Running back Derrick Henry is a player that Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey is eager to see in pads running against an opponent.
Henry gave a preview of what he could do when he unloaded on linebacker Nate Palmer, knocking him to the ground in a team drill by lowering his shoulder. It was the type of play that had a little more zest than a normal non-tackling contact play that passes for teams drills these days.
“That’s a real play,” Mularkey said. “He’s going to move the pile, whoever’s in the way better get out of the way. Some of the things he did out here with some of the cuts where he broke it to the outside, he had speed to get away from some of our outside guys, which again was a real play in practice so it’s good to see.”
Henry could get the lion’s share of the reps even with the first team Saturday night in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers. Mularkey wouldn’t say exactly how much playing time his starters might get in the game, though he hinted that the starting offensive line could go the entire first half. Starting running back DeMarco Murray should see limited action in the game, meaning the reigning Heisman Trophy winner might get those extra reps with the ones.
“He will, he’ll have limited reps. I’ve seen him live in action,” Mularkey said of Murray. “I really was going to limit him in the scrimmage. I really didn’t want him to take as many reps as he did, and he’s the one that wants to take them. He’s a little stubborn, which is really good with me.”
Defensive play of the day
While Henry’s knockdown of Palmer was the winner as the offensive play of the day, the defensive play came from rookie cornerback LeShaun Sims, who managed to separate receiver Justin Hunter from the football in team drills and even knocked his defensive teammate Justin Staples down in the process.
Sims, a rookie from Southern Utah, got plenty of “attaboys” and high fives from his teammates, and has been getting noticed in recent days not only for his physical play, but his skills at playing the football as well.
“Every day I come out with the same goal, to try to get better and more comfortable and more acclimated to our defense. I think I’m making progress but there is still work to be done,” Sims said.
Injuries and absences
Cornerback Cody Riggs, who was involved in a collision with receiver Rishard Matthews on Wednesday, was placed in the concussion protocol and will be out of the preseason opener vs. the Chargers.
The good news was that cornerback Brice McCain, who has been battling an ankle injury, was back and practicing fully on Thursday.
Backup offensive lineman Josue Matias has patella tendonitis in his knee and was out of practice Thursday. He will be questionable for Saturday.
Receiver Kendall Wright remains out with a hamstring injury, while Kevin Dodd is still on PUP with a foot injury and Aaron Wallace is out with an ankle injury.
Running back Dexter McCluster remains out, having left the team to tend to a personal matter that is non-football related.
Two lucky fans will get to call the first plays against the Chargers on Saturday night as part of a donation of $10,000 each to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
It came about when Mike Mularkey and Jon Robinson attended a Make-A-Wish fundraiser as guests.
“We were there as guests. We were not there as celebrity waiters. I’ve done it. I did it in Atlanta. I offered the first play of the preseason game up for auction—let somebody come in here, see how we function, how everything operates here and really go through a game plan with them. Bring them in to the offensive room where all of our coaches were, which they did yesterday, and the board is up for the Chargers,” Mularkey explained. “And we talked through a lot of the plays that are up there and give them the ability to call the first play.
“In Atlanta, it went for $500. I thought what a great thing. It’s an easy thing. It’s an easy play. These guys will respond to the play, whatever it is. This year got out of hand and went for $20,000. So two groups bid $10,000 each to call the first two plays of the game. I thought for the first preseason game, the first two plays, you’re going to get probably five kids that are going to get wishes for life. It was pretty good. It was a really special night, and then yesterday they were here. They got a great day, a really great day.”