On Thursday, the Tennessee Titans held their second practice of organized team activities (OTAs) that was open to the media. These are the four things that have stood out the most through those two practices.

1. Improved Receiving Corps

There was a point during the 2018 season where, aside from Corey Davis, Marcus Mariota’s top options in the passing game were Anthony Firkser, Taywan Taylor, and Tajaé Sharpe. That group is incredibly underwhelming, to say the least.

A major factor behind that situation was the unfortunate string of injuries suffered by more talented Titans pass catchers like Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith, but general manager Jon Robinson’s neglecting to bolster the group during the 2018 offseason played a part as well.

Now, things are clearly in much better shape. Through the first two open practices of OTAs, Mariota has frequently connected with new additions Adam Humphries (free agency) and A.J. Brown (2019 NFL Draft). He’s also re-kindling his connection with Delanie Walker, who has been a full participant through the first two days.

When Titans fans get their first opportunity to check out the 2019 Titans once Training Camp rolls around, the receiving corps will certainly be a welcome sight.

“I feel like it’s going to help us out a lot, obviously,” Corey Davis said of the additions to the Titans’ receiving corps. “We’ve got some weapons coming back from injury and we added a few weapons like A.J. [Brown] and a few other players. As I said, I’m excited to get to work with these guys.

“We’ve got some weapons, and I know these dudes are going to go to work every single day. We added [Adam Humphries] he’s a great compliment to the room. I’m looking forward to this season.”

2. Up and Down Mariota

It seems pretty clear, based off of the two practices he has publicly participated in, that Marcus Mariota’s nerve issues are behind him. The ball looks the same coming out of his hand as it always has.

While he may be healthy, his performance through the first two practices has been a mixed bag. There’s been some good and some not-so-good.

Mariota’s strongest moment thus far in OTAs came on Thursday in a red zone drill. The offense ran 6 plays from inside the 10, and Mariota threw a touchdown on five of them.

The five touchdowns went, in order, to Tajaé Sharpe, MyCole Pruitt, A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Dion Lewis.

Mariota also completed a nice deep pass on Thursday to receiver Taywan Taylor down the right sideline after LeShaun Sims tripped in coverage.

The bad for Mariota, as one might expect, revolves around turnovers. He threw an interception to LeShaun Sims on Thursday, which was intended for MyCole Pruitt. The pass was too high, and Sims managed to jump in front.

Mariota also threw a pick to Sims in last week’s practice, though that one wasn’t entirely his fault. The pass was intended for Taywan Taylor, and there was clearly some kind of miscommunication on the play.

What should Titans fans take away from the fact that Mariota has been up and down in padless practices? Absolutely nothing. Just know that he has been neither all good nor all bad.

3. Strong and Deep Secondary

It was fitting that safety Kevin Byard sported his “MMCNB” (my man catches no balls) t-shirt following Thursday’s practice because the Titans secondary performed very well as a unit.

Cornerbacks LeShaun Sims and D’Andre Payne each notched an interception on Thursday, the latter coming as a result of out-muscling receiver A.J. Brown for the ball. Tye Smith also had a nice pass breakup.

Sims’ and Smith’s respective strong performances on Thursday continued a theme for those two players, who have been very strong over the course of the Titans’ first two open practices of OTAs.

Neither Sims nor Smith will be a starter for the Titans in 2019 barring injury, but the depth that those two players provide could prove to be invaluable. Sims has been a frequent contributor for the Titans defense since being drafted in 2016, and Smith was heavily missed as he sat out all of last season due to an injury.

Safety Amani Hooker has also looked good through his first two open practices, showing a strong presence on the field and a good burst.

The Titans arguably have both the NFL’s most talented and deepest secondary. The unit figures to be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.

4. Mariota Has His Best Backup in Tannehill

New Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is the best backup Marcus Mariota has had during his career. This is not news.

Through two open days of OTAs, Tannehill has looked really good. He throws a nice ball and drives it well with accuracy.

His biggest highlights thus far have been a deep pass down the right sideline to Cameron Batson and a beautiful pass over the middle to A.J. Brown to convert a third down situation.

On Thursday, Tannehill addressed the media for the first time since joining the Titans. When asked about the transition he’ll have to go through mentally from being a starter to being a backup, he described a somewhat challenging situation.

“It’s definitely a transition for me. Tough at times, but Marcus is great to work with. The staff here, Marcus, that quarterback room, it’s all really great…There are some things that are tough about it, but that just kind of goes along with it.”

If Mariota isn’t able to play all 16 games for the Titans in 2019—and history says he won’t—the team will be in capable hands. There is no quarterback competition, per se, but the room is exponentially stronger than it was last year with Blaine Gabbert.

Cover image: Tennessee Titans

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