Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Training camp is moving right along, and now we’re just days away from preseason game No.1
The latest edition of the Titans mailbag, well, it here….
Ian Rogers from Tranmere, England
Question: Hey Jim. I’ve been a Titans fan since 94 and loved every minute, some good and most not so! What a wonderful thing to watch the culture change from afar over the past couple of years. We had an owner who we all thought wanted out, a washed up coach (Whiz) and a team with more than its fair share of rotten apples. Then just a couple of years ago everything changed! “Miss Amy” bought in and ‘brought in’ a rookie GM who has in the best way grabbed this team by the balls and made it relevant again. After letting Coach Mularkey go, JRob bet his own future on Coach Vrabel and showed us that he was now truly in control of the football operation having gained the absolute trust of the owner. My question is how apparent is the culture change within the building? Having been around the organization for so long you must see a huge difference?
Finally, I look forward to my Titans coming to Wembley so that I can see them live for the first time since 08 when I came to the Browns game when we last clinched the AFC South. That was a 14,000-mile round trip as I was in the RAF, stationed in Akrotiri, Cyprus at the time. Now I can introduce my 11-year old son Christopher to Titans football. Keep up the good work and TitanUp!
Jim: Hey Ian. Well, that’s a pretty good take, and to the point! 🙂
The culture change is definitely apparent. I was around for the glory days, covering the team for The Tennessean during four playoff appearances in five years from 1999-2003. I’ve also been around for some dud years, including 2004 and 2005. My first year with the team was 2015, when the team finished 3-13. Whisenhunt was replaced that same year. Things have changed dramatically since, and Amy Adams Strunk and GM Jon Robinson have led the way. Now, coach Vrabel is taking control of things on the field, and I like the look of things, how the team is being coached. Yes, it’s a huge difference, and there’s reason to be optimistic moving forward. Appreciate the email. Hope to see you at Wembley!
Trevon Walker from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. I know you get a million questions but I promise you if you answer this one you’ll be answering the question of almost EVERY fan. Can you ask Coach Vrabel or coach LeFleur if Adoree’ will get a chance to get some handoffs at RB during the preseason? Despite the fact that he’s becoming a great CB we can’t deny the fact that Adoree due to his elusiveness, ball carrier vision, and unbelievable speed may have the potential to also play RB at an Elite level. Even though we’ll obviously keep him as a solid starter at CB we can’t head into the regular season not knowing how good Adoree is at RB after seeing him take 2 of 3 handoffs for 20 yards each last season. There’s no better time to find out if Adoree Jackson is Elite at the RB position than during preseason. I know we’re obviously going to keep him at the starting CB position but we need to observe his offensive skill set to see if it’s best that we find a clever way to get him involved on the offensive side of the ball every now and then. I noticed after watching his runs that he was way too elusive/small for defensive lineman to stop him if he even has a tiny gap to run through. Dion is a good player and obviously our #2/change-of-pace back back but if Adoree is as good as we think we have to find a way to get him involved on offensive sometimes.
Jim: Hey Trevon. Well, they’ve been asked. They’re not committing to one thing or the other at this point. I definitely wouldn’t be looking for it in the preseason. If it happens during the season, they’d like to surprise defenses, so I’d be surprised if they provided any hints of things to come now. I suspect they’ll be careful with Adoree’s work outside the defense. Keep in mind he played the second-most snaps of any player in the NFL last season. In practices, Michael Campanaro has handled punts ahead of Adoree’, although he was back there with the first team on kickoff the other day. At last night’s practice, Adoree’ and Deontay Burnett took turns fielding punts. Stay tuned on this one, but never underestimate the power of surprise.
Anthony Foster from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim! Long-time fan, first time writer. Question: I remember the common theme from last year was our team having problems with getting off to a fast start and getting behind early. Have you seen anything go into effect with the new coaching staff in trying to prevent the Cinderella come from behind theme to play out again this year? Thanks and titan up!
Jim: Hey Anthony. I hear ya. But I think everything that happened last year is now out the window, with a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, and a new season. I can tell you no one is interested in playing the come-from-behind game just for the drama of it all.
Larry Nakasone from Aiea, Hawaii
Question: Howzit, Jim! Much has been said about Marcus working on “widening his base” this offseason which should allow him to get the ball out faster and improve his accuracy. Wait…., what? Marcus has always been known for his accuracy and quick release but now they are an issue?? I realize the ball sailed on him a few times last season but that happens to all QB’s I would imagine. And yes he threw a bunch of picks but could that be due to the route design and tight windows he was forced to throw into? Not saying he’s blameless. Everyone needs to practice to improve their game. Just concerned that they may be tinkering with something that wasn’t broke to begin with. Anyway, keep up the good work and aloha!
Jim: Aloha Larry! It’s definitely been a point of emphasis, and something even Marcus acknowledged he needed to improve following a season when his numbers dipped. He has had a tendency to sail some of his throws, and he’s looking for ways to correct it. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him so far in training camp. Now he just needs to develop more chemistry with the team’s young receiving corps.
Donald Gray from Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Question: Hi Jim! It’s a long question, but I wanted to touch base on something I’m not seeing much of. Our defense. I know the secondary seems to be everyone’s concern, but I feel Byard, Butler, Jackson, etc…will mesh well! What is your thoughts on our LB situation? I like the idea of Orakpo being OLB, but how does Evans stack up with our other LB’s and can you update on some of the other LB’s in the mix and how they fit in the new 3-4 scheme? Thanks Jim!
Jim: Hey Donald. The defense has been the highlight of training camp in my mind. Malcolm Butler has been a tone-setter and playmaker, and the entire secondary has looked good. Unfortunately the team lost two guys this week in safety Johnathan Cyprien and cornerback Tye Smith. Cyprien was scheduled to be a starter, and he was having a great camp. The linebackers need to get back at full strength. Orakpo and Evans haven’t been on the field since the start of camp because of injuries. Some others have looked really good though, from Derrick Morgan to Wesley Woodyard to Jayon Brown. Will Compton and Aaron Wallace are two more guys who’ve been impressive. And Harold Landry is coming on. He had an impressive rush in practice the other day. When the group is healthy, it should be really good.
Ardie Melton from Fair Oaks, California
Question: Hi Jim. Curiosity has gotten to me. What happened to Erik Walden? The guy was a presence last year when called upon. Is there any chance that he re-signs with the team with Dodd officially gone?
Jim: Hey Ardie. Walden’s contract was up, and he wasn’t re-signed. He’s still a free agent, but at this point I’m not expecting him back.
Phillip Ford from Charlotte, North Carolina
Question: I’ve seen the players wearing a certain style practice shirt that simply says Titans across the chest in white as well as Titan Blue, I tagged you in a tweet about it a week ago. I haven’t seen these shirts anywhere online and was wondering how to get my hands on a couple?
Jim: Hey Phillip. I know exactly which one you’re talking about. I have a navy blue and a light blue, but not a white. I’d keep checking the Titans Locker Room store at the stadium. They are definitely tougher to find.
James Adkins from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: With Tajae Sharpe being out last season along with Corey Davis hurt for the majority, the Titans really didn’t have the receiving corps on the same page last season. With Tajae, Corey, Taywan, Rishard, Delanie, & Phillip among others, there is no excuse for Marcus and the skilled players not to have a great year. Add Dion and Derrick to the picture and that’s hard to top. What should we expect from a healthy offense this year?
Jim: It should be solid, but there’s also a transition period with a new offensive coordinator. I’ve seen the group make steady improvement from OTAs to minicamp to training camp. But it’s not where it wants to be yet. Some of the reason is because of the defense, of course. The good news is there’s still time. Rishard still isn’t practicing, and starting RT Jack Conklin isn’t out there yet either. When it gets going, it should be fun to watch.
Damon Webb Sr. from Detroit, Michigan
Question: Haven’t read anything about Damon Webb how is he coming along
Jim: Sounds like a proud pops! Damon is competing, and he’s had his moments. His secondary coach (Kerry Coombs), as you know, knows him from their days together at Ohio State. But his reps have been somewhat limited with more experienced players in front of him. I do expect he’ll get his fair share of playing time in preseason games, when he’ll have a chance to shine.
Christopher Harris from College Station, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim, I love your work, the new coaching staff and our roster. Do you mind addressing some of my concerns?
1) Marcus grew into a beast of an athlete going into the playoffs last year. What is it going to take to get him to play at that competitive, (fearless) mentality all year long? We need that if we’re going to the Super Bowl.
2) The zone blocking scheme of the online requires running backs to have a quick and decisive cut back step. I’m concerned that Henry lacks the footwork required to be successful is this system. How has his footwork improved during camp?
3) Our D-fense was most successful when we got pressure from our interior 3 lineman (Haynesworth!!!), I love Casey, but he needs help. Our D-Line wasn’t addressed in the draft or free agency. I’m concerned that this will be a weakness. Please provide me with some hope that we will improve on the D-Line. Keep up the great work!! Christopher
Jim: Appreciate it Christopher. Marcus definitely showed some moxie at the end of last season, but he’s always had it in him. He’s mostly composed, but we’ve seen other occasions when he’s shown fire. I recall a game in San Diego when a guy hit him late, out of bounds, and he jawed with him. His personality is more reserved, but he can turn on the fiery side as well. As for Henry, he’s looked more decisive in camp, and I do think his footwork has improved. I think he’s poised for a good year, in a tandem with Lewis. Let’s switch to the D-line. Bennie Logan is an upgrade over Sly Williams inside, and Austin Johnson has improved. DaQuan Jones was a disruptive force before he got hurt last season (3.5 sacks in 2 games) and now he is back, and has looked good in camp. So I think the D-line is solid, and those guys will benefit from an improved group of linebackers as well.
Linda C. Black from Dickson, Tennessee
Question: Analysis: Helmet Rule
Q: Why do players tend to lead with their helmets?
A: Low pad levels on OL require DL to stay low. They are rising into a crouched position while meeting each other.
Q: Does the OL have to stay low?
A: The center does. The others stay low so the QB can see to read the defense.
Q: Does the secondary tend to lead with their helmets?
A: No, they do a standing start. When they’re pursuing a runner from the back they’ll be fine. In position to tackle an oncoming runner, they can’t lead with their helmets. The difficulty would be in telling a shoulder first tackle from a head first tackle.
Q: Can the DL do a standing start?
A: Yes, but the OL would still be leading with their helmets.
Q: Would the OL be penalized for leading with their helmets?
A: It is least likely to be flagged here because the OL has to stay low. The main concern is the defense injuring the QB or receivers.
Q: Does a DL standing start give either side an advantage?
This is called Socratic Questioning. I’ve come to the end of what logic alone can tell me. This method tends to simplify things.
Please deliver this email to Jon Robinson.
Jim: Well, Linda, you did my work for me. Questions and answers included! I’ll make sure the GM sees it…
Johnelle C from Kaneohe, Hawaii
Question: Aloha Jim. I just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying the OTPs and the Igniting the Fire series. It is so interesting to see all the people behind the scenes (nutritionist, AV guys, weight coaches etc.) that help our players. I feel so connected to the team this year and it makes the offseason go by quicker.
In one of the OTPs, Amie was saying that she was learning a lot from Coach Mac about film study last year. I especially enjoyed the story about the clicker haha… Anyway I was wondering if there was any way to help educate new fans of football like me. I just started watching football because Marcus got into the Titans. I’m slowly understanding the game/ NFL, but I know there is a lot more to understand. Can we have a series called Film Study with Coach and Amie please? :b That would be the best.
Also, do you know if there will be a pink version of the new jerseys this year with our #8? Can’t wait to buy it.
Mahalo and hope you are having a nice week. Johnelle
Jim: Aloha Johnelle. Happy to have you on board! The OTPs are fun, and Amie and Mike have done a great job with those. I appreciate them letting me hop on from time to time. And the video crew killed the Igniting the Fire series. That was so well done. In the past, I know the team held a Football 101 for ladies, but it’s not on the schedule for this year. But I’m sure Amie would be happy to share her knowledge if you cross paths with her at some point. As for the new pink Mariota jerseys, I checked in with the Titans Locker Room store and unfortunately they don’t have any available at the moment and it’s up to Nike at this point. Sorry. Aloha and Mahalo!
Jeanette Hahn from Ashland City, Tennessee
Question: Is Derrick Henry at all the practices when the fans can come? My son has an unbelievable collection of him with some “authentic” collectable autographs, plus jerseys, etc. I have one thing he gave me I would love to bring if I knew I could get a personal signature & message on it to my son & get a “hug”! I would love to surprise him!
Jim: Hey Jeanette. Derrick is at every practice, but he doesn’t sign autographs every day. Your best bet to get him might be at Saturday’s practice at Nissan Stadium (3:30 pm-6 pm). There’s no guarantee, but guys usually walk around the field and sign for fans in the lower bowl at some point. In previous years it’s been before practice, but the autograph signing was after practice last night. Might be tough to get a hug, though…
Paul Hanson from Guys, Tennessee
Question: What I like most about the direction GM Jon Robinson has taken this team is that it is not a “1 or 2 good year team” he is building. When I look at the roster, we are stacked with young talent. We are a dynasty in the making. Yeah, I said it. I have been a lifelong Titan fan and not since the days of McNair and George have I been as excited about the upcoming season. Here is my question: The Titans Fans were voted worst fans in the NFL during a recent poll. Who was in charge of counting the votes from that poll and are there any other Titans Fans that are as offended as me by those results? After we hoist the Lombardi Trophy this year we will prove what real fans look like and then again when 2019 NFL Draft comes to Nashville! I am pumped!!! Let me hear you Titan nation!!! #TitanUp2018
Jim: That ESPN poll was a joke. Not sure why anyone would put much stock in it. I’ve seen the loyal support from fans at practices and at Nissan Stadium, and my mailbag is flooded every week from Titans fans all over the world. The turnout at the uniform unveil was incredible, and NFL Draft week in Nashville will be off the charts. If this team can play winning football, the support will grow even more, I know it.