First Look at JC Latham, T'Vondre Sweat and Titans' Rookies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – They are 380-pound blocking sleds, created with input from Bill Callahan, with more realistic torsos and twist, that are more reactive and tougher to balance.

The two in the Titans’ offensive line blocking area are named Bertha and Olga, and early turns with them are different and more complicated than what linemen are used to.

“It’s designed in a way to more accurately mimic what it feels like to have to clamp and brace on what a normal defender would feel like,” Brian Callahan said. “Some of the old-school sleds they don’t really give you that same balance issue. And (these) are really hard to move. I can’t tell you how hard these things are to move and to move straight, because they tip and they are off balance and they are meant to really stress guys' ability, to strengthen their core, keep their hands tight and drive a sled vertically as opposed to getting all off kilter. It’s a balance thing.

JC Latham

"So there is a lot of indoctrination that goes into those sleds, our guys even now, it’s taken them a couple weeks to feel good about moving them the way they are supposed to move. So it’s fun to watch, I like watching those guys doing it, they improve pretty fast.”

JC Latham’s first couple reps on the sled were adventurous, but he and other linemen on the first day of the Titans rookie minicamp gradually got better with the sled.

He said at Alabama they put coaches on a similar sled to make it heavy. 

"It really emphasizes technique," Latham said. "On my first rep he wanted us to move it, I kind of shot out my hips and got it straight up and if you get it straight up, you're not going to move it  as a D-linemen, it'd be a stalemate. You've really got to kind of gradually drive as you rise with your hips. That's something that I was learning as I went."

I thought Latham looked good overall, but he and most of the linemen lumbered through some lateral drills over pads early on. When he was in his stance and Bill Callahan rattled through a list of slight adjustments, he made them without overthinking. 

The practice started with a longer, more thorough stretch run by new director of sports performance Zac Woodfin, with his beefier staff scattered throughout the 45 players on the fields including the rookie class of 23 and 22 tryout players.

Among those included in the tryout field for the three-day minicamp are two notable veterans, cornerback William Jackson III and outside linebacker Shane Ray. Jackson was a Bengals' first-rounder in 2017 and Ray was a first-round pick by the Broncos out of Missouri in 2015.

Only two periods were open for filming and photography, and media were concentrated on Latham and second-rounder T'Vondre Sweat, the defensive tackle.

I thought Sweat moved well. When asked to run laterally through five bags on the ground flipping directions halfway through before taking off at an angle with speedhe did so comfortably. He got low with relative ease when asked to start snaps crouched below a tarp ceiling on knees in front of a low sled he elongated well, rotting his hips and extending his arms.

And he did this in pass rush.

After the two open periods were over I made an effort to watch some offense with an eye on Brian Callahan (laid back), coordinator Nick Holz (very active) and sixth-round receiver Jha'Quan Jackson.

Jackson looked pretty smooth on in-cutting and out-cutting routes catching from quarterbacks Mike DiLiello and Spencer Sanders who won't be around after two more days. Jackson caught four balls smoothly, skied high for an unreachable one over his head and dropped a quick one to him over the middle.

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