NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers conducted the first of two joint training camp workouts Wednesday at St. Thomas Sports Park.
The Buccaneers’ offense was without some of its most prominent players, including quarterback Tom Brady, absent for personal reasons, and injured wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage. Former Titans wide receiver Julio Jones did take part for Tampa Bay.
There were no significant fights, as sometimes happens in these things, but the competitiveness from both sides was apparent.
“I honestly felt like we went out there and our defense set the tempo,” safety Kevin Byard said. “I feel like we had some really good plays. I mean, they had some plays as well, but for the most part I felt we were pretty dominant.”
Here is a roundup of what Tennessee’s defense did during the session, which lasted roughly one hour and 45 minutes:
• In a surprise to absolutely no one, Jeffery Simmons had one of the most dominant reps during the one-on-one blocking period. He easily got the best of guard Aaron Stinnie, a former Titans player, and then followed it up with anoter win against Stinnie on the subsequent rep.
For good measure, Simmons collapsed the pocket on the first snap of the ensuing team [11-on-11] period and would have gotten a sack if players were allowed to touch the quarterback.
“I was just setting the tempo, setting the tone where, ‘I’m coming,’” Simmons said. “I was telling our guys, ‘We’re not going to match their speed, their tempo. We’re going to play to our standard and we’re going to go full tilt.’”
• One-on-one passing drills provide the wide receivers with a distinct advantage. They can run – and alter – their routes without any fear of a collision or a disruption of the overall scheme.
That being said, cornerback Kristian Fulton was particularly good for Tennessee during that period. On one rep, he stuck with Jones as the seven-time Pro Bowler faked like he was going long only to put on the brakes and come back to the ball. The pass was not close to being completed.
“I think (Fulton) is going to be a real good X factor for us [this season],” Byard said. “And I told him, ‘Every single day, you have to come out and set the tone. … You have to be the leader of that group and make sure every single day that you’re bringing the energy, you’re super-competitive.
“He had some good pass break-ups in the two-minute [period too].”
• Lonnie Johnson Jr., claimed off waivers from Kansas City on Tuesday, got off to a good start when he came up with an interception on his first snap of team drills. Johnson was in the right spot when cornerback Shyheim Carter knocked the ball in the air on a pass breakup.
‘First day out, it’s just a blessing to get a pick on the first play I was in,” Johnson said. “Just doing what I can.”
Johnson is listed as a cornerback on the roster, but he played safety throughout the workout. It is a position, he says, he has played some during his first three years in the league.
• A couple of the Buccaneers’ best moments in a third-down team period are ones that would not have happened under actual game circumstances.
For example, cornerback Tre Avery gave up a deep completion to Vycint Smith on a post pattern, but outside linebacker Rashad Weaver easily won off the edge and would have had a sack before the pass ever was thrown. Similarly, Deven Thompkins caught a pass against safety Amani Hooker on the left sideline, but Hooker’s fellow safety, Byard, had blitzed from the right side and got the quarterback untouched long before the ball came out.
• Outside linebacker Bud Dupree was particularly noticeable against the run. There were several times in team periods that he was first to the ball carrier, often near or behind the line of scrimmage.
Dupree did have a rough patch in one-on-one pass rush drills, but in the team period that followed there was one rep during which he came from the right side of the offense and easily got to quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who ultimately did not even attempt a throw.
• The defense allowed Tampa Bay's offense to pick up yards and get into field goal position too easily during work on the two-minute drill. Tennessee's offense had to work much harder during those same periods to gain ground.
"Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough on defense at times over there in that situation," coach Mike Vrabel said. "But we get to coach from it."
• Inside linebacker David Long delivered arguably the biggest thump by any player on the Titans defense when he stopped tight end Cameron Brate in his tracks after a short reception over the middle.