TAMPA – The Titans practiced against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here on Thursday.
Here's a look at what stood out on the second of two days of joint practices with the Bucs:
-I walked away from Wednesday's session feeling like the Titans got the best of the defending Super Bowl champs, as they intercepted Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady three times and made a lot of plays on offense. I didn't feel the same way after Thursday's session, when the script was flipped. On another steamer in Florida, the Buccaneers set the tone in this one, and I wasn't the only one who noticed. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel wasn't happy about it. "I thought it sucked," Vrabel said about the quality of today's practice. "I thought it sucked. From what I saw, we didn't do very well offensively – I don't think we competed like we did yesterday. It was not good enough today, and they were clearly better today, and we'll see how we respond and take to coaching and play on Saturday. … I'm sure there was some good things, but just not enough positives."
-Before we get into the details, let's first do a quick Injury Report. A good number of Titans were held out of the session again on Thursday. The list grew by two, in fact. Receiver Julio Jones, receiver A.J. Brown, guard Nate Davis, center Ben Jones, running back Darrynton Evans, safety Dane Cruikshank, kicker Tucker McCann, defensive lineman Denico Autry, safety Matthias Farley, and tight end Geoff Swaim all made the trip, but they didn't dress out for the practice for the second day on a row. Instead, many of them worked on exercise bikes. Receiver Marcus Johnson and safety Brady Breeze were added to the list on Thursday.
-There was some good news on the injury front, as linebacker Monty Rice was back on the practice field one day after leaving on a cart with an injury.
-The session was feisty, with at least four fights along the way. It started in the 1-on-1 periods with the Buccaneers receivers working against Tennessee's defensive backs. Tampa Bay's Antonio Brown and Titans cornerback Chris Jackson got tangled up, and then went at it. Brown took Jackson's helmet off and starting swinging before it could be broken up. There were two more fights in special teams periods, which resulted in a pretty big group of players involved on both sides. The final, and biggest, scrap of the day started when Buccaneers linebacker Devin White tackled Titans running back Jeremy McNichols near the boundary. Titans receiver Cameron Batson was among those who jumped into the fray, and things escalated quickly with lot of pushing, shoving and jostling. Vrabel then got in the middle of it after players ran to the scene. "It's camp, it's football," Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said. "We don't want no punches thrown, but there will be some pushing and shoving. That's the nature of the game."
-The Titans defensive backs struggled in some of the 1 on 1s, and that included rookie cornerback Caleb Farley working against Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans.
-Titans receivers Josh Reynolds and Fred Brown made multiple catches in the 1 on 1 period, with each guy making some really nice grabs. With the team's top receivers out, Fred Brown really came alive the past two days in practices, and the same could be said for Reynolds. Dez Fitzpatrick, Mason Kinsey, Chester Rogers and Racey McMath all made catches in the 1-on-1 drills as well.
-Another receiver who has stepped up: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. On Thursday, Westbrook-Ikhine had two catches in the 1 on 1s, and a touchdown in a team period midway through the session. Westrook-Ikhine then added another touchdown in the corner of the end zone in a late team period on a throw from Tannehill. Westbrook-Ikhine also showed some fight while working in a special teams period.
-In a 7-on-7 period, the Titans got off to a dreadful start before turning it around somewhat. After quarterback Ryan Tannehill was intercepted by Bucs safety Mike Edwards, tight end Anthony Firkser dropped a ball right in his hands. But fullback Tory Carter made back-to-back catches before Tannehill connected with tight end Luke Stocker and receiver Chester Rogers. When back-up Matt Barley entered, he completed passes to tight end Jared Pinkney, receiver Cameron Batson, running back Jeremy McNichols and Brown.
-Brady on Thursday showed why a lot of folks simply call him "The Goat." Brady connected with tight end Rob Gronkowski for a deep ball, with safeties Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker late getting to the play, in a 7-on-7 period. He then hit tight end Codey McElroy for a completion. Toward the end of the period, Brady connected with Evans on another deep ball, this one with Farley in coverage. Two bombs for TDs in this period wasn't a good sight for the Titans.
-Hooker did make nice play on the ball when Brady tried to connect with Antonio Brown on another deep ball, but clearly Hooker felt like he should've picked it off, as he immediately put his hands on his helmet in disgust. From a distance, you could hear a Titans coach yell to Hooker: "That has to be a pick."
-In a red zone period, Tannehill connected with Firkser for a touchdown.
-Once again, it was a good day for kicker Sam Ficken. Ficken was 7-of-8 in Thursday's practice, with makes of 33, 33, 37, 40, 42, 45, and 54 yards, his only miss from 58, and it had the distance but went off the right upright. Ficken is now 48-of-53 since joining the team earlier in camp.
-In a late two-minute period, the Titans defense got burned on a short pass from Brady to running back Giovani Bernard that resulted in a big play. Gabbert connected with receiver Jaydon Micken for a score, with Jackson defending.
-In a late two-minute period for the Titans offense, Tannehill connected with Firkser twice and Westbrook-Ikhine once before the drive fizzled out.
-Westbrook-Ikhine caught a touchdown pass from Tannehill in a late team period, which came two plays after Reynolds let a deep ball escape his grasp.
-Things ended with a flurry of action in a "Last Play of the Game" period. Brady connected with Mike Evans for a touchdown on one rep, with Jackson defending, and he connected with Gronkowski again for another score in the period. Tampa Bay back-up Blaine Gabbert connected with receiver Tyler Johnson for another score. Tennessee's best play of this period was a rush by defensive lineman Kyle Peko, which would've resulted in a sack.
-In Tennessee's "Last Play of the Game" series, Tannehill was picked off by linebacker Levonte David on a ball intended for Firkser. But Tannehill then threw back-to-back touchdown passes to Westbrook-Ikhine and Rogers, the last one a real beauty of a throw and catch. The way the period ended was hardly a thing of beauty, however, as quarterback Logan Woodside was intercepted on back-to-back throws.
-The gator spotted at Wednesday's practice wasn't around on Thursday. At least I don't think so ...
-In addition to Vrabel, Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons and guard Rodger Saffold talked to reporters in Tampa after today's practice.
What's next: Preseason game No.2 vs the Bucs on Saturday.