Camp Notebook: Titans Continue Comprehensive Evaluations


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matt Hasselbeck equated the exploration the Titans are doing on offense as a golfer trying out "different clubs in your bag."

The Titans have been evaluating players as much as possible by rotating who is with the first team, second team and beyond. It's a structure designed to compare Hasselbeck and Jake Locker for the starting quarterback job, to evaluate receivers and to prepare for scenarios that are less than ideal but can occur in a 16-game season.

"In a perfect world, you'd love to have your three or four receivers, your one or two tight ends, but that's just not the nature of the game," Hasselbeck said. "It actually turned out to be sort of a good thing. Even last year, we rotated through as much as we could, and (when) Kenny (Britt) went down, it wasn't the first time that I had ever thrown to Damian Williams or the first time I had thrown to (Lavelle Hawkins) or Marc (Mariani). I think it's probably healthy for the team. Coach (Mike) Munchak has even said to me multiple times that when he was coaching o-line he liked throwing different guys in there as they go, so if you ever do lose a guy, everything doesn't fall apart. I think it's probably a good thing practicing in a real-life, season situation where a guy has to step in and it's not a big deal."

The movement is a current strategy to gather as much information as possible even if it temporarily sacrifices offensive rhythm.

 "Part of training camp right now is we're trying out some new concepts, trying out some new people," Hasselbeck said. "We're not trying to win games right now."

Hasselbeck said he Locker and the other quarterbacks are also more likely to attempt tougher throws that they would likely check down from during a real game. He cited second-year cornerback Tommie Campbell as an example of coverage that would direct a pass elsewhere.

"There's sometimes where you may not take the matchup right now, but we'll see if it's an opportunity to let guys show what they can do and take a shot," Hasselbeck said. "If it's a one-on-one with a receiver against Tommie Campbell, man coverage, press, you would never want to take that in real life, but we'll take it and make Tommie prove that he's as good as we think and we'll give our guy that we say can't win, we'll give him a chance."

Campbell, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2011 and played primarily on special teams as a rookie, has had a solid offseason in which he's moved up the depth chart to likely play cornerback with Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner when the Titans are in the nickel defense.

McCourty said the rotation of players on offense will help the defense as well because it creates different matchups.

"That's usually where practice goes, especially throughout training camp. Guys are competing for position, so you're getting a certain level of rotation," McCourty said. "I think it's good for us cause each week you're going to be playing somebody new, so one play I may be lined up against Nate (Washington) and the next against Damian, Kendall (Wright) or so on. You're getting a different dynamic from each receiver."

SUDDENLY THIN AT CENTER: Eugene Amano left Thursday's practice after suffering a triceps injury, and Kevin Matthews was held out because of concussion-like symptoms. Munchak didn't have an opportunity to receive an update on Amano before his media session, but said he thinks the injury occurred when Amano's arm was hit by a helmet. Munchak said Amano is likely to undergo an MRI.

Munchak said Matthews hadn't suffered a noticeable hit, but the symptoms could have stemmed from multiple minor hits.

"We thought maybe it was tied in with the weather," Munchak said. "So, we are just being careful with him, making sure he is OK before he practices again."

Amano started all 16 games at center for the Titans in 2011, and Matthews had been doing most of the work with the first or second team in rotations. 

The injuries created more snaps for third-year pro Fernando Velasco and were further complicated by the recent retirement of third-year pro Jon Cooper, who decided to end his playing career to coach at Oklahoma.

"We are planning on doing a lot at center today and this whole week because of Kevin Matthews not repping today," Munchak said. "Unfortunately, with Eugene Amano getting hurt, he got moved up real quick. So, he'll continue to do that and we'll see how everybody is, our health, and we'll go from there."

WHEELS KEEP MOVING: When Hasselbeck, a 14-year NFL veteran who will turn 37 in September, was asked about his foot speed compared to Locker, a 24-year-old second-year pro, he asked about the distance and joked that he might have a chance if they ran 5 miles.

Hasselbeck added there are merits of a quarterback being able to move around, generally citing a statistic he saw where scoring percentage increases on possessions during which the quarterback has even a modest gain on a scramble or designed run. He showed his mobility and savvy during Thursday night's practice at Baptist Sports Park. He saw all passing options covered on one play and tucked and ran for what would have been a sizeable gain, and he later rolled down field to block a defender near the end zone after making a handoff.

Locker recently said Hasselbeck's mobility is often underappreciated.

"I think he's good with those naked (bootlegs), change-of-direction things," Locker said. "He throws really well on the run. I think it's a negative perception that he gets wrongfully because he's really good at it and does a good job with it."

WRIGHT IN RED: Titans fans had their first opportunity to see first-round draft pick Kendall Wright in action Thursday night, even though his participation was limited.

Wright arrived at training camp Wednesday and must abide by the rules of the collective bargaining agreement that restrict activity in a player's first three days of camp. Wright was not allowed to wear shoulder pads or participate in full-contact drills.

The Titans took it a step further by having the receiver wear a red no-contact jersey during individual drills. Wright will be limited the same way during Friday's open practice, which is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. at Baptist Sports Park. The restrictions will be lifted during Saturday's closed practice at LP Field, though coaches will likely proceed deliberately to reduce any risk of injury.

"I think we are just being careful with him," Munchak said. "We just want him running routes. We will do about as much as we can with him until Saturday. Like you saw, that's why he had a red jersey on so guys knew, [and weren't] not thinking and lose track of where he was, and bump into him. He practiced this morning and was able to do everything because we weren't in shoulder pads. In the night practice and tomorrow afternoon, he will only be able to do individual drills and 7-on-7 until Saturday."

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