Influx of receivers doesn't mean Titans turn into a three-WR offense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With an influx of perimeter weapons who can run after the catch, the Titans are in better position to play balanced offense.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey wants camp to unfold to learn just what he’s got.

But those around him believe, as I do, the Titans won’t be changing a great deal from what they were in their turnaround 2016 campaign: A two-tight end base offense that calls on an extra blocker to help a run-first scheme and add a layer of protection for Marcus Mariota.FullSizeRender 10

“Our offense is a run-first offense, I would say," Delanie Walker, the No. 1 tight end, said. "With the tight ends on the field we can run those packages and we can also spread out a tight end and be able to audible out into a pass.

“I think we’re going to keep that two tight-end set. Even if our receivers come together and be a dominant group, we’re still going to run two tight-end. It’s going to be very hard to get away from that.”

The Titans ran the third-fewest three-wide receiver sets in the NFL last season.

Anthony Fasano was a dirty work hero as the on-the-line tight end, and he played a significant role in protecting Mariota, helping right tackle Jack Conklin have an All Pro rookie season and left tackle Taylor Lewan make his first Pro Bowl.

Fasano left as a free agent for Miami.

The Titans will turn to rookie Jonnu Smith and veteran Phillip Supernaw in the role now, while third tackle Dennis Kelly could also get some snaps. He was the third tight end in jumbo sets a year ago.

“I don’t think much is going to change from last year,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said.

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Dave McGinnis to replace Frank Wycheck on Titans Radio in 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Frank Wycheck, the tight end who threw the lateral on the Music City Miracle, won’t be in the Titans Radio booth as the team’s color analyst for the 2017 season.

Veteran coach Dave McGinnis will replace him, though it may only be for a year.


Dave McGinnis with the fellas from my group: John Smith and Jay Spoonhour. #drive4Dinger

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McGinnis has been in coaching since 1973 and his career included 31 seasons in the NFL. He was assistant head coach to Jeff Fisher with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

McGinnis served as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from 2000-03 and joined Fisher’s Titans staff in 2004. He spent eight years in Nashville before five with the Rams.

He’s a gifted and enthusiastic storyteller who will bring a new perspective to games working with play-by-play man Mike Keith.

Because of personal issues, Wycheck has missed a good share of the offseason on The Wake Up Zone, the morning show on 104.5 the Zone. (Disclaimer, I also work at the station.)

He was on the air this morning and revealed he would not be in the booth on game days this year.

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Dick LeBeau: 'You have to be realistic, I ain’t going to do this forever'

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  -- Among the most popular questions I get from you guys isn’t about the Titans right now, it’s about the Titans long term.

How long can defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who turns 80 in September, do the job and who’s in line to replace him?

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I’ve suggested linebacker coach Lou Spanos, who worked under LeBeau before they came together with the Titans could be the ultimate successor.

On The Midday 180, I asked LeBeau if he wanted to reassure fans the end is not in sight.

But he admitted it’s coming.

“You have to be realistic,” he said. “I mean, I ain’t going to do this forever, you know? I don’t want to stay too long, let’s put it that way. Who’s to say what that is? I don’t know. I’ve got a feeling I’ll know when it happens.”

He said, as many older coaches do, that being around you energetic players helps keep him young. The schedule doesn’t leave him time to think about his coaching fate beyond 2018.

But the charming, beloved coach isn’t pretending he’s not 79 –- and proudly told us about shooting a 66 on a North Carolina golf course recently, and knocking in his ninth hole in one in Kentucky with his son.

“The aging process sucks,” he said. “There is nothing you can do about that. I don’t even think about that. I hope Mike (Mularkey) doesn’t think about that too much.”

His mom lived into her 90s and his dad to 88.

“It was probably 100 in most people’s lives, he lived a very active life,” LeBeau said. “I’ve got aunts who lived close to 100. We’ve got lifespan, there is no question about that. I’m pretty careful about the poison that I put in my body, so it’s got me in pretty good (shape). But still, there is only one guy that’s got out of this stuff alive.

“So it’s waiting for all of us. Working with this young guys and getting ready for a game coming up on Sunday, you ain’t got time to think about that kind of stuff.”

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Titans uniform alterations for 2018 are complete; Amy Adams Strunk: 'It's not minor'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans renovated their locker room last year. They renovated their training room and weight room this year. They’ll renovate their uniforms next year.

“We’re picked and done and now they go to Nike production and whatever they do after that," controlling owner Amy Adams

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Strunk told me as the Titans started practice Tuesday morning. “It’s done.”

As for specifics, she did well to stay tight-lipped though I tried multiple avenues to get a hint about any change.

“I’m going to let you play detective, she said.

“It’s not minor. It’s not a total color change or anything like that. I think everybody is going to be very pleased with where it went.”

“Like with a lot of changes around here, we were due a change. We’ll roll it out before the season, they’ll get to see it. I’m not sure for what yet, or when. …It’s going to be so fun.”

“It’s going to be totally updated. I think the fans are going to be excited. I’m not seeing other teams have anything close to what we will have.”

As for the jersey you may buy now, she said it won’t feel out of place in a year.

“We’re not going to be orange or anything like that,” she said.

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How Taylor Lewan turned things around (Spoiler: It was a girl)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan came into the league as a gifted athlete with virtually all the qualities an NFL team seeks in a left tackle.

Except for a tendency to do some dumb stuff -- the sort that left fans with their hands on their heads and prompted Mike Mularkey to strip him of a captaincy during his second season playing in the league.

It left a lasting impression that did not help him even as he matured a great deal in his third year. He was flagged for a crucial, costly penalty late in a Week 3 loss to Oakland, when he launched himself into a pile to help receiver Tajae Sharpe and got an unnecessary roughness penalty that stalled what looked like it would be a late, game-tying drive. In Week 10, he was tossed out of the win over Green Bay early on for making contact with an official. Taylor Lewan with Wife and Daughter

Even with the two gaffes, he emerged as a key, dependable piece of an offensive line that did very well protecting Marcus Mariota and blocking for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.

Mularkey’s faith played a big role, as did the first year with Pro Football Hall of Famer Russ Grimm working as Tennessee’s offensive line coach.

The top settling force, however, was Lewan’s fiancée, Taylin Gallacher. The couple’s daughter, Wynne, turns four weeks old Wednesday.

Gallacher sounds like a psychiatrist. She is not one, though she says a lot of people get the same vibe from her. Still, she clearly saw the issues that were holding Lewan back, both at work and at home, and she called him on them.

“Honestly, how it started is, he wanted to win me over as the girl in his life, and I was not having any of that,” she said after a recent training camp practice, her baby wrapped snuggly to her and sound asleep. “I was like, ‘I will be your friend.’ Because of the song and dance. I didn’t trust it, he was giving me a show and I didn’t care for the show. He puts on the best kind of show. Now I appreciate the show.

“He was so willing and able, he saw the direction his life was going, he just didn’t have the tools. And that’s from where he came from, it’s how we all are, it’s where we came from. As soon as he got the tools, he just took it and ran. He’s still running and he’s still growing. Having a daughter, she’s kind of taken over the next little bit of his growth here. Things plateau. I think it took six months to get those things ingrained in him, who he wanted to be and what he wanted to be and things just took off.

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With Jurrell Casey locked up, the next three Titans to extend

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jurrell Casey’s second contract extension came with two years still left on his first.

The Titans talked of the defensive lineman as an exception to the usual rules for contract extensions.

He’s an excellent player who’s fully bought into what the team wants and does. He’s great in the community. He’s all they want.

With him locked up through 2022, who are the next priorities for new deals?

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'Definitely not done,' Kevin Dodd now deserves some time

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kevin Dodd’s held his current job for 458 days.

For some players in the NFL that’s a career. For a second-round pick who missed seven games as a rookie because of a stress fracture that required two surgeries, it’s not a lot.

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Really, I promise.

Impatient fans have backed off a bit as the Titans have gone three days into camp and Dodd is back on the field.

But the offseason was filled with unreasonable pronouncements – "Dodd’s a dud" – and demands – the Titans should be done with him.

He’s handled it with a great deal of grace. He appears to have the personality to endure it, unless he’s really good at putting up a front.

“It’s so easy for people to just write someone off,” he said. “High pick, not being able to do what you do from an injury. I’m excited to be out there. I’m just going to continue to get better every play and get back to it.

“I’m definitely not done. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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