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The quarterback on one side, named Marcus Mariota, was barking out adjustments and pointing at defensive players and shifting his own guys into a new play.

The quarterback on the other side, named Kevin Byard, was doing the same thing. Barking, pointing, shifting – reading Mariota’s adjustment and responding with one of his own. And then something happened on the play, can’t really remember what, who cares, it’s training camp. The point is what happened before the snap. And what it says about the Tennessee Titan whose role and importance from last season to this season have increased the most.

Byard knew this was coming right after his rookie season, in a long conversation with Titans secondary coach Deshea Townsend.

“I told him this is now his secondary,” said Townsend, who knew it was coming well before that –roughly a year ago, when Byard came into his rookie camp as a third-round pick out of MTSU and had the defensive coaches murmuring to one another about his ability to pick up Dick LeBeau’s defense.

“The things inside the building, that people outside the building can’t see, the things he’s able to pick up and pull off and do it on the field – that’s a special, special skill-set,” Townsend said of the 5-foot-11, 212-pound Byard. “And this scheme is not one that’s easy. If you’ve followed Coach LeBeau, typically rookies don’t play (in the secondary). Especially at safety because there’s so much you have to learn. … His skill-set within our scheme, it fits the mold of those great safeties that Coach LeBeau always had, with Troy Polamalu and Carnell Lake and some of those guys, Rod Woodson. He’s in that type of mold.”

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Titans training camp day 5
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Titans wide receiver Eric Decker (87) pulls down a
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Titans wide receiver Eric Decker (87) pulls down a catch over cornerback Tye Smith (33) during training camp practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn. George Walker IV / The Tennessean
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Titans wide receiver Eric Decker (87) pulls down a1 of 30
Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) signs autographs
Titans kicker Ryan Succop (4) tries to rally support
Titans fan Chris Westerfield got the opportunity to
Titans fan Chris Westerfield reacts after missing a
Titans tackle Jack Conklin (78) waits for the next
Titans defensive end Mehdi Abdesmad (92) tries to get
Titans outside linebacker Derrick Morgan (91) works
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau watches the
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) throws a pass
Titans wide receiver Taywan Taylor (13) pulls in a
Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (84) talks with Titans
Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (84) talks with Titans
Titans wide receiver Taywan Taylor (13) pulls in a
Titans defensive end Mehdi Abdesmad (92) walks to the
Titans outside linebacker Kevin Dodd (93) feels the
Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) lets an interception
Titans fans try to stay cool as they watch practice
Titans running back Khalfani Muhammad (28) races up
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) lets a pass slip
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) throws a pass
A Titans fan covers her face to shield it from the
Titans wide receiver Jonathan Krause (17) takes an
Titans wide receiver Jonathan Krause (17) takes an
Former Titan Tim Shaw who suffers from ALS visits training
Titans owners Amy Adams Strunk and Barclay Adams visit
Titans wide receiver Mekale McKay (2) works on special
Titans wide receiver Eric Decker signs autographs for
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Titans tight end Tim Semisch (85) watches video from
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Titans training camp day 5
And now, let’s take a pause. Rookie receiver Corey Davis injuring a hamstring Thursday was the first dose of bad news in the first week of a Titans training camp that has been all lollipops and rainbows. Everyone looks good; the fans are happy; the owner is hanging out and signing their oversized footballs; Mike Mularkey is struggling to come up with things to nitpick; and now we have “Kevin Byard” and “Troy Polamalu” being used in the same sentence.

So training camp optimism hall monitors, throw the red flag out on that one. That particular comparison is lofty for most and certainly for a guy who had seven starts, 63 tackles, four passes defended and no picks as a rookie. But keep in mind that Townsend used the words “fits the mold” and also that Townsend played with Polamalu in Pittsburgh and knew his skill-set as well as anyone.

Most importantly, the Titans’ actions say more about Byard than any testimonial could. Look out on that practice field. The four-safety rotation from last season is gone. Daimion Stafford and Rashad Johnson are gone, leaving Byard, returning 14-game starter Da’Norris Searcy and free-agent signee Johnathan Cyprien working with the first team.

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Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) hits Chiefs running back Anthony Sherman (42) during the first half on Dec. 18, 2016. Charlie Riedel / AP
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Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) warms up before the
Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) warms up before the
Raiders tight end Clive Walford (88) can’t make the
Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) warms up before the
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) is wrapped
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) is wrapped
Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) and inside linebacker
Titans safety Kevin Byard (20) recovers his own fumble
Titans rookie safety Kevin Byard (20) intercepts a
Titans safety Kevin Byard (20) breaks up a pass intended
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Titans guard Quinton Spain, left, safety Kevin Byard,
Titans rookie safety Kevin Byard, right, gathers with
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Searcy and Cyprien are rotating. Byard isn’t. He’s out there for every play, as he expects to be in 2017, and he is playing all over the field. And dictating where other defenders are stationed on it. And getting into pre-snap chess with Mariota.

“He looks like a longtime vet the way he makes his calls and gets everybody in the right place,” Mularkey said of Byard, who is charged with leading the revival of a secondary that gave up 4,307 passing yards last season (29th in the NFL).

“Me and Marcus, we like to play a lot of mind games, a lot of cat-and-mouse games,” Byard said. “He knows how to work his eyes and get the safeties off the hash, off the deep middle. He gets me better and I get him better, and I’m just fortunate to play with a quarterback like that.”

Byard was once a quarterback, at Martin Luther King High in Lithonia, Ga., before his coach had him try safety as a junior. The first thing Byard did was look up some of the “Weapon X” videos on YouTube of then-NFL star safety Brian Dawkins.

“It was on from there,” said Byard, who counts Dawkins, Ed Reed and – of course – Polamalu as his safety idols.

Over the summer, he studied contemporaries including Earl Thomas, Eric Berry, Eric Weddle, Reshad Jones and Devin McCourty.

“Just trying to steal a little bit from each of them,” said Byard, whose film-junkie tendencies certainly have helped get him here. “There’s a lot more on my plate now, and for that to happen so soon is great. I’ve got to take advantage of it.”

He looks the part, talks the part and has been given the lead role. The expected returns will come after the snap and in this team’s bottom line.

“I told him in that meeting, I said, ‘This has to be your secondary, and it has to be in the weight room, it has to be in the way you carry yourself, it has to be an every-day thing. If you want to be an elite safety, that’s what you have to do,’” Townsend recalled. “I’ve been around some great ones, and he’s embraced it.”

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This is a quote from Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson from shortly after he traded the number one pick in the 2016 NFL draft to the Los Angeles Rams. In that trade, the Titans gave up the first pick as well as a fourth, and a sixth that year in exchange for the 15th pick that year, two second rounders, a third rounder, as well as a first and a third in the 2017 draft.

“This move does not knock us out of any player, except one,’’ Robinson said. “We now have the ammunition to work the draft and acquire players that are going to be good for this football team.”
As a result of that trade, the Rams got quarterback Jared Goff. In that draft alone, the Titans selected 10 players including tackle Jack Conklin, linebacker Kevin Dodd, defensive tackle Austin Johnson, running back Derrick Henry, safety Kevin Byard, and wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, all of whom contributed for them in 2016. They selected nine in the 2017 draft, including wide receiver Corey Davis who they picked at fifth overall via the Rams first round slot.

The Titans went from a 2-14 outfit in 2015 to a 9-7 team last season who were on the verge of a playoff berth. A similar effort is expected from them in 2017, while the Rams find themselves in limbo with a new head coach who they’ve brought in to put Goff’s career on track after shrugging off the weight of a rough rookie season. So what’s the difference between the two teams involved in this trade from last year? Only one them was patient and (dare I say) trusted the process.

It’s tough to blame the Rams for pulling the trigger to acquire Goff in the manner that they did. They had been floundering in a cesspool of 7-9 seasons that mainly stemmed from former head coach Jeff Fisher’s team building philosophy, one that involved stifling defense and an offense that had a penchant for getting stifled. In any event, Goff not turning into a superstar from the word go was the final nail in the coffin for Fisher in Los Angeles. This begs the question, will the Titans fortunes from the trade influence how teams choose to build moving forward? It looks like they may already have.

It started about a week from the day that the Titans made their trade, when the Cleveland Browns traded the second pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, which was in effect an acquisition of quarterback Carson Wentz in exchange for a windfall of picks. It didn’t work out immediately for the Browns who dodged an 0-16 bullet last year by a missed field goal, but it’s become clear that general manager Sashi Brown is playing the long game. It’s early, but it appears his strategy may pay off someday.

Some of the players he acquired in the 2016 draft have shown promise for Cleveland, and it’s allowed him to work in free agency as well. The Browns have built up a formidable (on paper) offensive line and defensive front seven since that trade, and DeShone Kizer is about as physically promising as any quarterback they’ve had in years. Part of that has to do with the fact that they struggled so mightily in 2016 and acquired the number one pick, something that it appears the New York Jets are actively trying to do in the 2017 season.

While they’ll never acknowledge it publicly, it seems that the Jets front office has been inspired by Tennessee and Cleveland, and if they do earn the number one pick this year, what they do with it will be a very intriguing plot line to watch. The upcoming quarterback class is being hyped as one of the best in years, and if the Jets complete the tank job that they’ve telegraphed as a possible objective for this season, they should have their pick of the litter between Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen. They may in fact just trade out of that spot, as we’ve seen happen with the other teams discussed.

The Jets will have to get creative if they want this rebuild to be done correctly, as Cleveland has shown over the past few seasons. This became apparent with the Browns acquisition of star linebacker Jamie Collins, as well as the pickup of not-so star quarterback Brock Osweiler which got them a second round pick in an NBA-esque salary dump trade. If they are able to pull off a rebuild in this fashion, it certainly answers the question of whether or not the Browns and Titans have influenced the league to embrace a revamp in this manner.

We just saw a similar wonky type of trade go down between three teams as the Eagles, Bills and Rams were involved in a quasi three-way deal which gave Philadelphia a starting cornerback and gave each Buffalo and Los Angeles a starting wide receiver (with Buffalo nabbing another corner as well). In short, it appears that teams are getting more ambitious with the way that they utilize the trade market, so keep an eye on how the Jets navigate that landscape as they focus their eyes on the 2018 draft.

If they do continue bending the laws of how rebuilding in the NFL is done, as we’ve seen with several other teams over the past few years, the Jets will in turn likely influence how teams moving forward do so. As a result, while they are unlikely to prove to be an interesting watch in 2017, New York is very much a team to keep an eye on once the Lombardi Trophy has been pulled down and the standings are reset in February.

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Cheap Authentic Football Titans Jack Conklin Jerseys

Tennessee Titans All-Pro offensive tackle and relatively new first-time father Jack Conklin bought a home in Oak Hill for nearly $1.5 million over the summer.

The second-year pro paid cash and then took out a $1.08 million loan secured by the property.

Located on 1.38 acres, the two-story, 6,500-square-foot brick home has five bedrooms, five bathrooms and two half baths.

Alice Charron of Keller Williams Realty was the listing Realtor for the home. Conklin was represented by Realtor Jane Jackson of Pilkerton Realtors.

The Titans drafted right tackle Conklin out of Michigan State University in 2016.

Following his rookie season, Conklin was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and made the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl as an alternate right tackle.

Oak Hill is a satellite city of Nashville.

More: Titans linemen Jack Conklin, Taylor Lewan protect baby daughters, Marcus Mariota

 
Both Titans offensive tackles, Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, had daughters in the off-season. The two are adjusting to new fatherhood. Autumn Allison / USA Today Network – Tennessee