Titans quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone was a marked man Thursday. In celebration of Ragone’s birthday, assistant head coach and strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson decided that Ragone should be treated to several pies in the face.
Watterson, who has managed to work in multiple pranks and jokes over his years with the Titans and Oilers, decided to add what was called a Hunger Games twist to Thursday’s surprise.
After practice concluded, Ragone was told there would be four pies and four guys chasing him but he would go unscathed if he could find the only door out of five options and make it inside before he was caught.
Ragone, 34, sprinted from the farthest practice field as receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Damian Williams gave chase. Ragone ran the width of the other two fields, a little more than 100 yards, was unable to find an open door, and eventually gave in.
“He ran pretty well. I’m surprised he didn’t get hurt trying to make it over here,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He thought there was an open door and actually all of them were locked. He was given bad information and he thought (the door used by media) would be open but that was locked also, so he basically had no chance of winning. I don’t really think any of them were open so I don’t think he had a shot.”
Washington said he liked the new twist on the old favorite.
“(Watterson) told us this morning that he was going to try something with Ragone, so it’s a little different. I think he was really just trying to get us the extra conditioning,” Washington said. “That was definitely a long way chasing ‘Rags.’ He didn’t think it was bad. No big deal for him.”
After the assault, Ragone went back to the far field as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did extra work with tight ends.
Munchak said Ragone wasn’t the only victim of antics this week. Watterson was in on a plot Tuesday with offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio and assistant secondary coach Steve Brown to ambush offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains when he turned 33 on Tuesday.
“They called (Loggains) down and said they were having a meeting with Jake (Locker) with how he was doing and then Jake was down in Steve’s office and we had three coaches waiting for him.”
Munchak said Matthews and Watterson have gotten him over the years as well, but his offseason birthday makes him less of a target.
“That’s been going on for years and years and years, but it’s nice to get new guys that haven’t been around it as much,” Munchak said.
Tags: Bruce Matthews, D, Damian Williams, Dave Ragone, Dowell Loggains, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Mike Munchak, Nate Washington, Steve Watterson
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The week of roster reductions is always difficult as teams transition from the preseason to the regular season, but here are three statistical comparisons between this preseason and 2012 that the Titans should find encouraging. The numbers essentially evaporate with no bearing on regular season results, but illustrate desired trends that the Titans would like to continue beginning Sept. 8 in the season opener at Pittsburgh.
Team Quarterback Rating: 2012 — 69.2 | 2013 — 104.6 | Difference: +35.4
Diagnosis: Titans quarterbacks have completed 80 of 120 passes (66.7 percent) for 912 yards and thrown eight touchdowns against two interceptions, delivering double-digit increases in passes completed and completion percentage and accounting for 280 more net passing yards, five more touchdowns and one less interception.
The substantial gain in passer rating stems largely from the increase in the number of passing touchdowns thrown by Titans QBs this preseason. Jake Locker attempted 11 fewer passes and completed two more, driving his completion percentage from 51.7 to 67.3 percent and improved his QB rating from 71.3 to 93.7 this preseason with the benefit of a full offseason as Tennessee’s starter.
Outlook: A considerable effort was made this offseason to capitalize on Locker’s strengths, as well as take advantage of high-percentage underneath routes to tight ends and running backs. Tennessee believes there’s hidden yardage there that it left on the table in 2012.
Time of Possession: 2012 — 27:45 | 2013—31:33 | Difference: +3:48
Diagnosis: Some have said this is the most important statistical category in which the Titans can improve this season not only to help the offense but also the defense. Tennessee wants to be a more physical team that is capable of running the ball when it needs and wants to do so, then take advantage of play-action passes that create larger throwing windows.
Outlook: The Titans added veteran running backs Shonn Greene during free agency and Jackie Battle before training camp to add different styles of backs to complement Chris Johnson’s speed and big-play threats. Johnson’s ability to make long runs and score on them is quite rare, but such explosiveness can reduce time with the football.
In 2012, three of 51 Titans possessions (6.9 percent) in the preseason lasted 10 or more plays, but this preseason Tennessee had 11 of 41 possessions (26.8 percent) go 10 plays or more. Continuing to do so in the regular season will improve offensive rhythm and allow the defense to stay fresh to maximize its performance.
Third-down percentage: 2012 — 14-for-52 (26.9 percent) | 2013 — 27-for-58 (46.6 percent) | Difference: +19.7 percent
Diagnosis: Success on third down increases time of possession, so it’s not surprising to see such strong improvements overlap. The gains can be attributed to better results on first and second downs to avoid obvious passing situations created by third-and-longs. Reducing the distance needed to convert a pass on third down is also likely to help quarterback completion percentage and passer rating.
Outlook: Continuing to move the chains on early downs opens the playbook for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, and having third-and-short distances keeps faking the ball to running backs before throwing it a possibility. Tennessee also emphasizes the important role that running backs play in picking up the blitz, and Johnson, Greene and Battle have shown a willingness and ability to do that. Converting third downs early can be particularly helpful on the road because it reduces the fire in opposing fans and builds rhythm and confidence in offensive players while letting defensive players stay fresh.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Dowell Loggains, Jackie Battle, Jake Locker, Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans, Titans
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A wish list of some things the Titans’ offense wants to do against the Vikings:
1) Find the end zone early — Tennessee’s starters aren’t expected to play very much, if at all, but would like to be efficient at putting points on the board. The Titans have moved the ball effectively this preseason but had to settle for field goal attempts at Cincinnati. Tennessee put together a touchdown drive on its third possession against Atlanta to take the lead after the defense held the Falcons to two field goals and a missed field goal. Scoring touchdowns early is the best way to mitigate hostile crowds and a good habit.
2) Put something else on film — The Titans were able to use play-action passes against Atlanta to move the ball and score because Tennessee had run the ball so well in its first two preseason games. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is unlikely to show his hand to Pittsburgh before the Sept. 8 season opener, but it’s plausible that the Titans could display something that will help set up part of the plan against the Steelers. Regardless, again showing the ability to run the football will continue to increase the effectiveness of play action in the future.
3) Protect the football and keep the clock moving — Tennessee didn’t commit a turnover in its first two games but had two — a fumble on a scramble by Jake Locker and an interception by Ryan Fitzpatrick—against Atlanta. Protecting the ball is important anywhere against anyone, but even more critical on the road to avoid losing momentum. The second part of this item involves moving past this game and onto Pittsburgh. The Titans have been preparing for the Steelers since the schedule was released, and players and coaches would be happy if the game at Minnesota has few stoppages because of incomplete passes, penalties or reviews.
4) Finalize roster decisions — Coaches and Tennessee’s personnel department must reduce the roster to 75 players to 53 by 5 p.m. CT Saturday. The Titans plan to start Rob Turner at center and replace him with rookie Brian Schwenke for most of the game and play Fernando Velasco and Chris Spencer at guard positions after pulling Andy Levitre and first-round pick Chance Warmack from the game. The Titans haven’t named a starting center yet, and will want to identify the “swing guy” who will be active on game days as a replacement for either guard or at center in case of injury.
Tags: Andy Levitre, Dowell Loggains, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains wants to shorten and simplify the verbiage for his players in 2013, enabling them to focus more on making plays than thinking about where they need to be on the football field.
“Let them get out of the huddle knowing what to do so they can figure out what they have to do to make the play successful,” Loggains said during an interview Tuesday morning on Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone. “They shouldn’t be breaking the huddle wondering what the play is and where they need to line up…once you break the huddle, now you can think about what you have to do and how you’re going to do it.”
As players become more confident in processing play calls, they will play faster and become more productive, Loggains said.
“I believe that once these guys know where everyone is supposed to be, they can play fast and there will be less reads in the offense than there have been in years past,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing — where their confidence can go to the next level.”
Loggains hit on several other topics Tuesday:
(on the development of Jake Locker)
“We wanted to grade Jake on how he really played and the thing that stood out was that once we started getting banged up around him, that’s when he was trying to do too much because he felt it was on him to make a play. I do believe the injury to his shoulder affected him as the season went on.”
(on Locker pressing late in the season)
“I think at the end of the season he was trying to do too much. In the Green Bay game when Mike Otto got sick and we were playing with all those new linemen, I think in his mind if he didn’t step up and have his best game, we didn’t have a chance. I think he put too much on himself. It really slowed him down. And as you know, when you try to do too much, it’s the worst thing you can do because you’re not going to play fast and you’re going to hurt your football team by doing that.”
(on Locker’s accuracy)
“I don’t consider it as big of an issue as people make it out to be. It’s a combination of Jake being on the same page with the receivers, the pass protection holding up and him making the throws that he needs to make. It falls somewhere in between all three of them. When you’re synced up with the receivers and getting protected, it’s your job to make the play and he needs to go do that.”
(on if Titans will incorporate the “pistol” offense like San Francisco used with Colin Kaepernick)
It’s something we’re definitely going to study. It’s not too far off from what we were doing as a coaching staff in 2006 and 2007 with Vince Young. The biggest thing is the quarterback’s ability to run the ball. When you make that kind of commitment that we have a running quarterback and we’re going to do some of that stuff, it can hide the formation a little bit — what side the back is going to and hide what side the zone read is going to be.
(on expectations for Kenny Britt in 2013)
My expectations are very high for Kenny because I know what type of player he can be. He needs to step up and take his game to the next level, both on and off the field because we are expecting a lot from him and he can be a really special football player. When he’s healthy, he’s as good as anyone in the league.
(on things Britt needs to work on)
He needs to work on getting off press (coverage). I think that showed up in the Monday night game against the Jets. He really struggled against Antonio Cromartie. You saw the wiggle that Kendall Wright has, and he separated against Cromartie. That’s the biggest thing that Kenny needs to improve on. Our new wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson is really going to be able to help him with that.
(on his assessment of Kendall Wright’s rookie season)
I thought Kendall played better than what most rookies play. He was a first-year player coming out of the spread offense and gave us a little taste of what he can do. He’s extremely quick and is a really good kid. Football is important to him and we expect him to have a better year than he did last year.
(on getting Chris Johnson back to his 2009 form)
I went back and watched all of our 2008 and 2009 games, and some from 2010 — and the biggest thing for Chris was he was our leading receiver. He had 50 receptions and averaged 10 yards a catch. Watching that film compared to this year, getting him back involved in the passing game will help open up the run game as much as anything. That’s a weapon that is hard to find.
(on potentially adding a bruising running back to compliment Johnson)
I think if you’re going to run to win and you get into the four minute offense where you’re up and you need to start pounding people, it’s really important for us to find that guy that can take a little burden off Chris and maybe play some third down stuff just from the simple fact that’s six or seven collisions that Chris isn’t going to take that will help prolong his career because he’s a smaller guy with speed. During the LenDale White/Chris Johnson “Smash and Dash” season (in 2008), LenDale had 15 touchdowns and took a lot of the burden off Chris. It brings a different element to your offense.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Dowell Loggains, Jake Locker, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt
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Tight end Jared Cook believes the Titans have too many offensive weapons to underperform like they did in Sunday’s 24-19 loss at Jacksonville.
He told the Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt that only time will tell if dismissing offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was the right move. At the end of the day, Cook said he and his teammates need to produce better results.
The Titans replaced Palmer with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.
“We have too many weapons on this offense to be looking mediocre, to be looking like we can’t put points on the board. It just feels like we have too much talent on offense, and it was evident to everybody,” Cook said. “I feel like most everybody liked coach Palmer as a person, but we had different levels of understanding.
“Do I think it is the right move? Time will tell. We still have to go out and play games and put points on the board.
“I think everybody in the organization felt like some kind of change needed to be made. Hearing Bud Adams’ message after the Chicago game, there was a sense of things didn’t get better, something was going to happen,” Cook said. “I just didn’t think it was going to be today.
“Everyone loves Dowell, and everybody gets along with him. You can go to Dowell and talk to him about anything.”
Tags: Chris Palmer, Dowell Loggains, Jared Cook
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