The Tennessee Titans have oft been criticized over the last month or so for their refusal to add talent to their group of receivers. If Thursday’s practice, the first of 2018 Training Camp, was any indication, those criticisms might have been warranted.

Aside from a nice, one-handed catch in the back of the end zone by second-year player Corey Davis, the only thing noteworthy about the Titans’ receiving core on Thursday was just how unnoteworthy the group is as a whole.

With veteran Rishard Matthews currently sidelined due to an undisclosed injury, receiver drills featured a handful of names Titans fans probably aren’t familiar with. At one point, Michael Campanaro, a career special teamer, was featured in a first-team three WR set.

But where the Titans’ receivers were weak, their defensive backs were incredibly strong. On the first day of camp, they set a precedent for not allowing opposing receivers any breathing room.

The highlight of the day for the group was a Malcolm Butler interception. He locked down Corey Davis and beat him to the football with physicality. It was the first of two interceptions on the day for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Logan Ryan and Dane Cruikshank also got their hands on passes.

It should come as no surprise that the Titans’ group of defensive backs looked as good as they did in Thursday’s practice. Last year, the group boasted an All-Pro safety, and two cornerbacks (Logan Ryan and Adoree’ Jackson) who played at a Pro Bowl level despite missing the cut for the game. Add to that a healthy Johnathan Cyprien and another All-Pro in Malcolm Butler, and you’ve got a great recipe for success.

Even with the addition of Butler, it has not taken the group very long to find a comfort level with each other. Much like the team’s offensive line, the defensive backs have made a distinct effort to connect and interact both off the field and on.

“We gotta keep working together and communicating on the field,” said Malcolm Butler when I asked him about how the group can continue to gel leading into the regular season. “Even just hanging out with each other, you know, just building that bond. That’s it: studying together, working together.” 

Logan Ryan assured fans that Marcus Mariota’s two interceptions in practice today are nothing to worry about. “Marcus doesn’t have to play us during the season.”

Ryan also commented on the defensive backs’ ability to collaborate on the field. “That’s what all these practices are for, that’s what we’ve been working in the offseason for. We’re going to have 30 or 40 practices before we even get to the regular season. The regular season is all about executing what you’ve practiced.”

Safety Johnathan Cyprien added that the unit working well together is all about having an attacking mindset. “We attack it by attacking our weaknesses, we attack it by not being sensitive about things, we attack it by improving every day on the things that we need to. It starts here in practice, making plays and then translating it to games on Sunday’s.”

Head coach Mike Vrabel even commented on the immense talent of his defensive backs. “I told [defensive backs coach] Kerry Coombs to just not screw them up.”

The big question that comes out of all of this is whether the Titans’ defensive backs’ success on Thursday was due to lack of ability from the receivers or their own talent. The answer is probably a combination of the two, but this issue will become clearer as practice continues.

One thing is for sure: the Titans receivers need to step it up in future Training Camp practices. If they don’t, fans and coaches alike will have a massive headache on their hands.

Cover image via Titans Online.

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