Titans coaching closeup: Mike Mularkey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Most days of camp I hope to position myself to watch a new Tennessee Titans assistant coach work with his position group.

“I want them to be good teachers and set the right environment for our players, from a learning aspect,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

A few days ago I watched Mike Mularkey work with the tight ends, but I didn’t have a vantage point to hear Mularkey much.

The tight ends worked with offensive tackles early on, concentrating on synchronizing blocks as they come off the line of scrimmage. A tackle-tight end duo worked on double-teaming a defender, with one of them then breaking off to take a player coming from the second level.

When the tight ends broke off to work on their own, they spent time on getting into position to be ready for initial contact with a defender after the snap. That expanded into setting, giving a shove to the first defender, fanning out a bit to hit a second, and fanning out more to get a third. Thud, thud, thud on the blocking pads being held by teammates.

Finally they ran some simple routes -- five or six strides and an out cut that came slightly back to the quarterback.

When they moved to join receivers and running backs to take throws from the QBs, Mularkey positioned himself in the middle of the field about 10 yards deep and offered feedback to many of his guys after they ran a route and collected a throw.

Mularkey’s top player, Delanie Walker, talked in the offseason about some of his coaches theses: lifting the keg, stepping on toes.

Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson and the other tight ends are getting more and more stuff like that now.

Walker said forcing a defender to replace his hands is a big point of emphasis. Mularkey uses Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid" and his lesson in "wax on, wax off" with the tight ends. Titans tight ends are repeatedly swiping away a hand on their chest and looking to gain ground and dictate a play as that defender has to spend time and effort replacing his hands.

Mularkey is also big on playing through the whistle.

“He says the referee better blow the whistle,” Walker said. “Because if he doesn’t, we won’t ever stop playing.”