How much difference does a day make? Well, if you are a Tennessee Titans fan you feel much better about the team today than you did 24 hours ago.
Make no mistake, no one is winning the Super Bowl in July, but positive news is hard to come by when Mike Vrabel is keeping the clamps on anything that could possibly take away from the Titans’ underdog mentality.
Despite that, even Vrabel couldn’t keep the lid on some of the big news coming out of training camp on Wednesday morning.
Before we talk about the sophomores, this is the obligatory “I told you so” for the fans that were ready to write off Treylon Burks as a bust on Monday. Burks was nothing short of fantastic on Wednesday and on a day where he would have gotten credit for just making it through the entire practice, he came away as one of the stars.
Speaking of getting credit, Mike Vrabel announced the winners of his annual offseason awards for players that overachieved and impressed the staff the most. There were six winners this year including late-addition DL DeMarcus Walker and (hopefully) soon-to-be-extended safety Amani Hooker.
The other four players were all from the Tennessee Titans 2021 NFL draft class.
A good class gets better for the Tennessee Titans
Right now, the 2016 and 2019 draft classes are the crown jewels of GM Jon Robinson’s career with the Titans. However, the 2021 class might be making a move that makes fans re-think which tier they belong in.
DB Elijah Molden and DL NaQuan Jones have established themselves as solid pieces on a great defense, while LB Monty Rice and EDGE Rashad Weaver look like above-average starters once they get healthy.
Despite all four of those players being almost guaranteed to see a healthy number of snaps this season, none of them won an offseason award. The sophomores that won those were RT Dillon Radunz, CB Caleb Farley, WR Dez Fitzpatrick, and FB Tory Carter.
If Radunz wasn’t already considered a heavy favorite for the right tackle job, this should do the trick. The technique and work ethic were always there, he just needed time to shake off the rust and get used to the step up in competition after a COVID-shortened season that only allowed him to play one game in nearly 600 days (and the competition on that day was Central Arkansas).
Caleb Farley has been getting positive note after positive note from the coaching staff and anyone who has seen him practice. Farley has always had elite physical traits and if he is refining his technical skill, it isn’t an exaggeration to think that the sky is the limit.
Dez Fitzpatrick is interesting because he seemed like someone that the coaching staff was borderline disgusted with during training camp last year. Reading between the lines it seems like he might have taken his job for granted and the coaching staff didn’t feel any urgency from him early in his career. By the time he realized that his job could actually be at risk, it was too late and he just couldn’t catch up to the offense.
Hearing Mike Vrabel talk about Fitzpatrick now, it is just night and day from what the conversation was last year. He is another guy who has really good physical tools and production, and if he has mature and understands what he is supposed to do on offense, he could make this roster.
Finally, one of my favorite players from the 2021 season, Tory Carter also makes this list. I know it is the former offensive lineman in me, but it is truly a pleasure to watch #44 walk on the field when the Titans decide to use a fullback. Before the ball is snapped you can guarantee that Carter is going to try to absolutely destroy someone as a blocker and he is going to have a fun time doing it.
On one of his few passing snaps last year, he actually drew a pass interference call because the Jacksonville Jaguars defender was so sure that he was about to get run over that he got caught flat-footed and had to grab on to Carter once he realized it was a play action pass.
If the Tennessee Titans saw real improvement from Radunz, Farley, Fitzpatrick, and Carter, it would completely change the way people saw this team.
Right now that is all just a collection of “ifs”, but this staff does not treat their young players with kid gloves and if they say something positive about a young player it is because they absolutely earned those accolades. In the rush of excitement over Treylon Burks looking exactly like the weapon that the Titans needed, don’t ignore how massive it would be if these four sophomores turned out to be the most improved players on the roster.