CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains told Titans season ticket holders Tuesday that they were both pleased with the eight players Tennessee drafted last weekend, but are just as or even more excited about next week.
That's because the offseason program will reach a point where Titans coaches can take the field for some limited activities with players, who began the team's strength and conditioning program last week.
Gray and Loggains said they have enjoyed a busy offseason in which the Titans signed 12 players during free agency. While the personnel department was signing and scouting, the coordinators have been scheming and want to implement their plans.
|Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray enjoyed dining with Bobbie and Roy Carson before joining offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains on stage to share their plans with season ticket holders.|
The coordinators were guest speakers at a special free dinner to show appreciation for Titans season ticket holders at the Dunn Center on Austin Peay's campus. It was the fourth of five events outside Nashville that the Titans scheduled in an eight-day span in addition to hosting behind-the-scenes tours of LP Field this spring. General manager Ruston Webster appeared for a breakfast in Williamson County and dinner in Rutherford County Monday, and coach Mike Munchak appeared in Sumner County at a lunch event Monday.
Gray took dinner with the coordinators to a new level, fixing a plate of Stroud's barbecue and joining Roy and Bobbie Carson at a table to the delight of the Carsons, who have remained season ticket holders even though they moved from Nashville to Cumberland City, downstream from LP Field. Gray enjoyed talking with the Carsons, who have been married 54 years, so much that he took a moment to let the crowd know before the event ended.
"Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith came straight from the second day of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Caravan, a two-week goodwill tour through the Mid-South that will continue until May 10. Linebacker Akeem Ayers and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey headlined Tuesday a day after quarterback Jake Locker kicked off the 15th Titans Caravan.
Gray and Loggains joined the personnel department to help with last weekend's draft that featured the selection of former Alabama guard Chance Warmack at the 10th overall spot and an aggressive trade to move from the 40th pick in the second round to 34th to make sure the team landed former Volunteers receiver Justin Hunter. Click here to visit Titans Draft Central.
Loggains joked that he began lobbying for Hunter a month ago, but actually heightened his effort when, to the surprise of the Titans, their top-rated receiver had not been selected late in the first round. The third offensive player drafted, center Brian Schwenke in the fourth round, joined Warmack and Hunter as being the top-rated player at his position on the Titans' draft board.
San Francisco made the trade with Tennessee, which was facilitated by the close relationship between Webster and 49ers GM Trent Baalke, who concurred that Hunter would be a great choice for Tennessee.
Loggains said Hunter is a "special kid with special traits" that include his 6-foot-4 frame, speed and leaping ability.
Although most draft analysts expected Tennessee to pick a defensive player in the second round (the Titans/Oilers franchise has chosen offensive players with its first two picks of a draft twice since 1987), Gray said he also likes the selection because he knows what a deep receiving threat can do to a defense and improving the offense helps the "big picture" of improving the team.
"That's what good offenses can do. If they can get a guy like that one-on-one, it's like a no brainer," Gray said. "Now, as a defense you have to scheme to keep a guy like that from getting your corner one-on-one so you have to trick the quarterback a little bit. You've got to show him Cover 2 (that the cornerback will have coverage help from a safety) and hopefully sit there long enough where he goes past that read (and throws the ball elsewhere)."
Loggains is preparing for his first full season as Tennessee's offensive coordinator but it is his sixth season as a Titans coach and eighth with the team. He said Titans fans should expect to see some of the influence that the late Mike Heimerdinger had on him.
"Great football coach and better man," Loggains said of Heimerdinger, his friend and mentor.
Gray said he was also pleased with the draft's results for his defense. Tennessee added sizable cornerbacks Blidi Wreh-Wilson (third round) and Khalid Wooten (sixth round), speedy linebacker Zaviar Gooden (third round), defensive end Lavar Edwards (fifth) and safety Daimion Stafford (seventh). The Titans are also in the process of signing undrafted players. With 78 players on the roster as of Tuesday, the Titans have room to add 12 more players before reaching the maximum for the start of training camp (which is less than three months away).
A question that's been submitted by one or more season ticket holders at each stop is how Gray and senior defensive assistant coach Gregg Williams will work together and how it will change Tennessee's defense. Gray and Williams have great familiarity with each other. Williams coached Gray when he was a member of the Houston Oilers, and in nine of Gray's 16 seasons as a coach, he's been on the same coaching staff as Williams.
"There's really no boss. It's Gregg, you do what you do, and I'll do what I do and let's go produce the No. 1-ranked defense," Gray said. "I'm going to be in the coaches' box, and he's going to be on the field (on game days)."