NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Though it’s a common practice around the NFL, different opinions exist amongst players as to the helpfulness of watching film on other players at their position. The Tennessee Titans locker room is no exception to that.
Some players, like OLB Cameron Wake, don’t see it as a very fruitful effort.
“It’s not something that I would say is part of my routine,” Wake said. “I’m me, and I can only do what I can do and what my skill set is. I just don’t think it’s as helpful as looking at an opponent to see what their weaknesses are and adjusting my game based off of that.”
Plenty of other Titans players, however, do watch film on others across the league at their positions, and they do so for a variety of reasons.
CB Logan Ryan
*Players he likes to watch: “Pretty much everyone that’s good.”
Ryan believes that watching tape on other NFL cornerbacks can not only give him an idea of how to challenge specific receivers but also provides a look at certain techniques that work for the NFL’s best defensive backs.
The translation of those techniques into his own game starts, for Ryan, in practice. If it works there, he might be able to translate it into a game situation.
“In practice, I might say, ‘oh, the way I pull through on receivers, I learned from Aqib Talib.’ Darelle Revis, who I played with for a year, did some things on outside releases that I might add to my game.
“I saw how Richard Sherman played quarters, and I kind of used that against Tampa Bay, and it helped me make a play.”
QB Ryan Tannehill
Players he likes to watch: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes
Life can be pretty hectic for an NFL starting quarterback during a season. With that being the case, it’s understandable that Tannehill probably just doesn’t have the time during a season needed to watch film on other quarterbacks.
After all, he’s probably far more concerned, as he should be, with studying opposing defenses.
But when the offseason rolls around, Tannehill does make an effort to look around the league at signal callers who played well the year before.
“I do it every offseason, go watch other quarterbacks, other offenses around the league and just kind of see what’s going on and what guys did to play well,” Tannehill said. “It’s something I’ve done my whole career, go watch guys that are playing at a high level.
“Obviously, you have to be yourself, you have to stay true to yourself. But there are little things that you can pick up from guys and things they do well that you can work on, practice and emulate in your game.”
WR Tajaé Sharpe
Players he likes to watch: Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Julio Jones
Since he was drafted in 2016, Sharpe has been a bit of a swiss army knife for the Titans. His abilities to play all three receiver spots and seamlessly change which one he’s playing make him a valuable component to the Titans’ passing game.
That being the case, it is no surprise that Sharpe studies a wide array of NFL styles of receivers in the film room. One thing they all have in common, though, is also perhaps the biggest strength of Sharpe’s game: the ability to run quality routes.
Sharpe uses some of his time in the film room to look at ways that he can improve elements of his own game into the mold of his favorite receivers.
“When it comes to guys like Davante Adams and Keenan Allen, I love watching their releases,” Sharpe said. “They’ve got some of the best releases in the game, and they’re all good route runners.
“With Julio Jones, he speaks for himself. He’s a monster. I just like watching the types of things he does.”
S Kenny Vaccaro
Players he likes to watch: “Pretty much anybody.”
To call Vaccaro a “student of the game” would be a bit misleading. A more accurate title would be, “fan of the game.”
Vaccaro loves football, and his passion for the sport is one of the motivating factors that has undoubtedly made him the quality player that he is.
When he watches film on other talented players across the league, Vaccaro extends the practice beyond just watching other safeties. Rather, he simply watches and learns from good football, in general.
“You can only be you, but you can take things from really everybody,” Vaccaro said. “I take things from Jurrell [Casey] when he rushes the quarterback. I take things from linebackers.
“It’s not just at my position, it’s just football players in general and learning from them.”
DT Jurrell Casey
Players he likes to watch: Geno Atkins, Aaron Donald, Marcell Dareus, Calais Campbell, Kawann Short
As a three-time Pro Bowler, Casey himself is almost certainly someone that other interior defensive linemen across the NFL make an effort to watch on film.
When he goes into the film room to watch the NFL’s other premier defensive tackles, Casey does so to see how they respond to certain moves and strategies from offensive linemen.
“The guys who are built more like me are the ones I’m focused on,” he said. “I try to see what they do pass rush-wise and also what they like to do against the run, how they play different blocks. The biggest thing I try to pick up is a move that can counter off of what I love to do.”
WR A.J. Brown
Players he likes to watch: Julio Jones
Since he was in college at Ole Miss, Brown has been a student of the game. His WR coach in Oxford, Jacob Peeler, took notice of that early and often.
“I remember getting phone calls late at night from him,” Peeler said. “He would be up at the office on a weekend, on a Friday night when most college kids are out doing what normal college kids do. He’s up at the facility watching NFL highlights of different receivers, and he wanted the password to get into the computer so he could do that.”
Now that he’s in the NFL, Brown places his film room focus squarely on the shoulders of one player: six-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones, arguably an idol to Brown.
“I mean, I do watch other guys,” Brown said. “But when I’m trying to steal something from someone else, it’s Julio.”
LB Rashaan Evans
Players he likes to watch: Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, Brian Urlacher, Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner
When Evans looks across the league at other inside linebackers he wants to emulate, he adds a sprinkle of old-school players as well.
As he’s done so, Evans has noticed one common thread among the greats.
“Those guys who have been elite in the league, you watch how they all play, and the similarity that they all have is the effort that they give. It’s guys that know ball. They know what’s coming next, they recognize formations and are able to read and react.”
LB Jayon Brown
Players he likes to watch: Luke Kuechly, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Myles Jack, Avery Williamson, Will Compton
For Brown, familiarity is a plus when he takes a look at other NFL inside linebackers. As a result, he primarily watches those whom he has played with, in addition to some of the NFL’s elite players.
Lucky for him, his alma mater, UCLA, has produced NFL linebackers like a machine over the last decade, churning out talents like the Vikings’ Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr.
When Brown sees something he likes, he isn’t afraid to give it a whirl.
“If I think something can work within our scheme, I will definitely try it and see how it works,” he said.
What does Vrabel think?
Mike Vrabel, the Titans’ head coach, believes that players watching film on others at their position can be a beneficial effort, but that there is one important stipulation necessary for it to be effective.
“I think the biggest mistake that sometimes either coaches or players make is to grab a guy that doesn’t have the same skillset.
“Let’s use Antonio Brown. If A.J. [Brown] says, ‘Hey, I want to watch Antonio Brown.’ Well great, I’m sure it’d be really entertaining and you’ll see some really cool plays and what he does, but we would try to look for things that could transfer over that, ‘Hey, you guys have the same skillset, maybe you can do things the way this other guy has done it with the same build, frame.’
“So, I think that you’ve kind of got to steer the player towards that or actually just hand-deliver it to them, and give them a few options, obviously.”
*Note that, most likely, none of these lists are exhaustive. These are simply the names provided by the players during their interviews with A to Z Sports and other media availabilities.
Cover image: Jason Geitz/USA Today