NASHVILLE – Several years ago, the Southeastern Conference adopted the slogan “It just means more.”
Consider Rashaan Evans among those who consider that notion more than just a platitude.
The inside linebacker said Tuesday that he sees the sizable representation of SEC schools as one of the strengths of the Tennessee Titans defense. Of the 11 expected starters on that unit, six are from the conference, Evans (Alabama), defensive linemen Jeffery Simmons (Mississippi State) and Denico Autry (Mississippi State), cornerbacks Jackrabbit Jenkins (three years at Florida before he finished at North Alabama) and Kristian Fulton (LSU), and outside linebacker Bud Dupree (Kentucky), who has yet to take part in a training camp workout because he is on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
“When you’ve got those type of guys on defense, it’s kind of like an understanding amongst each other,” Evans said. “We know the type of physicality it takes to be a really good defense. We know the understanding of the type of accountability that each individual has to have in order for you to be a great defense.”
The Titans had one of the NFL’s least productive defenses in 2020. That unit finished 28th in yards allowed, 24th in points allowed and opponents converted nearly converted nearly 52 percent of their third-down opportunities.
Autry, Jenkins and Dupree are all free-agent additions, and Fulton should have a much bigger role than he did last season as a rookie. So, the expectation is that things will be different.
“We could be better from last year,” Evans said. “I feel like that’s the biggest thing that makes it exciting, to know that you have something to look forward to, that there are some things you could get better at.”
And to believe that you have the right type of guys to do it.
Ready to go: Luke Stocker turned 33 fewer than two weeks before NFL teams opened their training camps. At that time, he was not scheduled to be in any of those camps and he understood that his career could have been finished.
“That’s the reality of it, right?” he said. “I’m blessed. I’ve played 10 years. I’m going to Year 11 and I’m just thankful for an opportunity to be here.
“I worked my tail off and tried to make sure my body stayed int shape to where I can perform and come out here and compete with these guys.”
Tennessee signed the blocking tight end late last week, which was about the best possible situation. He played 19 games for the Titans in 2017-18, including all 16 in coach Mike Vrabel’s first full season as head coach. His family maintained their primary residence here over the last two years when he was with Atlanta.
So, he knew exactly where he was going and what he was getting into once he got the call.
“You can see the fundamentals, the things that Vrabel preached back then is the same thing he’s preaching now,” Stocker said. “… I’m excited to be a part of it.”
No Julio: A day after he was taken from the practice field with what appeared to be an injury, wide receiver Julio Jones was nowhere to be seen during Tuesday’s workout.
Vrabel did not speak to the media following the session (he had been scheduled to have the day off from the regular barrage of questions) so there was no update on the seven-time Pro Bowler. Vrabel said Monday that there were no early indications that whatever happened to Jones was not serious.
Wide receiver Josh Reynolds, safety Dane Cruikshank, outside linebacker Derick Roberson, tight end Geoff Swaim and offensive linemen Spencer Pulley and Paul Adams also were unavailable.
A bigger blocker: Officially, fullback Khari Blasingame is listed at 233 pounds, the same as he was at this time last year. In this case, number lie.
“I’m a little bit bigger – about 10 [pounds], roundabout there,” Blasingame said. “… Just playing fullback in this league, I feel like a way to help myself with durability and to help with contact. Just overall getting better.”
Blasingame played 15 percent of the snaps on offense in 2020, his first full season with the Titans, nearly all of them as lead blocker for Derrick Henry. He did have four receptions for 39 yards but no rushing attempts.
The last word: “You know how the trenches are. The trenches are made of hard work. You’re in there going at it every play. So, when the pads come on, you just got to do what you got to do.” – second-year defensive tackle Larrell Murchison, on the first padded practice of training camp.