Young's day coming fast

Young's day coming fast
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports
September 3, 2006

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports
GREEN BAY, Wis. – As practice ended last week and Vince Young became aware he was going to be starting the Tennessee Titans' preseason finale, coaches raised some eyebrows as he barked out and brought the team together.

"It was unprovoked," offensive coordinator Norm Chow recalled after the Titans' 35-21 win over Green Bay on Friday. "Usually the veterans do it, but Vince was the one who grabbed everybody up. It was such a spontaneous, natural thing."

And it left at least a few coaches smiling. Young's pep talk about working hard and building momentum ultimately was just another step in an August that has seen a healthy amount of growth from a player many thought would be sitting on the sidelines his whole rookie season. Now Young is going into the regular season as Tennessee's No. 2 quarterback. But reading between the lines, it's looking like he'll be taking over the Titans a little sooner than the draft pundits thought.

"Honestly, for us, his learning curve is about where we thought it would be," Chow said. "He's an awfully disciplined, hard-working guy. I know he comes across as just a fun-loving guy, but when it comes to football, he works at it and he studies it. He's done everything we asked of him."

Young's upward trajectory on the depth chart didn't take long to materialize. As far back as Tennessee's first day of minicamp, head coach Jeff Fisher said he envisioned Young taking regular-season snaps as a rookie. But nobody was sure how quickly some of his perceived kinks would be worked out – things like his ability to take most of his snaps from under center, and his ability to find passing lanes with his sidearm release. Since then, the Titans have been pleased with the strides he's made in every part of his game.

By the time Fisher named Young the starter against the Packers – in hopes of seeing how the rookie functioned with both the starters and against a first-team defense – it was already clear what was in store. Despite the rancor of some personnel people who labeled Young a long-term project heading into the draft, he's looked capable of playing now and eventually becoming a rookie starter.

Fisher sidestepped that thought Friday, insisting that Young's future will be dictated by his continued progress. But Fisher is also hoping to get Young worked into regular-season games as early as the season opener against the Jets. That didn't seem so far-fetched considering his outing against the Packers when he went 7-of-11 for 67 yards and a touchdown with the first unit. The highlight was a 13-play, 73-yard drive which saw Young squeeze a perfectly placed 16-yard end zone pass to Bobby Wade, which was ruled a touchdown by instant replay. That came a few plays after Young just missed hitting Drew Bennett deep on what looked like it would have been a 60-yard touchdown.

"He did a nice job in both series – both the first-quarter series and the third-quarter series," Fisher said. "He made plays, he showed what he's capable of doing. He's moving forward. He's making progress, and that learning curve is moving right along. … It was better after his first game, after the draft and those first few minicamps."

Clearly, there is still plenty of work to be done. Young finished the preseason 29-of-57 for 357 yards, with one rushing and one passing touchdown, along with one interception. On the positive side of the ledger, he appears to have little trouble working from under center, and has shown some patience in the pocket despite his scrambling ability.

But there are still occasional problems both in practice and in games with deflections at the line of scrimmage. He's also had a few minor injury scares: with his ankle in the preseason opener against the Saints; when he banged his hand on a helmet in practice; and with his knee against the Packers.

However, the more pressing issue might be the rest of the offense around the quarterback spot. With the Titans retooling, the offensive line is serviceable at best, and David Givens' hamstring injury in the preseason has left the offense with only two proven options in Bennett and tight end Ben Troupe to start the season. But even with the addition of Kerry Collins, who is expected to start the season opener, it's an offense that will eventually have to be tailored around Young.

"Of course I want to start – every rookie wants to start," Young said. "But I don't want to go out there and not know what I'm doing. I want to go out there and know where everyone is at and at the right time, deliver the ball and have a lot of confidence in myself. I don't want to just go out there and go off talent."

"That's exactly what we want," Chow added. "It's important for us that he's comfortable. … I keep telling him, what he brings – what is so unique about Vince Young – is that charisma that he has for the position. Besides the athletic skills and the football skills, he brings a very unique sense of leadership and charm. And he needs to show that and exploit that."

It's a process that has already started, and from outside eyes, seems to be ahead of schedule. With Collins in the fold, and Billy Volek likely on his way out of town later this week, the Vince Young era in Tennessee is coming sooner than later.

Charles Robinson is the senior investigative reporter for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Charles a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Sunday, Sep 3, 2006 10:43 pm, EDT

Email to a Friend | View Popular