NASHVILLE – Kicking issues were only part of the problem Thursday when the Tennessee Titans held the second practice of their 2021 training camp.
During one special teams period kickers Tucker McCann and Blake Haubeil got five field goal attempts. Each missed two.
It was an underwhelming performance by two unproven players looking to win a job. In the opinion of coach Mike Vrabel, though, it also was consistent with what he saw from many of the others, regardless of experience level, on the roster.
“I think they had plenty of company,” Vrabel said of the kickers. “I think they had plenty of company throughout the team. I think that was certainly not our best day. We are going to have to come back and be much more consistent.”
Vrabel said he did not like the team’s overall execution and that, generally speaking, players did not protect themselves and their teammates to the degree that he expects.
Then there were the kickers, neither of who has been in an NFL regular-season contest. McCann was a rookie in 2020 who spent virtually the entire campaign on the practice squad. Haubeil is a rookie free agent this year.
The hope seems to be that one of them emerges as an affordable option at the position so that franchise officials don’t have to go out and sign a veteran free agent. One of the critical factors, of course, will be for one of them to make most – or all – of his kicks.
“Yeah, we have to make them,” Vrabel said. “How you are evaluated is whether you make them or not. … We were 60 percent as a group (Thursday).”
A big opportunity: Defensive lineman Teair Tart has been one of the most talked-about players through the first two days of camp. Undrafted out of Florida International in 2020, he made five tackles and had two quarterback pressures in seven games as a rookie. Now, it appears he will be one of the leading candidates to replace nose tackle DaQuan Jones, who signed with Carolina as a free agent.
“I feel like I’m definitely getting a good opportunity,” Tart said. “I feel like the coaches believe in me. I’ve just got to keep pushing myself.
“… I’m feeling a lot more confident in my ability. Having coaches believe in me just makes you believe in yourself more.”
By any other name: At Indiana University, Nick Westbrook became one of seven players in program history with at least 125 receptions and 2,000 receiving yards in his career. His final numbers over four seasons were 144 catches for 2,226 yards (with 16 touchdowns).
As an undrafted rookie with the Titans in 2020, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine appeared in 14 games and caught three passes for 33 yards. He also made two tackles on special teams.
The two are the same person, of course. He said the reason for the name change, so to speak, was personal.
“I’ve always had Westbrook and Ikhine in my name,” he said. “Honestly, it’s not something I really want to share with the public. It’s like a family thing.”
A fast start: It is like a baseball player getting a hit in his first at-bat of a season. It does not guarantee anything, but it certainly sets a good tone.
Amani Hooker got off to a good start when he intercepted a pass early in Wednesday’s practice, the first of camp. The third-year safety is set to replace Kenny Vaccaro as a starter, and that was the kind of thing that he is ready to be much more than just a role player in his third NFL season.
“That was good, but we have to make sure we keep having turnovers and making sure that every day we can have our hands on the ball and make an impact,” Hooker said a day later. “Any way we can take the ball away or stop the offense from scoring, that’s our goal.”
The last word: “I don’t think anybody ever played the game of football not to want to start. Since I was eight years old, I wanted to start. But at the same time, I’m not going to sit here and focus on that. In the back of my mind, possibly.” – Kendall Lamm, on the possibility that he will be the starter at right tackle.