms I believe I’ve ever seen on a person,” said Schwenke. “He’s got quite the advantage and he’s using it and that’s great for him and for our team, and when you’ve got those kind of gifts you definitely want to use them.”
”It’s exciting and good for me because I’m getting good looks on defense and he’s a great talent that is helping me translate it to games,” said Schwenke.
As for Woods, he downplayed his performance to this point.
”Oh man, I’m just trying to provide a great backup for Sammie Hill,“ said Woods. “I just don’t want to let the play drop off so I’m taking it upon myself to be as good as him and just keep my head down and keep working. That’s been my mentality in camp to keep my head down and keep working.”
As for the defensive line as a whole, Woods complimented his teammates for their work.
”We’re being real critical of ourselves and just not taking practice for granted and going out here and trying to refine things,“ added Woods. “We’re trying to pick something and get better every day and not just trying to be great today. It’s an everyday process and as a d-line we are working hard every day to show our coaches and do our best on the field.”
” My teammates are working their butts off and I think it’s showing up on the practice field, now we have to show it on the game field,” concluded Woods.
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