Alan Lowry, Steve Walters, Ray Sherman and Fred Graves are all good coaches. But Titans receivers under them have been an issue since the team moved to Tennessee.
Did those guys underachieve as coaches, have insufficient talent, or both? And are expectations of receivers unreasonable in a run-based offense?
All that is up for debate.
But new receivers coach Dave Ragone, a former quarterback who’s never coached receivers before, looks to be breathing a different sort of life into his guys so far. He’s far younger and more energetic than the four coaches who preceded him, and he’s showing a creative flair in coaching his guys. After one practice, receivers wrapped their arms around the goal post support, catching balls on the other side of it. Clever.
I think such change is very healthy. But I got excited when Graves arrived and had his guys catching bricks too, so my enthusiasm may be momentary.
Ragone also brings a cannon of a left arm.
“He’s got a Jugs machine tied to his arm,” second-year wideout Marc Mariani told The City Paper's David Boclair. “He takes pride in that. He thinks he can out-throw us and break our facemask or whatever.”
Balls are on receivers quick in practice periods when the coach is throwing, and they have to react quickly and show good hands. On the first day of practice he drilled a ball on the first throw of a period right off Nate Washington's facemask. Washington had to wipe it off before getting back in line.
Boclair accurately notes a major difference from receiver work during the Jeff Fisher regime:
"Seemingly every catch is accompanied by a whack from some sort of pad. Many throws are preceded by multiple cuts around a cone or a peak from behind a tackling dummy. Often, there’s little time to find the ball and react to it.
"'More than anything else, I hope what we do in those drills translates [to game situations] and helps them when they’re actually running their routes,' Ragone said. 'If they can’t see how it works and how it can help them, then it’s not going to be worth it to them.
'That’s more my goal … explaining why it makes sense.'"
I’ll revisit the idea of a quarterback coaching receivers after I visit with both Ragone and Frank Reich of the Colts.
For now, Ragone is definitely a guy to watch.