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Camp Notebook: Coaches to Focus on Players, Not Plans


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans are placing their focus in preseason games on players instead of plans.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said Wednesday that he and the rest of Mike Munchak's staff will discuss and agree on the proper amount of defensive looks to show without giving regular-season opponents too much to study.

"I talked with (Munchak) and asked, 'What do you want to show?' " Gray said of when Tennessee visits Seattle Saturday night to open their four-game preseason slate.

"There's some things we do in practice that we won't show, and there's some things that we're going to try to get better at," Gray said, adding that the defense is likely to play a considerable amount of man-to-man defense.

The number one goal of preseason games is to make it through them in good health. After that, the games serve as evaluation tools as coaches begin whittling down rosters from the maximum 90 players allowed during training camp to the list of 53 at the start of the season who will most likely help a team win.

"This league tends to go with guys that are really, really good at what they do, and the best coaches are able to figure it out," Gray said.

Preseason games also can allow for grouping experiments with units like the offensive line, where teams like cohesion and continuity, to the defensive line, where players can be placed according to their skillsets in certain situations to disrupt an offense. The Titans will use their preseason games, in part, to determine this year's starting quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck, a 14-year NFL veteran, and second-year pro Jake Locker, have been in an open and friendly competition this offseason.

Munchak said the Titans had not made a decision on which quarterback would start. Hasselbeck played 10 seasons in Seattle, earning three Pro Bowls and a trip to the Super Bowl, before signing with Tennessee last year. Locker, a native of Ferndale, Wash., also has ties to the area, having played collegiately at the University of Washington before the Titans drafted him at the eighth overall spot in 2011.

Munchak said the decision on the starter for Saturday's game will not be a barometer for which player has the edge for the starting job.

"Just like practice out here, they both play about the same amount of time," Munchak said. "So I just think it's a matter of them going out and playing the best that they can when they're out there and the groups that they're with. We just have to figure out and see who's healthy, and who we may or may not play in the game because of health reasons as we always do on offense, defense and special teams. Just see what the best way to go about this game is, as far as how long we want to play people and the different positions. We'll do that tonight and tomorrow."

SKY MILES: This will be the Titans' third trip to Seattle in the past four seasons. The Titans ended the 2009 regular season with a win against the Seahawks and lost a preseason game in 2010.

"I want to know who keeps sending us out there," Nate Washington said with a slight laugh. "This is going to be our third time in four years of going out there, but it's an opportunity to face someone different, a dress rehearsal to be able to make some moves against some guys who will really be trying to tackle you and get some full contact. It will be good for us to tighten up our things on our offense that we've been trying to get better on, so it will be a good opportunity for us to get better."

Preseason games usually involve less travel, but Hasselbeck is looking forward to the experience, even if it may seem surreal. He said the best way he can thank Seattle fans for their support when he was a Seahawk is to play well.

"It will feel weird for me coming out of the other locker room," he said. "I spent a lot of time there and have a lot of great memories. I appreciate the opportunity to go back. Anytime you get to play against your friends, it's fun."

TITANS ADD SAFETY: The Titans signed safety Tracy Wilson and placed center Eugene Amano (torn triceps) on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday.

Wilson spent the end of last season with the New York Jets, appearing in the final five games of the season. The move was made to add depth at the position as sixth-round draft pick Markelle Martin continues to be sidelined with an injury.

"As a football player, I hope he's really frustrated that he can't play," Gray said of Martin. "Mentally, he's in every meeting. When you ask him questions, he knows exactly what to do, but as a rookie, you really don't know if he knows what to do until he gets on the football field."

Veterans Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux are the starters at the position, and the Titans also have Robert Johnson, Aaron Francisco, Al Afalava and Christian Scott at camp.  

"Since we are allowed 90, it'd be silly to be short numbers," Munchak said. "It's the same that we are doing on the offensive line. If you lose one guy, then you're on the fence. So we are just bringing a lot of young guys to get a feel for what may fit depending on those guys who have health issues like Markelle, depending on how quickly he can get back or can't get back. We are still hoping for the best and maybe we will see here on the field in a couple of weeks and he will still have a chance to show us what he can do."

'PUSHING FORWARD': Washington said the Titans' trip to Dalton, Ga., on Monday for a joint practice with the Falcons provided a good measuring device as the team prepares for the season.

"We did pretty well," Washington said. "I think our offense showed some improvement from where we stood last year at this time. It's been a progressive offseason for us, so the things we learned last year, we've moved forward from and have been able to throw some different kinks and adjustments on and have done a good job of doing what the coaches have asked of us. We just have to make sure we're pushing forward and getting better."

MATTHEWS RETURNS: Offensive lineman Kevin Matthews returned to practice Wednesday and fully participated after recovering from concussion-like symptoms that developed last week. Matthews is in competition with Fernando Velasco to replace Amano as the Titans' starting center. "I think he is excited to be back out there," Munchak said. "It is hard for somebody to miss four-to-five practices. From what I can tell, he was able to do everything today. We are going to see how he responds these next few days."


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