Guest report: Dion Lewis blazing, Marcus Mariota sharp at Titans' OTA

Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By Steve Cavendish, guest reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Five takeaways from the Titans' open OTA practice n May 22.

1) Newcomer Dion Lewis is as fast as advertised.

In drills and in 11-on-11 plays, the free agent from New England had a noticeable burst of speed. The running back also showed he has good hands when he sprinted out of the backfield on passing plays, catching a number of balls. He was a clear favorite of the crowd of 100-or-so season ticket holders in attendance.

2) In punt return drills, new signees Michael Campanaro and Deontay Burnett both got some work along with incumbent Adoree' Jackson.IMG 4724

Campanaro arrived as an unrestricted free agent after four years with the Ravens while Burnett went undrafted after coming out early from Southern Cal.

Burnett was expected to be drafted after catching 74 passes for 975 yards from Jets first-round pick Sam Darnold last year. With only the four draft picks available to the media so far, Burnett’s first response to a question was, “Am I supposed to be talking to you?”

He said that there is a noticeable jump in speed from just practicing with rookies or college players.

“It’s different, you’ve just gotta learn from the older guys and take mental notes,” Burnett said. “You’ve got guys who know what they’re doing and who have been in this league for five to ten years. Got to find a way to set an edge and adapt to it.”

3) While it’s easy to say someone looked good in practice — especially in non-contact drills — Marcus Mariota appeared to have reaped the benefits of a healthy off-season.

He talked after practice about the change in footwork, as coaches have wanted him to move to a wider base while he’s in the pocket. “It helps me get the ball out faster,” he said.

Mariota was not wearing the knee brace he wore during last season, but said that might change when contact drills begin.

4) Whatever schemes were put in during Phase Two of head coach Mike Vrabel’s self-described multi-phase rollout didn’t appear to be hampering the speed of practice, with the offense only having to re-huddle a couple of times.

In general, players were pretty laid back about the new coaches.

“Defense is defense,” safety Kevin Byard said when asked about Dean Pees approach.

Repeatedly pressed about Matt LaFleur’s new offense, Mariota said that the team was still learning all the terminology, but he wouldn’t compare it to Mike Mularkey’s so-called “exotic smashmouth” approach.

5) Tajae Sharpe caught several balls during drills and looked like he has recovered from the foot injury that caused him to miss the entire season last year.

Most of the receiving corps was active, including Delanie Walker, who was diving for balls during 11-on-11 drills.

Vrabel raised an eyebrow to that after practice, saying he wanted to avoid injuries but it was a good thing to see the intensity.

“You want to say ‘whoa’ instead of ‘sic ‘em’,” he said.

Steve Cavendish is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Nashville Scene. You can follow him on Twitter @scavendish.

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