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VOL. 41 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 28, 2017

Titans enter camp with great expectations

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When the Tennessee Titans arrive for training camp on Friday, there will be something around the team that has not been inside the locker room in a long time – expectations.

And how the players and coaches deal with it could play a role in determining just how successful the Titans are in 2017.

For the first time since probably the end of the Jeff Fisher Era around 2009 or 2010 – both seasons that ended with implosion and disappointment – the Titans begin training camp as an actual playoff contender. The Titans astonished many last season, making the leap from three wins in 2015 to a 9-7 mark that almost got them into postseason.

The 2016 Titans were 8-6, as you might recall, and in complete control of their playoff destiny, needing only to win at Jacksonville and at home against Houston to secure the team’s first playoff bid since 2008.

Schedule for Titans training camp events open to the public. All open practices are free, and selected players will sign autographs after practice.

Sat., July 29:   2:40-4:30 p.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Sun., July 30: 2:40-4:30 p.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Mon., July 31: 8:55-11 a.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Tues., Aug. 1: 8: 55-11 a.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Thurs., Aug. 3: 8:55-11 a.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Fri., Aug. 4: 7:15-9 p.m., Practice at Centennial High School

Sat., Aug. 5: 6-8 p.m., Practice at Nissan Stadium

Mon., Aug. 7: 6:55-9 p.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park                 

Tues., Aug. 8: 3:20-5 p.m., Closed practice (open to media)                      

Wed., Aug. 9: 8:55-11 a.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Thurs., Aug. 10: 8:55-11 a.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Sat., Aug. 12: 6:30 p.m., Titans at New York Jets preseason game

Mon., Aug. 14: 6:55-8:55 p.m., Practice at St. Thomas Sports Park

Wed., Aug. 16: 9:15-11:30 a.m., Practice with Panthers at St. Thomas Sports Park

Thurs., Aug. 17: 9:15-11:30 a.m., Practice with Panthers at St. Thomas Sports Park

Sat., Aug. 19: 2 p.m., Carolina Panthers at Titans preseason game

But the Titans lost quarterback Marcus Mariota to a season-ending broken fibula in that Christmas Eve game against the Jaguars, then lost their grip on the postseason with an inexplicably flat performance in a 38-17 defeat.

The Titans did manage to salvage some of their pride the following week, edging the Texans, but they missed out on the postseason – surprising as the opportunity was – ending what had otherwise been a satisfactory effort in 2016.

Now that the curtain is about to rise on a new season, the Titans won’t be sneaking up on anyone, and, barring injuries, there won’t be any tolerance for anything less than reaching the playoffs after an eight-year absence.

“I think our mindset is building off where we left off, and that was winning – coming off a win in our last game at home,” says tight end Delanie Walker, who has been a bright spot in lean years and now wants to be a part of some Titans’ success.

“We want to finish where we left off. We’ve got a home opener against Oakland, and we want to get that win.”

There are still plenty of steps to be taken, and success from one season to the next is certainly not guaranteed.

After a surprising 9-7 mark in 2011 – Mike Munchak’s first as head coach – the Titans slid backward for two years under Munchak (22-26 overall) and another season and a-half under Ken Whisenhunt (4-26).

But this team at least has a different feel than any in recent years. And the reason is that the culture has changed to the point that the expectation of winning and competing each week is not just lip service. It is something that seems more tangible now than it has in a very long time around St. Thomas Sports Park.

“Everybody has the same intent and the same goals in mind,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey, who had a 2-7 record as interim head coach and was 9-7 in 2016, his first full year at the helm.

“We all want to get better. There’s no question that the guys who were here last year and came back, there’s a sense of purpose with this group,” he adds. “I think the rookies feel that, and they’ve joined right in on where we want to go.”

His most prominent player appears to be on the same page.

“Guys feel comfortable and confident in what they’re doing, and it’s really showing on the field,” Mariota says.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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