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Observations from Titans Rookie Minicamp on Friday


NASHVILLE – The Titans hit the field for the first day of rookie minicamp on Friday.

Here's a look at what stood out…

-Plenty of eyes were on rookie quarterback Malik Willis, the team's third-round pick from Liberty. And on Day One, Willis showed why there was so much buzz around him heading into the NFL Draft. Willis has a strong arm, and he put plenty of zip on a lot of his passes. He displayed a nice touch on others. On Friday, he also showed off his wheels, tucking and running the football on several plays. Willis worked in the shotgun, and also under center. His best throws of the day: A bullet across the middle to receiver Reggie Roberson, and a ball into traffic that somehow connected with tight end Thomas Odukoya. But it was hardly a perfect day for Willis, as he also had some hiccups with mishandled exchanges and a few off-target throws. He's going to go through growing pains for sure. Still, he was fun to watch in No.7 right out of the gate, and he's going to make preseason games much more intriguing in August.

Willis also said Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill invited him and some of the rookies to his house recently.

-It was a less-than-ideal start for first-round pick Treylon Burks. The former Arkansas receiver went through a stretch period, and he also took part in individual drills. But Burks went inside early as he looked to be having issues with his breathing on an 86-degree day at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Burks later returned, and he ran a few routes and worked with receivers coach Rob Moore on his releases and head fakes before heading back inside and not returning. Titans coach Mike Vrabel said he deferred to head trainer Todd Toriscelli when asked about Burks not finishing, and he gave no indications about his availability for the second day of rookie camp on Saturday. But there's no sense in panicking here – this episode didn't appear serious.

-It was fifth-round pick Kyle Philips who probably had the most impressive day of all the rookies. The former UCLA receiver made a number of nifty catches, and he also displayed some pretty fancy footwork. During a 7-on-7 period late in the session, Phillips made a spinning catch on a ball thrown by Willis, and he later made a diving catch.

-Tight end Chig Okonkwo sure looks the part. Listed at 6-3, 238 pounds, Okonkwo filled out his No.85 jersey more than Derrick Mason did. Okonkwo also made three catches during a late period when Willis threw passes to receivers and tight ends without defenders on the field. He also worked with tight ends coach Luke Steckel and Passing Game Coordinator Tim Kelly in a blocking drill.

-Things were hardly crisp all the way through the first practice. In fact, it got pretty sloppy during some periods, with mishandled snaps and penalties. Titans coach Mike Vrabel didn't sound pleased, and he let the group know about it at times with some colorful language. It was a clear reminder football season is back, baby.

-Running back Hassan Haskins had a few nice runs and cuts in traffic and he caught a pass out of the backfield.

-Tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere looks athletic, but he also looked a little anxious on Day 1. I saw him jump early on at least one play.

-Cornerback Roger McCreary, the team's second-round pick, ran stride for stride with receivers on deep routes.

-It was weird seeing another Titan in No.11 on Friday. Kicker Caleb Shudak, who is 5-foot-7 and weighs 177 pounds, isn't going to remind anyone of A.J. Brown.

-In addition to Burks, undrafted free agent Andrew Rupcich, a tackle from Culver-Stockton, also left practice early with a trainer.

-Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and Kenneth S. Adams, IV of the team's ownership attended Friday's session and chatted with the rookies after practice.

-I mentioned Odukoya earlier. He's the tight end from the Netherlands who played at Eastern Michigan. But I didn't mention his size. Odukoya, one of four players league-wide taking part in the International Player Pathway Program, is listed at 6-6, 253 pounds and he looks every bit of it.

-In addition to the draft picks and undrafted free agents, seven players took part in Friday's session on a tryout basis – quarterback Quinten Dormady, cornerback Kenneth George, receiver Donnell Williams, receiver De'Vion Warren, receiver Bryce Nunnelly, linebacker Chris Rice and long snapper Sean Mills.

-A handful of second-year players also took part on today's session – receiver Mason Kinsey, defensive back Shyheim Carter, safety Rodney Clemons and tackle Christian DiLauro. Kinsey drew some praise for his blocking on a play downfield.

-In a late 7-on-7 period, Willis connected on two throws on Philips, one to Kinsey, two to Nunnelly, one to Odukoya, one to receiver Brandon Lewis, and one to Haskins.

-The Titans will be back on the field for the second day of rookie minicamp on Saturday.

See the top images from the Titans Rookie Mini-Camp Practice on Friday at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Tennessee Titans)

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