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Titans' undrafted LB Nick DeLuca has no hesitation about move to TE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Undrafted rookie Nick DeLuca out of North Dakota State is still listed as a linebacker on the Titans roster.

He was part of a  Bison unit that finished No. 1 in total defense in FCS, allowing only 237.4 yards a game and he was the only player at his level of college football to be nominated for the prestigious Butkus Award.

But his career as a defender is over, at least for now, as the Titans have flipped him to tight end.DeLuca

"He's doing fine, he's learning," Mike Vrabel said. "You try to put the player in the best position to help the team and to help himself. We felt that Nick’s best chance to help us and move forward this year is as a tight end. That conversation took about 20 seconds. It was like, 'Whatever you need for me to do, I'm going to go to the tight end meeting right now and just tell me where to go.'

"That's the type of attitude that we want everybody in this organization to have."

Delanie Walker got a day off Saturday and some other tight ends had it rough. Luke Stocker twice fumbled after making a catch, as did Ethan Wolf.

I tracked down DeLuca on Friday to chat about the change.

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Breakdown of which receivers worked with Marcus Mariota and how much on Saturday

pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. – We don’t have to know them for them to be good, but the Titans receiving core is giving a lot of reps high in the rotation to players who hardly rank as sure things.

With Rishard Matthews still not back from an unknown injury suffered or aggravated during OTAs, Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor continue to work as the starters in the base offense.IMG 2660

Taylor told me 100 percent of his snaps have been outside through three days of camp, whereas last year it was about 25 percent. He brings a great element of speed and like Davis, seems to be carrying himself with more confidence as the start of his second season.

“Marcus that’s our guy, our leader, our quarterback,” Taylor said. “I’ve definitely been trying to make sure I’m getting reps with him and coach has been telling me, ‘Make sure you go with Marcus’ and things like that. You want to get the most realistic looks and like you said, that’s our guy.”

I spent Saturday’s practice charting just how many snaps each receiver got with the offense when Marcus Mariota was the QB.

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Malcolm Butler's competitiveness, energy contagious for Titans' defense so far

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Malcolm Butler was great on Thursday. He rated himself and the secondary as much worse on Friday.

But through just two days it’s clear that Butler brings a contagious competitiveness and energy to the cornerbacks, the secondary and the defense.DavisButler

I have my concerns about paying $30 million guaranteed to a guy with competitiveness as, perhaps, his top quality. But it’s been inarguably significant so far and that’s not going to fade.

“He’s fun, he’s fun, he’s fun,” Taywan Taylor said. “He’s a fun matchup and we love competing against him. That’s what we want and he’s only going to make us better.”

Kendrick Lewis as played seven seasons as a safety in Kansas City, Houston and Baltimore.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – We’ve all dreamed of Marcus Mariota running bootlegs, something we’ve hardly seen from him in the NFL. Which has been inexplicable.MariotaCloseJuly18

Friday he had an absolute beauty.

In the redzone- he booted to his right and had nothing but Harold Landry bearing down on him. The QB pumped faked, stopped and cut inside and Landry flew by, then weaved into the end zone.

Pretty stuff that should get you excited about the elements that will be part of Matt LaFleur’s offense.

I'm not allowed to take video or pictures at that stage. But this guy did even if he messed up the orientation.

Mariota downplayed the idea that he hasn’t run many bootlegs as he talked through a bit of how that one unfolded and what they can do for this year’s team.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan has a five-year extension that makes him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.

On the second day of camp, the team nailed down the most complicated contract scenario Jon Robinson has yet to face and they can move forward having shown a premier player and a key member of the team a major commitment.

 Shortly after I reported the deal was complete, ESPN said it’s worth $80 million with $50 million guaranteed.

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Negotiations picked up steam on Tuesday and he decided to report on time Thursday morning after holding out for the team’s three-day, two-practice minicamp in June.

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As Titans learn systems, 'fast and aggressive' may have to wait

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The light blue on dark blue sign at the far end of the Titans’ practice fields says “KNOW WHAT TO DO.” At the other end it’s “PLAY FAST AND AGGRESSIVE.”

With Titans training camp underway, I’m curious about how the two will fit together in the early days of preparing for the 2018 season.

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Mike Vrabel and his staff will be installing their systems and playbooks. Players are familiar but haven’t executed all of it at full speed, and none of it yet in pads. So if they don’t yet know exactly what to do, how do they play fast?

“I think that I have to evaluate if the players know the specific call, they know the situation,” Vrabel said. “There's certain ways that you can kind of see that, and that's my job as a head coach to say, 'Hey Dean (Pees), they don't really have it.' We can't move on until they have it. Let's not just check the box and say we installed it.

“That could go for Marcus in a play. Like we may have to show him one play against seven or eight coverages until he feels really comfortable about running it, and then I think the players need to be

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A solid day top-to-bottom would have been nice for Corey Davis, one of the Titans facing the most pressure to blossom this season.

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He didn’t produce that, but his grand finale was the play of practice.

The second-year receiver let Malcolm Butler rip away an interception on a Marcus Mariota throw during seven-on-seven drills. The setting is advantage-offense, making Butler’s play even more impressive.

Jim Wyatt has a closer angle on it than I did.

The two drops came later.

But then, late in practice, came the sort of moment the Titans believe can show Davis was worth the fifth pick in last year’s draft.

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Taylor Lewan and his new position coach had some things to hash out after Titans' first practice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan is coming off consecutive Pro Bowls and he’s on the verge of a big contract.

Keith Carter is in his second year as an NFL position coach, his first with the Titans offensive line.

Lewan tried to be funny during the offensive line period at the first practice of camp, and Carter did not like it.

That’s not a federal issue, but it does illustrate how a new coach trying to establish himself and an established star can butt heads. Lewan appeared to be trying to talk to Carter after the play but Carter was moving on.

It was big enough deal for them that they talked one-on-one for roughly 30 minutes after practice ended.DSC 5107 1532629463522

(Photo by Rich Pharris, 104.5 The Zone.)

I got a minute with Lewan on it and he said things are "straight."

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