NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton liked Wednesday's reaction.
Horton said the second day of Tennessee's mandatory minicamp gave defenders a chance to improve on Tuesday's opener that wasn't quite up to his expectations and gave the mostly new coaching staff a chance to learn more about the character of the team.
"I think what it does for us is kind of gives us a spot on who the leaders are, who challenges guys, 'Hey, we can't do what we did yesterday. We've got to perform better,' and you can see — players use the word swagger — who can bounce back from something and not let it affect them," Horton said. "That's critical in this business because unless you're the '72 Miami Dolphins, you're probably not going to win them all."
The Titans conclude their offseason program Thursday with their final minicamp practice before breaking until training camp at the end of next month.
Horton said he's been pleased with the approach players have taken in learning the new system but there are still steps forward that can be taken in implementing it.
"Effort and attention to detail, I think, have been outstanding," he said. "Execution is close but not where I want it to be as we're walking out. Yesterday was not a good day, but today they responded and were much sharper. It was kind of a microcosm of a week or game where maybe you come off a tough loss, you've got to be able to forget it, come back and focus in, and they did that today. The ebbs and flows of the offseason, it's not high intensity because it's not a game and we can't simulate that, but the attention to detail is good and we're probably right where we should be."
Safety Bernard Pollard said the Titans have done "a really good job as far as the installation" and training camp will be an opportunity to further implement Horton's system and own it.
"I think the way Coach Horton is approaching it is he's allowing us to be a pro," Pollard said. "We need to establish who we're going to be. We understand that the equipment is not on but, having said that, we need to go out and compete each time, whether it's press, whether it's against the pass, whether it's stuffing the run, it's kind of hard with no pads but we've got to set the tone every time we step out on the field for our stadium, for our city, for our family, for our state."
Polllard said players are mirroring the commitment they've seen from coaches.
"They eat football, they sleep football, they smell like football, and that's what we need here," Pollard said.
What does football smell like?
"Football smells like dogs just going to get wins," he said.
Shaun Phillips, a veteran linebacker brought in this season through free agency, said the goal will be to master the defense that's been installed to execute it faster in games.
"In this league, you have to have total recall. We're going over things we did before, but there's no more install," Phillips said. "Everything's in, and right now it's just executing the defense and being able to play fast because when you have install, you have to think about it and go through your keys. This allows us to go out and play fast, and that's what we're doing, learning how to play fast and understanding how Coach Ray is going to make calls and understanding what situations we're going to be in on third-and-10s or red zones, what defense may be called, what routes to look for, so this is what this process is about now."
LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Titans first-round pick Taylor Lewan said he's gained a better understanding of the whole offense through participating in the OTA and minicamp practices.
"I'm really starting to get it. I know the basics of everything now. I know why we do certain things and I'm starting to see the broad picture of everything and not just me and the other guy," Lewan said. "Everything has slowed down a bunch. There's still such a long way to go. Some of the things these guys know and the intricate little details of everything is unbelievable, but I'm really starting to figure things out.
"I think when I know what I'm doing I do it well, but it's knowing what to do," Lewan added.
The Titans held the second of their three-day mandatory minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Craig Peters)
INITIAL IMPRESSION:** Receiver Derek Hagan, who signed with Tennessee Tuesday, made a quick impression with the quantity and quality of what he was able to do in his first two practices.
"He's definitely in the mix," Whisenhunt said. "He's a pro. That's one of the things you like about him best. He came in here yesterday, without any preparation and was able to line up and execute a lot of different things, so as far as trying to build the right type of guys and have veteran players that are pros in here, he fits that mold. So he's going to get his opportunities and we'll see how it all shakes out. He'll put some pressure on guys, no question about that."
FOR KICKS: Whisenhunt said he'll be looking at multiple factors when evaluating Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons during the competition at kicker.
"It's not going to come down to one kick in preseason, whether you miss or make it; there's got to be a lot of things involved with it," Whisenhunt said. "There's going to be times in the preseason where you'll get opportunities and during practice. If you've been out here, Bernard Pollard makes it stressful for any kicker. That's part of it, too."
In addition to success on field goals, the Titans also desire the ability to create an edge in field position on kickoffs. "That's an important piece of it," Whisenhunt said. "Field position in this game, especially with kicking off from the 35 has become a big deal, so having a guy that can kick it deep gives you an advantage, and that's something that's important to us."