NASHVILLE – July 4th is now in the rear-view mirror and now we can start counting down to training camp.
This time in three weeks, it will be under way.
Just like this weekend's edition of the Titans mailbag …
Albert Garder from Flower Mound, Texas
Question: With this year's off-season moves, I'm thinking this could possibly be the best supporting cast a Titans QB has had at his disposal since the Run N' Shoot days with Warren Moon. So a few questions: Assuming what I just said is true, do you think Mariota breaks the 30 TD mark? How do you feel about their playoff chances this year? Finally, what kind of year from Mariota will it take for J-Rob to say he's done enough to extend him?
Jim: Hey Albert. I agree with you about this being Mariota's best supporting cast, and potentially the best in the Titans era. The addition of Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown should boost the offense, along with Delanie Walker's return. Some of the young receivers now have experience and that should pay off. As for 30 TDs? Well, his career high came in 2016 when he went 26 (TDs) and 9 (INTs). That was a really nice season, but it didn't produce a playoff trip like 2017 when he went 13 (TDs) and 15 (INTs). I guess what I'm saying is the team's record is more important than his individual stats. While I think he'll improve on his 11/8 totals of a year ago, a lot of other things come into play, like the success of Derrick Henry and the running game. As for what it would take to extend him, I don't the GM has a magic number on TD passes either. He wants to see improvement, and to see him stay healthy.
Brad Skolnik from New Jersey
Question: Hey Jim. Just wondering where you see Austin Johnson fitting in to the lineup both pre/ and potentially post Simmons return from injury. Austin feels like a player, while he might be making plays that dont get stats recorded, that doesnt really make an impact in a game. When thinking about players on the defense, i can think of at least one big play each player made except for him. I've been watching the Titans for the past 3 seasons, and I feel like hes maybe had 2 sacks in that whole time. Is it time to move on from him after this season? Can we even do that for cap space?
Jim: Hey Brad. Well, he's in the mix, and the team is counting on him to step up and play well. Austin is competing with others, and of course Jeffery Simmons is waiting in the wings. Austin's stats – 2.5 sacks and 72 tackles in three seasons – don't jump off the page. But DC Dean Pees praised him earlier this offseason for doing the dirty work. Does he need to be more disruptive? I have to say yes. Is he fighting for a roster spot? Again, I answer yes. His fate – whether it's in 2019 or beyond – won't be determined by his cap number. It will be determined by how well he performs and if the GM and coaches believe they have others at the position who could be better.
Mike Marsh from Portland, Oregon
Question: When will the 2020 Titans game schedule be available? Thanks.
Jim: Hey Mike. We already know most of the 2020 schedule.
Home: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, AFC East team TBD, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville.
Road: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Minnesota, AFC West team TBD, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville.
David Johnson from McKenzie, Tennessee
Question: Why is Vrabel so tight-lipped regarding injuries and the status of players, like Adoree, Jonnu, Conklin, Jurrell and others? What difference does it make if people know?
Jim: As a former player, Vrabel wants to protect his players. So he doesn't divulge information on injuries. As a former reporter with The Tennessean, I also know part of the job is finding out what folks don't want to tell you. So don't be upset with Vrabel for his mindset/approach. He's doing it his way, and others still have a chance to do it their way. And as Forrest Gump might say, that's all I have to say about that...
David Stalder from Albuquerque, New Mexico
Question: Hey Jim. The biggest risk Robinson made this off season is reaching for Simmons. Yes, he's potentially pro-bowl material, but his recovery is SO wide open, knees are tricky, unless the team knows something we don't. Who knows? Aaron Donald, playing the same position is, well, the best ever. Banking on Simmons to create even half that productivity in the future is ballsy, but it's that kind of calculated risk that really endears me to Robinson. You can tell his decisions are about the team and the team's future. Hope we don't lose him to an upper tier team.
Jim: Hey David. Simmons wasn't a reach. He was a top five talent who fell to 19. The decision was whether the team could afford to pick a guy who isn't ready to play right now or might not be able to play in 2019. ACL recoveries aren't what they used to be, so Simmons will return to form. I don't think anyone doubts that. It's just going to take some time. As for losing Robinson, he's a Tennessee guy who loves leading his state's team. His goal is to make the Titans an upper tier team year in and year our.
Andrew Moore from Williamsport, Tennessee
Question: Hey there Jim. I want to start off by saying thanks. Thanks for the dedication you've shown covering this team whether it be the newspaper, social media or with Titans online. You're a true asset to this franchise.
Now, there is a lot of young talent on this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. When I think of a position that has all the potential in the world, I look at the LBs. Finch, Brown, Evans and Landry. What do you think is a reasonable expectation to put on individual players like Finch or expectations on the tandems of Finch/Landry on the outside and Brown/Evans in the middle going into 2019?
Jim: Hey Andrew. Really appreciate the kind words. I'm fortunate to be in the position I'm in, and believe me, I don't take it for granted. I'll always do my best. I think the Titans are in really good shape at ILB with Brown/Evans/Woodyard, and I was impressed with what I saw from David Long in the offseason. As for the outside guys, Cameron Wake is going to lead a young group with a lot to prove. I'm expecting Landry to make a big jump, and Finch has potential. I don't want to project sack numbers or tackle numbers, but I think the Titans have some nice pieces. It's obvious the GM has a lot of faith in the young guys on the outside since he didn't make any big moves outside of signing Wake and drafting D'Andre Walker in the fifth-round. There's no doubt some guys are going to have to step up and prove him right.
Kenny Gore from Horse Cave, Kentucky
Question: Hey Jim. My question is about a position that has been a problem child for the Titans' for years... The WR position. While I have been impressed w/Davis we still have not seen a WR develop into a 1k WR; let alone a consistent 1k threat. I believe 1 of the biggest challenges to this (Nate Washington also said as much recently on a Podcast) is the Run Heavy nature of our offense. It keeps the WRs from getting meaningful in game snaps. I believe this is why we see other teams develop so many more WRs than we do... Do you see this as well??
Also, 1 of my concerns about the WR positions as it relates to what I just said: AJ Brown. I REALLY believe he has what it takes to be SPECIAL. I rarely go out on a limb about a player (especially our WRs) this early. However, I see it in Brown. Only if we can get him in game snaps to grow early. The more I see/hear from Vrabel about Sharpe; the more concerned I become. This team DOES NOT PASS ENOUGH already. We attempted less passes than all teams except 1 last yr. Meaning teams starting rookies & Multiple QBs passed more than us. We also called more Run, Run, Pass Play Sequences than all teams except 1; while failing more on those sequences than all teams except 1... All this to say: #1 I PRAY WE PASS MUCH MORE THIS YR!!!!!! #2 I hope we actually see Brown used & used well. He can be a 1k WR in his rookie yr IF we use him. I KNOW IT.
Jim: Hey Kenny. I definitely think the fact the team has pushed the run game in years past has played a factor. But this is a different receiving corps, with talent. And while I like Brown a lot myself, I must admit I'm tempering my expectations for him right out of the gate. He's a rookie, and there will be some growing pains. What should make you optimistic is the growth of Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe and the addition of Adam Humphries, not to mention the return of tight end Delanie Walker. I must admit, I can't help but chuckle when you stress the team "DOES NOT PASS ENOUGH." Because I get a ton of feedback from fans who say the team needs to run Derrick Henry more …
Have a great weekend everyone!