Up until now, the reports on rookie Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry have been glowing.
But even as the rookie has earned positive reviews with his play, Coach Mike Mularkey reminded that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner still has areas to work on.
Namely, Mularkey wants to see Henry start faster at the outset of practice.
In camp usually right after stretch is done, the Titans have broken into a team period called “tempo,” designed to get things flowing quickly in practice and setting the tone for the rest of the day.
“I will say this about Derrick. I don’t think he is a fast starter,” Mularkey said. “I’ve got to talk to him about that tempo period, because we’ve got a lot of guys up front that are creating things for him, and he’s not hitting it like I’d like to see him hit it. Later in the practice, I hope that’s not the case in games, we need him to be full strength as soon as we call his number. He needs to hit things better.”
Henry was asked about Mularkey’s critique and wanting him to get off to faster starts
“(I have to) Just think faster and play faster, I mean that’s all it is. Just get more experience and you’ll play faster,” he said. “I just need to improve and that’s just me playing faster. I think that’ll improve as training camp goes along.”
Wright out again
Wide receiver Kendall Wright missed Thursday’s practice after tweaking his hamstring in Tuesday’s work.
Mularkey said he hopes to get Wright back as soon as possible from the injury, because the camp work he is missing is vital.
“It’s really crucial. This is the time we need him with the passing game. Nothing we can do about it, but I wish it hadn’t happened. But it is what it is,” Mularkey said. “The quicker we can get him back, and he’ll be a large part of that—what he does, how much he’s in that training room. But it’s critical. Every day is critical in camp, and he’s missing. He’s missing a lot every day.”
Mularkey wouldn’t put a time frame on how long Wright might be out of action.
“I don’t put time frames. I ask the doctors not to say, ‘Hey, four to six weeks,’ because some players will listen to four to six weeks,” Mularkey said. “I want guys that want to come out here and practice and compete. Sometimes it may not be 100 percent, but I want guys that want to be out here. We’re going to get him out here as soon as we can.”
Defensive play of the day
There were plenty of defensive plays to choose from on Thursday, as the Titans defensive backs got their hands on a number of passes.
Perrish Cox had at least two pass breakups as did Cody Riggs. Kevin Byard knocked a pass away from Delanie Walker in a team drill, and rookie Kalan Reed swatted the ball out of Justin Hunter’s grasp in one-one-ones.
But the play of the day probably comes from a player now known for his pass coverage skills. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo went out into coverage in team drills and managed to get his hands on a deep sideline pass to Rishard Matthews, nearly intercepting it. The play drew praise from Mularkey after practice.
“I want to see the plays we made out here. There were some great plays. Orakpo over here in the corner almost had an interception,” Mularkey said. “Those are great plays for our team, and those are great things for Marcus to see, in that he thought he had a hole shot on the corner and he really didn’t because we’ve got some guys who can make some plays. There’s nothing negative about it. It’s good for everybody making those plays.”
Offensive play of the day
With the defense playing so well, the Titans offense struggled to make big plays against them. One of the best plays came from the third-team unit, as quarterback Alex Tanney dropped a beautiful pass into the arms of tight end Phillip Supernaw on a deep crossing route that opened up late in the route.
Supernaw made the catch an the squirted out of bounds in the two-minute drill.
Kevin Dodd’s stay on the PUP list will last at least through the weekend, as an x-ray of his injured foot showed something that the Titans medical staff wants to make sure is completely healed before they add him back to the active roster.
Dodd, a second-round pick, had surgery in May to have a screw inserted into his injured foot.
Cornerback Brice McCain will be out through the weekend with an injured ankle suffered in Sunday’s practice. He is still walking with a bit of a limp.
Antonio Andrews was in team drills for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury the first day of camp. Andrews is in a competition with Bishop Sankey and David Cobb for the final running back spot on the roster, a job that Mularkey says special teams contributions will play a role.
Andy Gallik was out for a second straight practice due to having fluid drained from his left knee.
Again, consistency and making some plays. We had a deep ball today in one-on-one. You’ve got to catch that. You have to catch that and you have to put it away. You have to score. That has to be every single day, so you quarterback knows, ‘If I’ve got a one-on-one and he’s over there, he’s got to win.’ That’s really up to him. The inconsistency has not allowed him to move up the charts.
I’ll always do that as long as I’m coaching. I want them to succeed, and if I don’t challenge them, they will go by the wayside on their own. Again, it’s just whether they accept that challenge and how they are as a man. I want them to succeed more than they want them to succeed.
He is like you’ve seen out here. He’s had some really good days, and some days not so good. Today was another one where I thought he could have stepped up and had another solid day, especially in the two-minute drill where we needed a big play. He needs to make a play. Again, we’re going to keep challenging guys, keep giving them opportunities and see where it goes.