TAMPA — Two days of joint practices between the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have concluded in the August sun. An average heat index of 106 degrees was not the only thing bringing things to a boil.
Tempers flared regularly and Thursday’s work saw five separate skirmishes break out between Tennessee and the defending Super Bowl champions.
While training camp work against another NFL team is hugely beneficial for all parties involved, health of the players is always at the forefront. Tampa and the Titans took different approaches in how they managed their respective workloads. For all we saw (or did not see), the trip to Florida fleshed out a few questions that remain about this 2021 roster.
Tennessee did not utilize much of their star power
Head coach Mike Vrabel remains loathe to discuss why some of Tennessee’s most critical players are not practicing right now.
Guys who are working their way back from one thing or another have always respected the way the Titans’ coach protects them from additional scrutiny. However, the situation with A.J. Brown is becoming more than just a curiosity.
“Just not available today,” said Vrabel of Brown.
Julio Jones, Brown, Nate Davis, Ben Jones, Darrynton Evans, Dane Cruikshank, Tucker McCann, Denico Autry, Matthias Farley and Geoff Swaim all sat out both days of work against the Buccaneers. Wide receiver Marcus Johnson and safety Brady Breeze took Thursday’s practice off as well.
While the reps for Tennessee’s depth players are critical, it is fair to wonder what is happening with players like Brown and Ben Jones. Jones, in particular, has been absent for several weeks. The Titans back-up center depth has been thoroughly depleted due to injury and Daniel Munyer has been an absolute liability.
Titans v. Buccaneers Fight Night
Wednesday’s work between the Buccaneers and Tennessee went off without a hitch.
The two squads must have been saving their angst up for Thursday. On the whole, things heated up on five different occasions. Tampa wide receiver Antonio Brown caught Chris Jackson with a right hook square in the jaw during one-on-one drills. During a special teams portion, linebackers Nick Dzubnar and K.J. Britt went at it as did receiver Fred Brown with another Bucs special teamer that I could not discern.
The smallest of the dust-ups was between two of the biggest players on the field. Jeffery Simmons held onto running back Leonard Fournette a little longer than he probably should have after a play and was quickly confronted by Ryan Jensen. The one that required Vrabel to come in and forcefully separate all parties involved was between Cam Batson and defensive back Carlton Davis. Linebacker Devin White quickly jumped in the mix as both teams swarmed to the center of the action.
“We don’t want punches thrown, said Simmons. “But, there will be some pushing and shoving. That’s the nature of the game.”
Caleb Farley’s work-in-progress
The Titans first-round pick had some strong moments in Tampa but still has a fair amount of rust to work off.
Breaking up a pass from Tom Brady to Mike Evans on Wednesday was the highlight that attracted the most attention. Evans beat the rookie off the line but Farley showed off good recovery speed and his length by catching up and getting his arms up to force the interception. Rob Gronkowski gave Farley fits during both days of work. In one-on-ones Wednesday, Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin got the better of him on a slant. Antonio Brown worked him over pretty well on a couple of in-breaking routes during the same period on both days.
“(Farley) can run, he’s big, he’s long and he can turn and make plays on the football on occasion,” said Jon Ledyard of Pewter Report on my 104.5 The Zone radio show. “It is inconsistent but the ability is there…the biggest thing for him is going to be breaking routes. Anything that is in short to intermediate stuff. In-breakers especially if he’s an outside corner, he’s got to be able to read and break on that kind of stuff.”
Farley certainly has all the attributes and traits of a top draft choice at corner. His development, though, might be a bit of a slog for fans to wait out.
This is still a player that has not played in a football game since the 2019 season.