The weather didn't cooperate with the first attempt of the Tennessee Titans to conduct a practice at Nissan Stadium on Saturday night as a torrential downpour early in the evening that was accompanied by lightening forced a one hour delay before finally prompting the powers that be to pull the plug and send a very large crowd home disappointed, but safe and understanding of the situation.
The good news for the fans is that the Titans had a night practice scheduled for today, Monday, and so they will give it another shot tonight at 6:30 p.m.. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. with the players taking the field for stretching at 6:30 p.m. while practice will begin at 7 p.m. and run until approximately 9 p.m.
The Titans have held six practices over the first week of training camp and while there has been contact, it has been somewhat limited while tonight's practice will be a scrimmage, meaning that we will likely see the most hitting of camp to date when the team takes to the Nissan Stadium turf.
There are five things that we are most interested to see from the team in tonight's practices, of which all will be keys to the upcoming season as the Titans work to improve as a team overall.
What are those five things?
1) Tajae Sharpe vs. press coverage: The rookie has been better than expected since day on in Nashville while drawing rave reviews from coaches and media members who have watched him work so far. There is no doubt the physical abilities, skill and knowledge are there for Sharpe, but can he beat press coverage?
Slightly built, Sharpe will likely see opposing defenses attempt to play him physically off the snap, something that the rookie has not seen much of in the early days of the team's training camp. How he handles that and how he proves he can beat it will go a long way toward his success or struggles this season as he is on the slim, skinny side and needs to add some weight and strength which he will do over the course of the season. Until then, that's the biggest question for the talented rookie.
2) Offensive line play: The offensive line is the biggest question mark for the Titans entering the 2016 NFL season. At least four of the five starters appear set, while those could be open for competition should someone step forward to challenge the perceived starters, there is one position that is definitely open for competition as no less than three players are battling for the left guard spot.
Quinton Spain started at the position late last season and he has held serve through OTA's, mini-camp and to this point in camp. Rookie Sebastian Tretola, Brian Schwenke abd Andy Gallik among others are all seeing looks at guard while Schwenke is the second team center, but the ability to play multiple positions will help him, and if he is the best option at left guard then he could overtake Spain.
How this unit comes together is critical, and how they perform against their defense in the scrimmage is something to watch tonight.
3) Fast start for Henry: Rookie running back Derrick Henry caught some negative comments from his head coach last week for starting out slow in the tempo period of practice. Henry responded with a better effort the following day. Still it is something worth watching as we continue forward in camp.
While I don't know Henry well, having only been around him for a short time since his arrival in Nashville, he is a player that I watched regularly last season, thus leading me to have a theory about the Heisman winner.
Slow starts were a regular occurrence for Henry last season in games. His first few carries often resulted in short gains as the motor warmed up before Henry would break a long run and then be off and going for a big performance. Being a slow starter just might be something that is Henry, and while it is not ideal, if he starts slow yet finishes with 100 plus yards and a score or two every game, would anyone really complain?
4) Marcus Mariota & the deep ball: Mariota has struggled at times connecting with the deep ball, something that he has looked better at so far in camp. Tonight however should be the first time his receivers have faced press and disguising coverage's and it is worth watching how he does with the home run ball.
5) Justin Hunter, Dorial Green-Beckham and Andre Johnson: The wide receiver position has been the source of much speculation, and will continue to be throughout the remainder of camp. Both Hunter and DGB are physically gifted athletes who have yet to reach their full potential.
Entering his second NFL season, Green-Beckham has a longer leash that Hunter who is entering his final year of his contract and could find himself looking for a new home if he doesn't pick up the pace going forward. While he has looked good in practice, it will be the preseason games and live scrimmages where Hunter must show more than flashes of physical ability,
Green-Beckham must improve his consistency while the veteran Johnson must continue what he has started during the first six practices where he has looked anything but done as a player so far. Johnson has a lot to prove and a long way to go, but his play so far should be making people nervous.
It will be interesting to see who steps up tonight and how all these things track through the remained of camp.