What can make it hard for Eric Decker, Titans WRs to be precise?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Precise receiver play has been an issue Mike Mularkey and his staff have obsessed about since they took over the Tennessee Titans.

The addition of veteran Eric Decker, currently out with a right ankle injury judged to be relatively minor, is expected to help the team upgrade in that category.

“That’s him, that’s who he is,” offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said. “The good part about it for us is, when we’re trying to teach it to you, it’s one thing. When you’ve got a guy like that who’s showing it to you, it’s a whole different package.

Eric Decker early practice, Aug. 16. #Titans. #Panthers

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“We can say ‘precision,’ ‘precise,’ ‘exact.’ We say that 50 times. But when a young guy sees him do that, he says, ‘Oh, that’s what they are talking about.’ So it’s a big plus for us.”

I’ve been wondering if, for certain guys, there are certain types of routes or situations that make it especially hard to stay on course or be in the right place.

Rishard Matthews said his issue is most often with splits before the snap.

“For me, all my minuses (bad grade plays) come from splits, lining up wrong or not getting a safety because I took a bad angle,” he said. “I don’t really get minuses for routes. It’s splits and things before the play.

“We’re so serious about our splits and sometimes we all get minuses for it. Off you mark a yard or two really will get you in trouble. Coach Mularkey definitely preaches about detail. If we’re supposed to be three yards off and we’re four or four and a half off, it’s definitely a minus.

“When I first started, it was kind of a lot. Four or five maybe. Once I got the offense down, Week 3 and up, probably 10 total, maybe.”

Regarding what makes it most difficult for him to be as exacting as he needs to be, third-round receiver Taywan Taylor pointed to a specific brand of play.

“The coverages when defenders roll or run with you on motions,” he said. “Most of the time they try to disguise it. That’ll be a little bit challenging for me, because I’m not really used to seeing disguises. It takes some time to decide, I need to study that. That can kind of alter my route, affect the depth of my route. Because it’s based off how he plays me. That’s just one of those things I have to take my time, be patient, be able to be comfortable.”

Decker came into the NFL as a third-round pick in 2010 out of Minnesota and already had a reputation as a high-quality route-runner. He’s continued to hone that element of his game, and got a boost from working with one of the NFL’s most demanding quarterbacks, Peyton Manning.

It’s important to Decker to be a two-sided receiver, in two different ways -- on either side of the field, and using either leg as his plant to make a cut

With the Broncos, receivers played predominantly on one side or the other.

“You’d get used to running certain routes on certain sides,” he said. “And your dominant leg, maybe you’re better at pushing off with one leg or the other. For me, it’s kind of my craft, being able to stay balanced and run routes consistently from both sides.

“My right leg is my dominant leg, sometimes I’m better whether it’s cutting left or coming back and planting off my right foot. That’s usually where I seem a little stronger.”

It’s not weight room stuff that helps Decker work on cutting to the right, off his non-dominant left leg.

“For the most part, it’s kind of the motor skills, kind of just walking through and figuring out, ‘OK, how am I going to get out of certain routes, certain breaks?’” he said.

“Whether it’s three steps, four steps, how ever many steps it’s going to take you to get out, to kind of drill that in so mentally you’re not really thinking about it, you’re just kind of reacting. You’re creating that habit.”

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