NASHVILLE – Excited to see Greg Mabin cover four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans when the Tennessee Titans host Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two days of joint workouts ahead of their preseason matchup?
No? Well, it could happen.
In the wake of their preseason opener, a 23-10 loss at Baltimore on Thursday, the Titans suddenly find themselves short on cornerbacks because of injury issues.
Starter Kristian Fulton and versatile reserve Chris Jackson were out when the team returned to the practice field on Saturday. So was rookie Roger McCreary. Elijah Molden was in uniform but was limited to the individual period.
Those four arguably are among the top five cornerbacks on the roster and – along with Caleb Farley – would, in a perfect world, get virtually all of the playing time this season. Fulton and Jackson played against the Ravens. McCreary has been unable to practice since the start of the week, and Molden was injured early in training camp and has missed the vast majority of workouts.
Their collective absence forced guys like Mabin, a veteran journeyman, USFL alumnus Shakur Brown, and undrafted rookie Tre Swilling into prominent roles during the latest on-field session.
Whether that remains the case when the Buccaneers come to town remains to be seen. Tennessee does not release injury information during training camp or the preseason. Thus, it is unclear whether any or all of the injured players will be available on Wednesday and Thursday for the joint workouts with Tampa Bay.
“We need everybody to be out there,” coach Mike Vrabel said Saturday. “Whether they were or they weren’t, we’d like to have everybody who’s on the roster available. If they’re not, then the next guys have to step in, and everybody’s got to do a little bit more work.”
There are currently 12 cornerbacks on the roster, including Deante Burton, who was added on Saturday. More than half of them have a year of NFL experience or less. The most experienced among the group include Mabin, Fulton, Jackson and Molden.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, have one of the NFL’s deepest and best wide receiver groups with Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones and Russell Gage.
“I can’t imagine too many receiver groups will be as good as the Buccaneers if they’re healthy,” former NFL head coach/offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter recently wrote at The 33rd Team.
The opportunity to match up against those guys for two days of workouts will be invaluable for Tennessee’s defensive backs and a defense that ranked 25th in passing yards per game allowed and 18th in average yards allowed per pass attempt last season.
The hope now is that it does not become a mismatch because players down the depth chart will be forced to cover elite players.
Of course, the Buccaneers’ passing attack won’t be at its best because quarterback Tom Brady is on a leave of absence and is not expected to return until after the preseason game between Tennessee and Tampa Bay at Nissan Stadium. Thus, it is possible that things will even out a bit with quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask throwing the passes.
“I hope (the practices) are as competitive as we can [make them],” Vrabel said, “and we’re able to focus on the things we’re trying to focus on, improve, play with our techniques, our style. And that we also play smart – make sure we’re staying up and taking care of them, and I would imagine they will do the same for us.”