Tennessee’s rookies making strong early impression
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Titans’ rookie draft class is doing its best to give the rest of the NFL something to think about when preparing to play Tennessee.
Adoree Jackson, the 18th pick overall, has been busy. He is starting at cornerback and returning both punts and kicks.
Taywan Taylor, a wide receiver selected in the third round, already has notched the fastest speed in the NFL through the first two weeks at 21.44 mph by a ball carrier. That likely came on a 42-yard reception in the Titans’ 37-16 rout of Jacksonville, their longest offensive play of the game topped only by Jackson’s 46-yard punt return.
And then tight end Jonnu Smith notched the second longest offensive play: a 32-yard touchdown off a screen pass from Marcus Mariota.
“He will be a premier tight end when it’s his time to shine,” two-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker said Monday. “I’m just excited that he made them plays because you put film out there now they have to worry about him as well. So I know his role will evolve, and I think with all the rookies as they get better and as the season goes, they’ll have bigger roles.”
Wide receiver Corey Davis, the fifth pick overall, can’t wait. He has been slowed by a tight hamstring and limited to one catch on three passes after his hamstring tightened up on him. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Davis will be day-to-day along with running back DeMarco Murray.
Jackson now has started the first two games for Tennessee at cornerback. He turned in a highlight kickoff return in the Titans’ opening 26-16 loss to Oakland by hurtling a player. Against the Jaguars, Jackson ranked fifth on the defense with five tackles.
His punt return was the kind of play Mularkey has been looking for out of special teams. It was the longest punt return since Dexter McCluster took one 48 yards against Houston on Oct. 26, 2014. Jackson is averaging a league-best 20 yards per return, and the Titans haven’t averaged more than 8.1 yards per return for a season since 2012.
On defense, Mularkey said Jackson played well.
“They hit some short underneath things on him, slants and under routes we call them, but I think he’ll improve again on that after he’s seen it,” Mularkey said. “He’s going to be tested in some things he’s been beat on until opponents see to quit picking on him.”
With Murray’s tight hamstring, a member of general manager Jon Robinson’s first draft class took advantage as Derrick Henry turned in his best game yet. Henry ran 17 times for a career-high 92 yards and a touchdown. Mularkey made clear Murray remains his starter and Henry the backup. Henry is averaging 5.9 yards per carry right now.
“We’re fortunate that we have” that depth, Mularkey said. “Yeah, that’s part of the reason we drafted Derrick.”
With the victory in Jacksonville, the Titans (1-1) snapped a nine-game skid on the road inside the AFC South dating back to a win at Jacksonville at the end of the 2013 season. Now they host Seattle (1-1) on Sunday before a two-game road swing through Houston and Miami.
“There’s nobody in here patting themselves on the back,” Mularkey said.
Notes: Mularkey said S Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) will miss Sunday’s game. CB Tye Smith (broken hand) should be available barring a setback.
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