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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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TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Frequently, I field questions about how players are paid during training camp.

Around the NFL, base salaries are typically paid out over the course of the 17-week regular season.

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The Titans do it differently: They divide the base salary into 26 semi-monthly installments and pay those starting in September. Then in March, players get a lump sum with the remainder of the salary.

That schedule is left over from original thinking from Bud Adams way back in the history of the Houston Oilers. He looked to ensure guys weren't coming back looking for money after blowing through their salaries. And he kept some money in his accounts for longer.

Preseason pay is a totally separate deal.

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TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's great that Taylor Lewan isn't holding out, but I don't buy that if he did he would have qualified as less of a team guy.

I do buy that accountability from the general manager is a great example for the team that should trickle down and permeate everything.IMG 2313

Jon Robinson stepped to the microphone ahead of Mike Vrabel, Brian Orakpo, Ben Jones, Kevin Byard and Derrick Henry to comment on Lewan and Kevin Dodd.

And what he said about Dodd, the 33rd pick in the 2016 draft, should echo throughout the franchise.

"I’ll say this about Kevin: He’s a good young man, he’s a talented young man," Robinson said. "I take full responsibility for that one. I’ve got to do a better job scouting moving forward."

Accountability from the guy running the team is a beautiful thing. No one can ever try to make excuses or blame the front office for anything and claim the accountability expected of them doesn't apply upstairs.

Brian Orakpo loved his GM's stance.

"J-Rob knows, I mean he drafted Dodd," he said. "He doesn’t want that on his resume, I wouldn’t if I was a GM. I mean so you want to make sure it works. Obviously, it didn’t work and that happens. Doesn’t take away from who Dodd is as a person it just didn’t work out”

See and hear Robinson and Orakpo in bigger context below. 

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TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans have sidestepped a contract dispute and a holdout by Taylor Lewan, who will report to training camp on time with the rest of the team’s veterans Wednesday morning.

I reported last night that the sides had swapped proposals Tuesday. It appears there was enough progress and common ground in those discussions for the two-time Pro Bowl left tackle to join the team on time.LewanOAK

Lewan stayed away from the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp in June, indicating his dissatisfaction with his deal. He’s set to play under a fifth-year option worth $9.3 million.

He could have a new deal soon.

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Titans and Taylor Lewan swapped contract proposals Tuesday

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan and the Titans exchanged contract proposals Tuesday, sources told me, but it’s unclear how much progress on a new deal was made and whether Lewan will report along with the team’s veterans on Wednesday.

The first practice of training camp is Thursday starting at 9:50 a.m. CT.

Lewan is signed through this season, with a fifth-year option on his rookie deal set to pay him a $9.3 million base salary in 2018. But he did not show up for the team's mandatory minicamp June 12-14 indicating he was not satisfied with his deal or progress toward a new one.LewanKC

He’s made just under $11.5 million through the first four years of his rookie deal, signed after he was the 11th pick in the 2014 draft.

Lewan has played in the Pro Bowl the last two years and is widely regarded as one of the league’s top left tackles. A scout told me Lewan currently rates as a top-five player at his position.

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Taylor Lewan deserves a payday: A look at contract numbers and the case for and against a holdout

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan is in line for a big contract, and since it didn’t seem imminent he skipped the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.

Now the big story is whether he will report with the Titans veterans on Wednesday and practice Thursday or if he will stay away.

I don’t think there have been very extensive talks, and unless things have really picked up, a new deal by then seems unlikely.LewanSmileSEA

The Titans have other big contracts on the not-so-distant horizon: Marcus Mariota is under contract through 2019. Kevin Byard’s been All-Pro and he’s heading into his third year of a four-year deal. Jack Conklin’s been All-Pro and he’s heading into his third year but the team will have a fifth-year option and is under team control through 2020.

But the pressing issue now is Lewan, who’s really grown into just what Ruston Webster envisioned when picking him 11th overall out of Michigan in 2014: A rugged, high-energy player whose excellent athleticism allows him to pass protect and run block with equal aplomb.

He’s the Titans’ swagger guy, a model for how to mature during your first deal if you, in fact, need some time.

If the sides don’t reach a new agreement by the start of the 2019 NFL calendar year next March, the Titans could put the franchise tag on Lewan.

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