Some pass completions hide plays won by defense at Titans practice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A pretty pass is thrown, a catch is made and a fast-arriving defender flies by and says "boom."

In a game, is it a completion? A drop? Is there a hit that leaves the target woozy from a hospital ball?

Sometimes such a play translates in a game and happens the same way, minus the defensive narration.

But sometimes a nice completion at an OTA or minicamp practice can actually qualify as a win for the defense.

"Contested catches happen in this league," Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It really depends on how soon he defender gets there. You have to kind of judge it based on what you see off the tape. A lot of it is the progressions and the reads and what they are looking at. Sometimes it's not good, even though you get the completion, and sometimes it is good.

"I'd say it's probably about half and half."

The practice catch looks good. A defender obviously won't be delivering a hit to a teammate in practice. So there is a more quiet satisfaction from the defense and defender to what might well have been a pass break-up in real action.

It's not unlike the big play made by the offense after a rusher slides past a red-shorted quarterback he's not allowed to touch. What happens after that might look great. In a game it wouldn't have happened at all because the play would have been over and the offense would have lost yards.

"When you complete a ball you can look at it, maybe you could have gone somewhere else with it," rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "But the main thing is just completing it and getting as much yards as you can. ... You learn as you go of what plays you can make and what you can't."

As Titans assistant head coach/defense Dick LeBeau views practice film, he said there is no way to be sure what would have happened in a game situation.

"Who would actually make the play in a game? We'll find that out soon enough," he said. "The first thing is that the guys have to get in position to make those plays, and I always feel good when they are in position to make those plays.

"We also talk to them a lot about how they are going to hit that receiver with the rules of hitting a defenseless receiver, and that's our biggest chance to coach that. When they are actually in a situation where they are going cross grain with the ball and the receiver naturally is heading for the ball they have to think right there where their target area is going to be -- about impact angles and things of that nature.

“That's what we try to teach of those situations in the practice atmosphere. And yeah, there are times our defense is in good shape and let our offense catch the ball, but they are doing what we're telling them to do."

Whisenhunt pointed to a Jake Locker-to-Delanie Walker 61-yard touchdown pass in Week 2 of 2014 as an example of a time what might have looked like a doomed throw actually brought good results.

"He caught the corner route and there was a guy right there," Whisenhunt said. "It was one you might call a defensive win in this practice. But in truth it's an offensive win because he didn't make the tackle on Delanie and Delanie scored."

On that play, Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne released Nate Washington from along the left sideline, came to Walker and looked like he would blow up the tight end.

But Walker bounced off the hit, stayed on his feet as he touched a hand down, and raced to a 61-yard touchdown.

A completely different "boom."