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With camp technically over, a review of the Titans so far

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are done with the team hotel and practices aren’t open to the public any further. They may still be in camp mode, but reporting out of practices is over, so it’s a good time for some review.

Most improved: Taywan Taylor is a different guy than he was last year. Better field awareness. More assertive. He played exclusively on the outside until the last couple days when Matt LaFleur started shuffling receivers to get everyone to know everything. I’m impressed with Taylor, who I was down on last year, and I think he’s a key piece of the offense now.

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Most disappointing: By not talking injuries, the Titans set up Rishard Matthews and Rashaan Evans to be named here. We have no idea how serious their injuries are. But it’s a huge disappointment that have not seen Evans work since the third day of camp and

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Mike Evans praises Titans' cornerbacks, Corey Davis

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As someone who’s covered a team since 1996 that has failed to find or develop a single, top-grade receiver, seeing one up close is of high interest.

Mike Evans is likely the best receiver to step foot on the Titans practice field since Marvin Harrison visited with the Colts for joint camp work before the AFC South formed in 2002.

And while Jason Pierre-Paul was condescending when asked about Taylor Lewan, Evans was just about delightful with regard to the Titans’ cornerbacks he faced Wednesday and Thursday as well as about Tennessee’s second-year receiver Corey Davis.

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Jason Pierre-Paul scoffed when I asked him about Taylor Lewan

LewanBossNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A high-level pass rusher and the newly minted highest-paid offensive linemen in the game made for a matchup to watch over two joint practices between the Buccaneers and the Titans.

The Bucs tweeted out a Wednesday one-on-one matchup where Jason Pierre-Paul made two moves on Taylor Lewan with great success. When I shared that on Twitter, I said Lewan would surely seek vengeance.

I thought Lewan had a mostly effective day against Pierre-Paul on Thursday, with one exception where the defenders started outside, swiped Lewan's hands away, got inside and quickly chased Marcus Mariota out of the pocket.

After practice, I sought out JPP and walked about 35 yards with him.

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Mike Evans provided truer test of Titans' secondary

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Matt LaFleur recently spoke of how if you try to see everything, you can wind up seeing nothing.

I’ve found that to be the case in joint practices, where the Titans’ offense and defense work separate of each other. And so Wednesday with the Buccaneers joining the Titans, I decided to stick with the defense.IMG 3719

And the most striking thing about the defense was, on some plays, no matter how well a very good group of defensive backs played, there was no stopping Mike Evans.

The 6-foot-5, 231-pound smooth-moving receiver is unlike anything the Titans see daily in practice and the type of dominant receiver the franchise has been searching for, without success, since it moved to Tennessee.

During one-on-ones he was doing things like this:

And this, which is just filthy:

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Titans started well with screens, but blockers can do far better

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans had success with their screen game in their Thursday night preseason opener.

But the bulk of the gains came very late in the game with third stringers against third stringers. And a close look at the six screens shows there is still plenty of work to do on the plays.IMG 3641

Mike Vrabel counting the screen game as a strength coming back from Green Bay. The Titans connected on six of six attempts for 57 yards. But there were times the linemen who effectively got out in front of the play didn’t really manage to line up to make a block.

“That's something we have to be able to take advantage of those kinds of easy access throws,” he said. “Guys were hustling. We missed a couple cuts, but then, a lot of times, we'd pick up 17 or 18 yards on a six-yard pass. That's a good deal. Guys were hustling sometimes.

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My 53-man roster three weeks into Titans' camp (with Jon Robinson's thoughts)

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Just short of three weeks into camp, here’s a look at how I think the 53-man roster would currently shake out.

There is a great deal of time before rosters are cut to 53 on Sept. 1.

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When Jon Robinson sat with us on The Midday 180 for an hour on Tuesday, I put this roster down at his seat with a pen and told him to feel free to annotate it during our commercial breaks.

See below for what he gave me back.

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Corey Davis understands Mike Vrabel limiting him based on workload, but wants to grind

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Corey Davis trusts that Mike Vrabel and the Titans’ coaches are looking out for his best interests.

That doesn’t mean he has to like it when they hold him back from practicing or playing.

Davis has missed three days of practices and the Titans' first preseason game. We know the first day was for rest. The second two and the game could have been related to some sort of injury, we don’t know because the team doesn’t talk about injuries.

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Davis was back in action Saturday, Sunday and Monday, making a big 60-yard touchdown catch on a third-down pass thrown from Marcus Mariota that beat Malcolm Butler.

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Sorting through a Titans' practice with Dave McGinnis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sunday I watched the Titans practice with former NFL coach Dave McGinnis, who’s heading into his second year as the color analyst for Titans Radio.

Here are the highlights of the things he pointed out along the way.

Mugging the A gaps – McGinnis watches the early walk-through before stretch. It’s typically corrections from the most recent game or what was installed the night before.

This time it was backers joining defensive linemen inside and putting pre-snap thoughts into the heads of the guards and center. Would more than one defender try to fight through the gap between the center and guard, and if not who would drop off?

That led us to discuss Jurrell Casey’s permanent move to the 3-technique spot. Casey told me Saturday that he won’t be bouncing around to different spots on the line.McGinnis

He’ll always be over the outside shoulder of a guard, he just may flip from side to side. McGinnis said that is the hardest spot to double team, as the tackle typically has a rusher to his outside, and the center is on the other side of where Casey will initially attack the guard.

Casey has great lower-body flexibility which most guards can’t match, and that gives him a chance at immediate pressure.

Bogeys: Throughout practice, McGinnis pointed out bogeys by the defensive backs, pre-snap looks converting into something different to complicate reads for quarterbacks and their targets. He said it’s always been a strength of Dean Pees defenses.

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