It was a solid night for the Tennessee Titans defense in Monday night’s intra-squad scrimmage at Nissan Stadium.
The Titans defense forced three turnovers and the offense was also generous with several penalties as well. In a scoring system that rewarded good plays by both the offense and defense, the defensive unit doubled up on the offense 24 points to 12.
“I thought it was a very good night for our defense. I was very pleased with the turnovers we created,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
Tennessee’s defense forced three turnovers on the night. Rookie defensive lineman Mike Smith, who sang the national anthem before the scrimmage, made a star spangled play when he recovered a fumbled exchange between Brian Schwenke and Matt Cassel.
Later, with a fan who won a charity bid to call plays, dialed up a pass play, safety Daimion Stafford picked off Marcus Mariota over the middle.
And finally, Jason McCourty ripped the football away from Dorial Green-Beckham as DGB was trying to tuck it away. The ball bounced into linebacker David Bass’ arms for an interception.
“Offensively, turnovers are going to beat you every week. You can’t do it, and I was disappointed with the penalties – especially the penalties in the red zone. That’s magnified 10 times over when you get a holding call in the red zone; it just kills you.”
In all there were three holding penalties in red zone work – one each on Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones and Anthony Fasano. The holds by Jones and Fasano both nullified touchdowns.
Mariota took a lot of the blame for the offense’s problems on himself, though he had just one turnover and one penalty.
“A lot of it is on me. I can’t be turning the ball over like that. I’ve got to put these guys in better situations” he said. “I didn’t play very well. It’s unacceptable. I can’t turn the ball over. I’ve got to do a better job of putting these guys in better situations.”
He did see a silver lining with a TD drive in the two-minute drill, which he capped with a throw to Rishard Matthews.
“At the end, I think we did a good job of finishing the two-minute drive and in the red zone,” Mariota said.
The Titans run game looked good, especially rookie Derrick Henry and second-year man David Cobb, both of whom had several strong runs and followed their blocking very well.
“We started off slow, but then we got going,” Henry said. “I’m just trying to get better and competing.”
Henry got plenty of work as DeMarco Murray had a short night, had a nice off-tackle run for a 20-plus yard gain, and also had a red zone run where Marqueston Huff hit him and bounced off without fazing Henry.
Cobb, who missed most of his rookie season with an injury, was also impressive, getting the bulk of the reps as the third back over Antonio Andrews and Bishop Sankey.
Offensive play of the day
It took awhile for it to happen, but veteran receiver Andre Johnson came up with a big play for the second team offense in the two-minute drill, bouncing off two defenders and going into the end zone.
Matt Cassel had targeted Johnson a couple of times before in the drill, but both passes fell incomplete.
Defensive play of the day
There were a number of highlights for the defense, including Daimion Stafford’s interception of Marcus Mariota. But the nod goes to an even more amazing interception. Matt Cassel threw to Dorial Green-Beckham for what looked to be a completion in traffic. But as DGB started to put the ball away, Jason McCourty raked at it, knocking it into the arms of linebacker David Bass.
DGB needing to step up
Coach Mike Mularkey continued to lament the inconsistency of Green-Beckham.
“It’s consistent still. It’s a good day, bad day, good, bad. That’s the way it’s been since the very first day. No one wants to please and do good for this team more than he does. He’s just got to find a way to come out every day and make the plays that are called his way. It just hasn’t been that way,” Mularkey said.
Mularkey said DGB works behind the scenes, but needs to do more of that still.
“That’s spending extra time. That’s doing things when nobody else is watching,” Mularkey said. “That’s in the classroom, putting the work in when you’re not directed by anybody, doing it yourself. I would do it more. He does do it; I’d do it more.”
Many happy returns
Rookies Tajae Sharpe handled a lot o the punt and kickoff return chores, and then the Titans also took a look at fellow rookie Kalan Reed on return chores.
The Titans chose to give veteran Dexter McCluster the night off.
Injuries and inactives
The Titans not only held out McCluster, they also gave Perrish Cox the night off as he had a mild groin strain. Brice McCain, his chief competition at cornerback, was out with an ankle injury that has plagued him for much of camp. B.W. Webb ran with the first group opposite Jason McCourty.
Kendall Wright remained out with a hamstring injury, while Nate Palmer sat out with strained ribs. Brian Schwenke exited early with a cut on his finger.
Before the practice began, Titans players and even general manager Jon Robinson spent time around the edge of the field signing autographs for fans in attendance.