NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Antwaun Woods is a big man, with big plans.
The 325-pound defensive lineman is hard to miss on the field, but he really stood out on Saturday night when the Titans took the field on defense. That's because Woods lined up with the first team in the preseason opener against the Jets, in between regular starters DaQuan Jones and Jurrell Casey.
It was a reward for his hard work, and production.
"It was a good feeling, knowing you are out there with the main people and getting a feel for the defense," said Woods, who spent 15 weeks on the team's practice squad last year before playing in the season finale. "But none of that matters until Game 1 (of the regular season).
"I think I did OK. Some things I have to fix and get better at, but I'll keep working."
The Titans have liked the way Woods has worked this offseason, and it's why Titans coach Mike Mularkey rewarded him with the start over veteran Sylvester Williams, who signed with the team in March after spending four seasons in Denver.
Mularkey said on Monday night the plan is to start Williams this Saturday against the Panthers, but he acknowledged there's a competition inside, and he said it is close.
Woods played 12 snaps against the Jets, and he held his own. Mularkey praised him leading up to the game.
"He's on a mission," Mularkey said of Woods. "He's absolutely on a mission, he has been the whole offseason. He's tagged along with Jurrell Casey, every time I saw one, the other was close by in the weight room. The whole offseason he's been trying to watch somebody that does it right and has been successful for doing that. He comes out here, he works. I've pointed him out in offensive meetings, the way he plays. He's definitely on a mission for a reason."
Woods, who initially joined the Titans as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 draft, said he's much more comfortable in his second year in the system.
While he's down five pounds from last season, he still feels stronger.
His mission is to prove to coaches, "I can play, and I can help the team. I want to be accountable to my teammates."
In the season-finale against the Texans last year, his NFL debut, Woods registered two tackles, including a stop for loss.
He credits Casey, a two-time Pro Bowler who is in his seventh season in the league, for helping show him the way. Woods smiles when talking about Casey, referring to himself as a "Baby Trojan," referencing their connection – both played at Southern Cal, and oftentimes are spotted in USC t-shirts and gear.
Woods appeared in 48 games at USC, with 44 starts and totaled 113 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two deflections and a fumble recovery in his career. Casey was impressed with his game in college, and he likes his work ethic in the NFL. The two have become good friends with the Titans.
"I figured he has been in the league all these years, and he's been very successful,'' Woods said of Casey. "I wanted to hang around, pick his brain and train with him because I know he knows the formula.
"What did I learn from him? Just how to be a pro, how to approach the game, just how to work on certain things. And really just showing up here every day and doing the little things that go unseen."
Two-and-a-half weeks into camp, Woods is standing out.
His mindset at the snap is paying off:
"Get him before he gets me," Woods said with a smile. "Attack."
Titans players take the field for Day 17 of the team's 2017 training camp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)