Rookie safety Amani Hooker received a pretty high compliment from Titans star safety Kevin Byard after practice on Thursday.
“Honestly, it really does (remind me of myself as a rookie),” Byard said of Hooker, the Titans’ fourth round pick. “When I came in Dick LeBeau’s defense was pretty complex, and he used to tell me all the time that even Troy (Polamalu) didn’t play all the time and start starting a lot until his second or third year.
“So for a guy to come in and be able to learn as fast as he can and be able to handle all the stuff as a rookie. You’re dealing with your first training camp and going against pros, and all the things like that, and he’s done a great job of adjusting to that.”
Byard was special enough that as a rookie, though he was not a starter, LeBeau found ways to get him involved on defense. Byard has since gone on to become a star safety and was rewarded last week with a five-year, $70 million contract extension.
Hooker, though he admits he has a long way to go to be like Byard, is already running first team in the three-safety dime package for the Titans and has been getting work as the “big nickel” to cover tight ends in the slot.
He knows that respect is not easily given in the defensive backs room, but he took Byard’s compliment with high regards.
“I know they have high standard in the secondary and when you come in, you’ve got to earn their respect. I’m just trying to make my way into that,” Hooker said. “Byard is the highest-paid safety (in the NFL), and coming from him that means a lot I’m not Kevin Byard, but I’m just working and doing my thing and hopefully I can be in the defensive mix.”
Hooker said he hopes to be able to do many things for the Titans this season on defense and special teams.
“It just shows that I can do multiple things. That’s what I wanted to do when I came here. I didn’t want to be just a safety. I wanted to help the team out, whether it be on different phases of special teams and different positions as well,” Hooker said
Coach Mike Vrabel has seen that Hooker is plenty capable of multi-tasking, even as a rookie.
“He’s smart. He can handle another position. We felt like he’s someone that’s capable of handling more than one positon. He’s instinctive and he rarely makes the second mistake twice. You can coach him up and he gets it and you’ll see it come back later in practice and he usually is right on the correction,” Vrabel said.
Play of the day
Corey Davis has made the play of the day several times in the first week of training camp, but on Thursday, he made the play of camp.
On a red zone team drill period, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was under duress and had his first read taken away. He heaved an off-balance throw high toward the back of the end zone. Davis was guarded closely by Adoree’ Jackson, Jayon Brown and Malcolm Butler, all in the area. The 2017 first-round pick went high in the air, snatched the point of the football with his right hand (sort of Odell Beckham style) and came down with it just inside the back line.
Officials were on hand at practice Thursday and signaled a touchdown for Davis.
“It was a crazy play. It was a sprint out pass and we had a guy going to the front pylon. Logan Ryan did a good job stepping underneath it and taking it away. Corey is the next option on that. He kind of got hemmed on the back. He’s covered tightly. But he kind of had the DB on his inside, so I know if I put it high and inside, he’s got a shot at it,” Tannehill said. “So I just kind of floated up there high and inside, and he made a heck of a play going up and getting it and getting his feet down. Really an amazing. It kind of complements the one he made the other day.”
In and out
Several players were out of practice for the Titans on Thursday. Besides A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry, who continue to be out of action, Delanie Walker, Jack Conklin and Kamalei Correa were not available. Dennis Kelly went in early due apparently to being sick.
Defensive lineman Frank Herron, who left early Wednesday, did not practice. He had a walking boot on his right foot Wednesday afternoon.
Also, Nate Davis, who ran first team at right guard, went inside before the last period finished.