NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans offensive coordinator Jason Michael plans to utilize the gap away from Saint Thomas Sports Park to spend time with family. His son, Wyatt, was born on the Friday before the 2013 NFL season opened. After helping San Diego make the playoffs as tight ends coach, Michael was offered his current role by new Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt. The relocation brought Michael and his wife closer to their parents, but working to install a new offense and learn the strengths of each player has kept him busy.
Michael recapped what he's learned about Titans players during Tennessee's offseason program for a recent interview with Titans Online as the team was holding its minicamp. Players are scheduled to report for training camp July 25. Here are excerpts from the interview with Michael:
TITANS ONLINE:What has Jake Locker been able to accomplish physically and mentally by working through rehab after his foot surgery to fully participate in organized team activity practices and minicamp?
JASON MICHAEL: "From day one, he's worked his butt off from rehabilitation of his foot to jumping in the playbook, to how he's gone about his preparation on the field. It's been a frustrating go at times with his foot, but he's never shown it. He's a poised man. I'm excited about working with him. He does some good things that we've already seen."
TITANS ONLINE:What does the level of work ethic you described mean at that position?
JASON MICHAEL: "That is the position. Everybody knows that's what this game revolves around, the quarterback position, and the combination of his work ethic coming in and (Charlie Whitehurst), the way he's gone about his business of competing to play and being in that role of helping out Jake and helping the offense. He can give him that different aspect of things, 'Hey, I think of it this way. He may explain it that way, but I thought of it this way,' and that's been great to help Jake come along."
TITANS ONLINE:What stands out to you from what you've seen from the receivers?
JASON MICHAEL: "There's three guys that have a familiar relationship (with Locker), and that's kind of where it starts with that group. (Nate Washington) is a veteran guy that has shown his leadership. He's accepted the leadership role in that room. He's come out and he's still got the ability to get open and he's worked his butt off just like all of them.
"It's fun to watch (Kendall Wright). He plays 100 miles an hour and is as competitive as he can be. He thinks he's the best out there every single snap, and that's half the battle. He goes out and plays it that way. (Justin Hunter) has shown flashes of making plays. He's a big, long receiver that's still growing into the position. As coaches, we've got to keep pushing him to make those next steps. The sky's the limit there, and not to cut it off there, but those are the three that Jake has the relationship with. They've worked hard. (Receivers coach) Shawn Jefferson and (assistant Kevin Patullo) have done a great job of working those guys, rolling them in different positions. All those guys are playing multiple positions and offensively, as a group, we've thrown a bunch at them and they've responded well."
TITANS ONLINE:How can the tight ends help the offense run more efficiently?
JASON MICHAEL: "The more we can get out of any position, whether it be the running backs, tight ends, receivers, we're going to do whatever we have to do to win games, and wherever we get that from and that's going to change week to week, they're going to play the receivers one way one week and different another to where the tight ends are opened up in a different game plan, but I think having a couple of guys that have played and proven themselves with (Craig Stevens) and with (Delanie Walker helps). Different types, but both are effective with what they do, and being able to interchangeably move those guys around.
"I think Taylor Thompson has come along. He's still young to the position, with changing from defensive end, and I know we've talked about those things and at some point, he's got to put that behind him and move forward and be a tight end and I think he's making steps toward doing that and working hard every day. He's a big receiving threat who is a strong, physical guy and just has to put it all together. He's done a good job through OTAs and minicamp. We've just got to keep making those strides in training camp and into the season."
TITANS ONLINE:What can you tell about the way the interior of the offensive line is coming together?
JASON MICHAEL: "It's hard to tell at that position, more than anything, until you get the pads on. The things you do see is guys working their combination blocks or working together and communicating. Those things are coming along. It's an evolving process. It wasn't real good at the beginning. It got better in OTAs, it's getting better in minicamp, and that's going to continue to grow. We keep working with the interior line in terms of the fundamentals of all the things that (coach Bob Bostad) and (assistant Mike Sullivan) are preaching and working on, it's a talented group. It's a good mix of veterans, as well as a couple of younger guys in the middle."
TITANS ONLINE:How quickly can Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey get into the mix at running back? (Editor's note: Greene missed OTAs and minicamp because of rehab of a knee surgery, and Sankey missed most of the offseason program because of academic requirements between the NCAA and NFL).
JASON MICHAEL:** "They're in the mix right now. They have to be. You look up and you've gone through all these practices and you're dealing with two running backs that aren't there, but what that does is open the door for other guys to get those reps. Now that Bishop is back, and once Shonn gets healthy and is in a position to go, he'll be the same way. The good thing about Shonn is he's a veteran who has played. He's been around, he just has to get his body prepared, but it's opened the door for (Dexter McCluster) to learn the system, for (Leon Washington), for (Antonio Andrews and Waymon James), those younger guys to get more reps as we go because as they do get back, the reps are going to get cut on the back end, but now, they've got a chance, they've been in there and they're taking reps."
TITANS ONLINE:Do you re-shape anything for training camp based on learning more about individual strengths at different position groups?
JASON MICHAEL: "I think so. I think we've started doing that already. As you get in here, you don't have a great feel. You watch the season from last year and get a feel for what certain guys do, but when you're out here on the field, you get a better feel, how certain guys run certain routes, what runs do running backs like, the offensive line, are we built to run this scheme or that scheme, and that's going to continue to evolve. It has since we've been here. It will continue through minicamp. We'll look at the offseason, and everybody will get a chance to revisit that when we get back from vacation and going into training camp as we script for that, then that will reflect the direction. Going into training camp and the preseason, we're still going to adjust things and it may be early in the season. The earlier we do it, the better chance we have to be successful, but we're still going to be reshaping this thing and finding out what we do best to win football games, and that's the most important thing."
TITANS ONLINE:How is the chess match between you and defensive coordinator Ray Horton going? JASON MICHAEL: "It's good. This staff has been fun, and that's a reflection on Coach Whisenhunt. The guys he's brought in here, both offensively and defensively, he's a firm believer in working together and having a great working relationship. It's competitive. There's competition going on between tight ends and outside backers, and between running backs and linebackers and between the offensive staff and defensive staff. That's what makes it so fun. The game is competitive, and that's what gets you going, but it's been great getting to know Ray and getting to know the defensive staff as well as the offensive staff. It's a great staff to work with. Going forward, it will be fun."