NASHVILLE — Day 2 of Patriots-Titans joint practices was an entertaining and intense one that featured a mild dustup which we will get to.
The biggest on-field takeaways were these: First, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will be very happy when the Patriots defense gets the hell out of town. Second, Tom Brady — throwing to Gunner, Braxton, Dontrelle and Jakobi — put the Tennessee defense through the wood-chipper. A good Tennessee defense. A Tennessee defense that has really talented secondary players yet still had at least three complete busts that resulted in long scores. Let’s get after it.
WHAT THEY WORE/WHO WAS THERE?
Full pads in the very warm but not-quite-as-oppressive weather of Nashville. Returning after missing yesterday’s practice was Jamie Collins and he was a full participant. Dan Skipper, the left tackle who had some heat-related issues, was out there for the full package. Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris and N’Keal Harry did not participate in practice. Dorsett had his hand taped when he was spotted. Harry was in and out of the Titans facility and spent a lot of time just kind of wandering around. Maurice Harris has a lower leg injury and I’m hearing he may be a while. Elandon Roberts was also back out at practice.
The fracas. On a Dion Lewis red-zone running play during 11-on-11 work, Titans rookie receiver A.J. Brown was locked up blocking Stephon Gilmore. Both men kept their hands locked on one another’s jerseys after the play. Brown kind of smirked at Gilmore and said something. Gilmore shoved. A slow build began as players alternately shoved and tried to make peace until someone shoved/twisted Devin McCourty and the veteran Patriots safety bubbled over and it got real physical. There was no punching but it was a bit of a slow-moving stampede. The most amusing aspect? When Titans coach Mike Vrabel waded in to make peace, rookie receiver Tajae Sharpe was doing the “Lemme at ‘em!” bit and kind of pushed/nudged Vrabel who then began working blue and looked prepared to use Sharpe as a javelin. Also, former Jet Terrence Brooks was a prime agitator on the Patriot side of things. Nobody from either team was sent off and there was no further mayhem.
Isaiah Wynn got a significant amount of work on Thursday and he continues to look like a more-than-solid offensive lineman. Probably closer to really good.
After 1-on-1s and special teams work, the Patriots broke into the aforementioned 11-on-11 work, and that was really where the Patriots top unit shined. The first foray for the Patriots starting first-and-10 at the Tennessee 10 included a shallow cross TD to Gunner Olszewski, an incompletion on the right to Gunner and a curl to Braxton Berrios caught at the goal line.
The next series had a Brandon Bolden run stuff, an incompletion over James White then a TD to White sitting down at the goal line.
When the Titans' first offense came out, the Patriots had a run stuff, a tipped pass by Dont'a Hightower and a third-and-10 pass defended by Obi Melifonwu intended for Anthony Firkser.
When the Patriots’ twos came in, there was a tough rep for rookie Joejuan Williams and Keion Crossen, who had a bust that resulted in an easy score. Williams also got whistled for a defensive hold in the end zone.
Second-year tight end Ryan Izzo continues to look really capable as a blocking tight end. Really good pop and anchors well. For a team that’s hurting for pass-catchers at the position post-Gronk, at least Izzo looks capable of succeeding Dwayne Allen.
After watching Brady shred in the red zone, it was an arresting sight to see the five-year veteran at quarterback for Tennessee, Marcus Mariota, seem so perplexed and inaccurate.
On consecutive plays, Gunner drew a flag on highly-regarded corner Adoree Jackson on a Brady throw down the middle. Then Tennessee somehow lost track of Benjamin Watson for about a 40-yard touchdown.
It wasn’t a tremendous day for rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham when his group got out there around 11 a.m. for situational work. He twice had passes batted down at the line by defensive tackle Brent Urban, threw a widowmaker over the middle to Jakobi Meyers that Meyers reached for with one hand and deflected upward and delivered late on the sidelines to Braxton Berrios. On that one, he waited so long for the play to develop, it looked like a team meeting with defensive backs and receivers converging in a mini-swarm. Gotta come out faster.
Duke Dawson, who’s not having an awesome camp, did have a nice pass breakup in situational work.
At 11:30 a.m. the teams wrapped up with two-minute work. This is where the Titans offense did do some work as Mariota hit tight end Delanie Walker with consecutive seam throws. That “drive” stalled when a Titans offensive lineman was flagged (there are officials here) for holding Shilique Calhoun.
On the first two reps of the Patriots “drive” there was an incompletion under duress to Jakobi Meyers followed by a pressure given up by Skipper which drew audible agitation from offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Then, somehow, the Titans lost track of Berrios who ran a simple deep post and got loose for about a 60-yard gain.
A play later, Berrios didn’t finish a route as anticipated and got reamed by Brady. The two connected again for another long gain but that was called back by a hold. Brady, on the move to his right, then hit Dontrelle Inman on the right sideline as Inman worked back to the ball.
There were also long gains on throws from Brian Hoyer to Meyers and Gunner Olszewski.
Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel was there with his son, Clay. FOX Sports analyst Charles Davis, who does the Titans preseason games, was there. Former Patriots/Chiefs and Falcons GM Scott Pioli was on the sidelines as was former Patriots and Titans executive Floyd Reese.
Brady spent a long time speaking with Taylor Lewan after practice. The Titans offensive lineman had nice words about Brady during the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players series. Also there was former Tennessee and Ravens receiver Derrick Mason.
The Patriots are off on Friday and will be back at it again on Saturday night for their preseason game. Expect Tom Brady to play in that one.
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