NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Caleb Farley awoke and kept people out of the end zone while Dontrell Hilliard visited it a few times as the Titans wrapped up two days of practice work with the Bucs.

Those two will key my observations from Thursday morning.

Dontrell Hilliard

Dontrell Hilliard/ © George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Farley: Farley had a really bad day in his first go against Tampa, with smaller receivers breaking off routes to get great cushion among his struggles.

But he went to the tape, evaluated what he was doing and bounced back with a much stronger showing that included an interception that killed a Bucs’ series just inside the front right pylon of the end zone on a pass intended for Vyncent Smith. He also had a couple of breakups and gave up a score on a wheel route to Deven Thompkins.

“I feel like my pads were too high,” he said. “I wasn’t trusting some of the fundamentals that I needed to be in. So I was able to correct that and have a better day today… I absolutely came in today with a mindset. To be better today than the day before.”

Mike Vrabel thought Farley might have gotten a bit too amped up for the first practice and that it led to some tiredness.

“He comes in with a great attitude every single day, he’s had a long rehab (from ACL repair),” Vrabel said. “He spent a lot of time in this building in the offseason and he wants to be good, he wants to help us. He wants to define a role for himself.

“I think he was exhausted. I think he was excited about coming out here and practicing. I mean early on in practice he looked like he was worn out. We’ve talked about that to our entire team, about making sure that we’re not so anxious about the practice or the game that’s going to happen. We have to be able to stay neutral, stay in the moment and then execute when the ball is snapped. We have to save every ounce of energy that we have for the play.”

I’m surprised a player coming out of a big program like Virginia Tech would have such an issue, but I was certainly happy to see him sort it out.

Hilliard: Hilliard has left no doubt since early in camp that he will be the team’s third-down back.

He had a super-productive day with three touchdowns, two in short order from Ryan Tannehill in seven-on-seven.

The first was over Devin White, and the throw was delivered with just the right power and height for Hilliard to go up and get it in the cushion he had behind the linebacker.

The second was to the left over a defender who Hilliard beat by a lot to get himself into a good-sized space.
Vrabel sounded excited to go see those plays on tape.

“He’s developed as a runner for us when we needed him to be and has really done a nice job in that third-down role,” Vrabel said. “He’s trying to be involved as a personal protector on the punt team, that’s something that he really wants to earn and take pride in.”

Quote of the day: Vrabel on Kyle Philips, who was featured in the first-team offense’s first crack at this scenario: 50 seconds left, one timeout, ball at the Bucs’ 45 and in need of a TD. (A first-play sack put the Titans in a hole they didn’t get out of.)

“I mean he’s quick man, he goes rabbit hunting with a hammer.”

Burks returned: Treylon Burks was back on the field with a sleeve on his left leg a day after leaving practice with a trainer.

He caught a nice TD from Tannehill in seven-on-sevens but didn’t participate in some of the receiver drills that required the most cutting and was not in team periods. He also caught a short pass across the middle while refs threw a flag for interference or holding against Carlton Davis.

Indications are he might have been super cautious when he felt something on Wednesday.

Small fight: Leonard Fournette took a big swing a Jeffery Simmons as practice concluded and it set off a big pushing and shoving match with others holding people back.

Of the skirmish, Vrabel said: “I think we should be able to not do dumb shit that hurts the team and would say that that is an example of that. When you guys are all writing about what that is, that’s what that would be.”

Notes: Ben Jones had a left leg issue late in practice, something that may need monitoring…. Malik Willis was bad again, but he did make one throw that made me take notice: a decisive, hard pass from the 10-yard line to Chig Okonkwo on Logan Ryan in the middle of the end zone.

Ryan made the hit of the two days, banging into Hassan Haskins as he went for the front, left corner of the end zone and created not a thud but a monster crack. Haskins lowered his shoulder and came out of it well, but the intent was to score and Haskins did not make it. I know the photo looks bad for Ryan, but he initiated the blow and achieved his purpose.

Jeffery Simmons had a big pass breakup that put the ball high in the air for what seemed like a long time, but no teammate was able to collect it for a pick. ...After Dillon Radunz was the first right tackle Wednesday, Nicholas Petit-Frere was there Thursday.  ...Vrabel said next week's joint practices with the Cardinals will include more simultaneous work where the offense and defense work at the same time against Arizona.

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