Titans likely playing plenty of young starters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Playing a rookie at quarterback means a team will be young at least in one position.
In Tennessee, Marcus Mariota has plenty of company.
Counting Mariota, the Titans likely will start at least seven players with two years' of NFL experience or less - five on offense alone.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that youthful core is great and something successful teams have. He's taking this group into his second season trying to rebuild a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008 with the most recent winning season in 2011.
''That's what's exciting. We've got a lot of good young players,'' Whisenhunt said Monday. ''I think we've got a really good mix of veteran guys that add a lot, that show these guys how they have to work. But make no mistake about it to have young talent that can grow together, it's really important.''
Taylor Lewan anchors left tackle after being the 11th draft pick overall a year ago with second-round selection Bishop Sankey starting at running back. Chance Warmack, the No. 10 draft selection overall in 2013, has started every game at right guard since being drafted, while center Brian Schwenke was the Titans' fourth-round pick that same year.
And there's Mariota, already set to start the season Sept. 13 at Tampa Bay against Jameis Winston. He'll make his preseason debut Friday night in Atlanta.
On defense, Avery Williamson moved into the starting lineup at inside linebacker as a rookie last season. The Titans said defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, a fourth-round draft selection a year ago, will be a starter this spring.
Tight end Delanie Walker is one of only three Titans on the roster going into his 10th NFL season. He said his young teammates handle themselves pretty well.
''It's very surprising because usually when young guys come in they act like rookies,'' Walker said. ''Our guys been acting like vets, and that's good to see. They haven't been getting in trouble, been very focused. No one's been late to meetings, everyone made their treatment time. That's what you want to see when you're a veteran, and you got a lot of young guys on the team.''
The Titans have sprinkled in plenty of experience.
They signed tight end Anthony Fasano with nine years' NFL experience to join Walker and Craig Stevens, who has been with this franchise seven seasons. Left guard Andy Levitre is the veteran in comparison with six seasons. On defense, linebacker Brian Orakpo signed with Tennessee after six years at Washington, and safety Michael Griffin has been here since 2007.
Linebacker Zach Brown said the veterans haven't had to spend much time teaching their younger teammates. Williamson says he's just been busy studying.
''That's the biggest thing helping us grow up is knowing what we're doing out there,'' Williamson said. ''It makes the process a lot easier, a whole lot easier.''
These young Titans are pretty confident as well and eager to change this franchise's fortunes. Lewan said playing the season opener last year at Kansas City offered an atmosphere that dwarfed his experience in the Big House at Michigan, something they want to bring back to Tennessee.
''We have to give them something for them to want to come to these games and be part of something historical,'' Lewan said. ''I'm not saying it's this year or the next or it's coming. I feel very good about this team, and I think we're so young that it's only going to get better.''
Notes: Mariota was 10 of 20 on Monday and finished his ninth practice of training camp. He has thrown 160 passes in seven-on-seven and team drills without being intercepted. ... CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, competing with Perrish Cox to start at opposite Jason McCourty, has a high left ankle sprain. McCourty missed his third practice resting a sore groin. ... Lewan got the day off with a sore shoulder.
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