Jim Wyatt, Senior Writer/EditorTitansOnline.com
The Titans are counting on contributions from a large number of the 2017 draft picks this season, starting with Sunday’s season opener against the Oakland Raiders.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans, like every other team across the NFL, have had roughly four months to prepare their rookies for the regular season.
Now it’s time to turn them loose.
In Sunday’s season opener against the Raiders, the Titans will be counting on several 2017 draft picks right out of the gate.
“They don’t have any more time,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “It’s not like you can go ‘Hey give me two more weeks.’ They’ve got to be ready to go.’ Other than Corey (Davis), they’ve gotten plenty of snaps to see the speed of the game. If anything, trust their ability, trust our plan. We have a good plan, we have rules for everything. Don’t make it faster than it already is. It’s a fast game and I think they understand that. Corey (Davis) is a guy that’s going to have to get his feet wet, and the sooner he can the better he’ll be.”In addition to Davis, the fifth overall pick of the NFL Draft, the Titans have a number of other rookies expected to play key roles this season.
Receiver Taywan Taylor, a third-round draft pick from Western Kentucky, led the Titans in receiving yards (8 catches, 145 yards, 18.1-yard average) during the preseason, and he’s already earned the trust of quarterback Marcus Mariota. Tight end Jonnu Smithhas made steady progress since May as well. On Monday, Mularkey raved about him.
“I’ve been very pleased with his blocking,” Mularkey said of Smith, a third-round pick from Florida International. “He is a tough kid, he is a tough player. He’s done well. I have no concerns putting him up and blocking the point for us, I don’t.”Defensively, linebacker Jayon Brown was a playmaker during training camp, and he led the team in tackles (13) during the preseason. He’s earned the chance to contribute early. Adoree’ Jackson could be a factor in the defense, in addition to his work on special teams.
“I feel like the coaching staff and the younger guys did a great job of helping me out this preseason, getting my mind right and giving me confidence to play in this defense,” said Brown, a fifth round pick out of UCLA.
“(The preseason helped) big time, getting a feel for the defense and getting used to playing with the older guys, my teammates. Now against the Raiders it’s live bullets. But getting a feel for the defense and knowing what I can get away with and what I can’t get away with and learning from my mistakes in the run game and passing game, it helped get me ready.”
Mularkey indicated last week Jackson, selected 18th overall out of USC, put himself in position to handle punt returns.How much else he’ll do remains to be seen. Jackson started the final two games of the preseason at cornerback, and also gained experience on kickoff returns.
“I’ll leave it up to coach, and whatever he decides is in the best interest of the team,” Jackson said. “I can’t complain and whenever my number is called I’ll go out and try and make plays.
“(But) I am excited for my first regular season game in the NFL.”
Davis said he’s fired up as well.
Slowed during training camp with a hamstring injury, Davis returned to practice last week. He worked out on the field in pregame warmups prior to the final preseason game against the Chiefs, and he was on the practice field on Monday as the Titans began preparing for the Raiders.
Davis knows it’s almost go time, and he’s ready to go.
“I’m ready to prove my worth any way possible,” Davis said. “I am ready to go out there and compete, and when I get out there I want to make the most of it. … It’s Week One, and this is when it counts. This is what you work for.
“I am amped. I am amped already. I have to calm myself down. But this is what I have always worked for and now it is here.”