No one knew what was coming. That was the point.
The idea was to see who knew what to do.
The Tennessee Titans took a reality television approach to the first of this week’s three minicamp workouts Tuesday. It was unscripted.
“You can script and say, ‘Hey, I can always have the pen last and win,’ ” defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “Now, you’re out here and you have to make the call from what you’re looking at, what you’re thinking, what they are going to do to you because that’s how the game is.
“You really don’t know what they’re going to give you in a game situation. You’re really making adjustments in how you’re going to call a game.”
From Gray’s perspective, the ending was a happy one, exactly the kind he would have written if he had the option. In a game-on-the-line scenario, quarterback Jake Locker’s pass to the end zone sailed beyond the reach of tight end Delanie Walker and the members of the starting defense walked off in celebration.
Throughout the day, though, the offense had its moments. Locker’s long touchdown pass to Kendall Wright was tough to ignore, and Michael Preston’s dash through the defense after a well-thrown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick was equally obvious.
Even so, it was the mistakes that likely were more meaningful because they showed areas in need of improvement and put players on alert.
For example, linebacker Scott Solomon was late getting on the field for one snap early and nearly forced the defense to go with just 10 players. In the final minute of the third quarter, Gray exhorted linebacker Colin McCarthy to react to the offense’s quick alignment. A play later, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains angrily substituted for tight end Martell Webb, who committed a false start.
“I thought it was good for everyone – for the coaches, for the staffs, for the players, who were put in situations where they weren’t quite sure what was going to be called,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Everything was in on both sides of the ball like it would be for games.
“This is as close as you get to playing real football, at least mentally. I just thought this would be nice for these couple days, the first day to let it flow and just let it happen.”
Maybe the final play left a lasting impression but, based on a small sampling of the locker room, there was a clear sense of whether the offense or defense fared better overall.
“I think it’s good work for us as players, and I think it’s good work for the coaches to be able to kind of game plan a little bit, have to go out there and switch personnel groupings and for us to get in and out of the huddle with the play clock,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a nice little wakeup call for us to show us we’re not even there yet and we have a long way to go.”
Said linebacker Moise Fokou: “It started off slow but I think the most important part was that we relaxed and we found our game especially for the majority of us such as rookies or the guys they brought in through free agency, where we’re learning a new defense. The butts were flying early on, but I think we relaxed and started to play our style of football and started to dominate in the second half.”
The general impression, though, is that the biggest winners were the coaches, who must rely on improvisation and spontaneity in order to help their players become stars.
“I think it’s really good because not only does it help me, it helps Dowell, it helps the head coach get a chance to see what we like to call in certain situations,” Gray said. “And the players do too.
“… The game kind of tells you [opponents’ tendencies] from film, but they can change that. We don’t have a contract with the opponent. So to me, it’s only going to make us better coaches.”