The Tennessee Titans completed the eighth practice of the 2016 training camp on Tuesday with an afternoon practice at St. Thomas Sports Park where the team got a break from the heat and humidity that has marked this camp so far.
On the heals of Monday nights practice at Nissan Stadium, the team seemed to lack as much spirit as we have seen in other practices, though head coach Mike Mularkey stated he liked the effort during the session in his post practice comments.
"Well, it was going to be another tough one. Actually, the practice we had designed last night that was going to be in front of the fans here, it was going to be very similar to the scrimmage. It was going to be goal line, very physical practice," said Mularkey. "I didn't change much here. Actually, I added some plays that we lost last night to today's practice. I think the weather helped, but we had a really productive practice today after coming off a scrimmage last night."
So what happened on day eight?
MARIOTA AND HIS BATH TOWEL
When quarterback Marcus Mariota took to the practice field on Tuesday he was very noticeable for more than just his red No,8 jersey, The second year starter was sporting what appeared to be a beach towel on the right side of his uniform.
Asked about his rather large towel in the locker room following practice, Mariota jokingly shared the story behind it.
"I sweat like no other," said Mariota. "I was trying to keep my hands dry and so I used a big towel so it wouldn't get soaked."
The play of safety Daimion Stafford has stood out so far in this training camp. So much so that it prompted reporters to ask Mularkey if presumed starter Da'Norris Searcy could be in danger of losing that starting title to Stafford.
"No, (Da’Norris) Searcy hasn't done anything to lose his job. He just needs to know that he's being pushed, like all these guys are. You hope every position is like that, but Searcy has played well for us—very happy with him."
For his part Stafford admitted that in his fourth season with the team, it's time for him to step up.
"We joke around and it's friendly joking and competition but I have told them since day one that it's my fourth year and I'm tired of rotating," said Stafford. "I'm trying to make them (the starters) as uncomfortable as I can,"
It's no secret that the Titans want Marcus Mariota to use his legs as a weapon more this season. It has been no surprise to see him take off out of the pocket on both designed runs and broken scrambles in training camp.
Mariota must of course be wise to protect himself in doing so, and on Tuesday Mariota showed his best baseball slide when he broke contain on the right end in an eleven-on-eleven period and found himself faced with an option to get out of bounds with a defender near the sideline, or to cut inside, take what was available and slide.
Mariota chose the latter and put on a slide that would have made Rickey Henderson proud as he gained eight yards on the play.
WHEN OFFENSE AND DEFENSE BOTH WIN ON THE SAME PLAY
It doesn't happen often that you can say both sides won on the same play, but it happened on Tuesday when fullback Jalston Fowler caught a Mariota pass out of the backfield for a six yard gain.
Almost immediately upon securing the reception Fowler was rocked by a big hit from safety Lamarcus Brutus. The contact knocked Fowler to the ground, but Fowler immediately raised his hand, with the football securely controlled to complete the reception. Defensive mates congratulated Brutus for the play while the offensive side did likewise for Fowler holding onto the reception.
SHARPE DOES IT AGAIN
It's become a daily occurrence it seems for rookie receiver Tajae Sharpe to make a wow play. Tuesday was no exception as the star of the rookie class so far pulled in a diving grab of a Mariota pass on the sidelines midway through the first eleven-on-eleven period.
The catch itself was spectacular, but the concentration displayed by Sharpe was the real story as he worked his way between both corner back Perrish Cox and safety Rashad Johnson who both appeared to be in position to defend the play. It was not to be as both players missed deflecting the pass and Sharpe hauled it in on the dive for what would have been a 20 yard gain and a first down.
BRUTUS SHOWS UP ON TUESDAY
We mentioned LaMarcus Brutus earlier for his good defensive play, but the undrafted rookie from Florida State had perhaps his best practice of this training camp on Tuesday.
Not only did he make the big hit on Jalston Fowler, but he also came up strong and applied a big hit to tight end Jerome Cunningham to break up a sure completion over the middle from Matt Cassel.
O-LINE RETAINS THE BELT
The Titans have an ongoing competition between the offensive and defensive lines for possession of a professional wrestling style championship belt.
The offensive line has had the better of the competition so far this training camp and that continued on Tuesday as three members of each side squared off in on-on-one competition for the belt.
The offensive line won by taking two out of three from the defense.
Rookie offensive tackle Jack Conklin has been the anchor for the offensive line twice so far, winning both match-ups to retain the belt for the offense.
Tuesday came down to he and Jurrell Casey for the win and once again the rookie got it done by defeating the Pro-Bowl defender and keeping the belt for another day,
The Titans face a short turn around as they will follow Tuesday's afternoon session with an 8:55 morning practice on Wednesday. It is open to the public.