NASHVILLE – Welcome to June.
Yes, now we can say: Training camp begins next month.
But let’s not look too far ahead. It’s time for another Titans mailbag …
Jonathan Leavitt from Riverside, California
Question: Jim, I love reading your mailbag, especially once things start to heat up after the draft and OTAs start. A HUGE fan since 1997!!! I've been wondering when our boys are going to get it done against the Colts. I mean come on - Luck has an unbeaten record against the Titans @ 10-0. Many of those losses have been key to not winning our division. Last seasons final game being particularly painful. To me, that beating the Colts needs to be job numero uno this year!!! What in your eyes have we done with the draft & free-agency this year to address positions needed to beat the Colts? Also, another year for Marcus and a yet another new OC... Consistency and Injury have hampered Mr. Mariota nearly every year of his early career. He's had moments of brilliance, and can surely become a top QB in the league, if he can avoid the injury bug. What has Marcus done this off-season to prepare differently than in past years? What is the team (Vrabel) doing to help him with the play-calling consistency, and offensive philosophy this season vs previous years?
Jim: Hey Jonathan. That’s the big question. Luck’s success against the Titans has been well documented. And there’s no doubt the team has to find a way to end that ugly trend. How can the Titans do it? Well, they have to find ways to get more pressure on him, and fluster him. But it’s going to take the offense having success as well. As for Marcus, he’s put on roughly 10 pounds, which makes him sturdier and should allow him to play with more confidence, something I discussed with Hall of Famer Warren Moon during Super Bowl week. Moon was ahead of the curve on the Mariota weight gain talk. But let's face it -- an extra 10 pounds is not going to guarantee him perfect health. Protection needs to be better, and he needs to do a better job of getting the ball out, too. The Titans have also helped him by adding two receivers – veteran Adam Humphries and rookie A.J. Brown. And I have confidence new OC Arthur Smith will put him in good situations.
James Morrison from Amarillo, Texas
Question: Hello Jim. I know there is all sorts of buzz about Suh and McCoy, as well there should be. They are big time players. But there is a player that I have been trying to keep up with more. I read awhile back that the Texans put feelers out for the possibility of trade and have seen a few articles here and there about his landing spots but I haven’t seen our Titans come up in any of them. Have you heard any buzz around us possibly trading for Jadeveon Clowney?
Jim: Hey James. I’ve heard no buzz about a Clowney trade. Don’t get your hopes up.
Kellie Cain from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim big ups! I think I would be really cool to shadow you for a day. There is not many people with your insight on the team since you be covering them so long.
1. I know you posted that the team should stay the same for a while but G McCoy seems to good of a talent/need/fit to pass up on. What are your thoughts?
2. What really stuck out about Marcus 2nd season that helped him have 26:9 ratio and over 3000 yds?
3. I like Cameron Wake and D’Andre Walker but do you think we didn’t go for another veteran because R Evans will be more of an Edge player this year?
Jim: Hi Kellie. You’re right: I have been around a while. 😉 Because of tight access and restrictions, I’m not really allowed to have a shadow around the facility. Otherwise I'd say yes.
Now for some rapid fire answers:
1. McCoy is a great player, and he’d be a great addition. But a whole lot of teams are in the market, and he’s going to demand a whole lot of money.
2. You’re talking about 2016. It was Mariota's best year. He played in 15 of 16 games, and one big thing that helped him was his protection – he was sacked just 23 times that year (compared to 38 in 2015, and 42 in 2018). He was sacked just 27 times in 2017, but he didn’t perform nearly as well that year.
3. Not a lot of guys out there right now. The team is counting on Harold Landry and Kamalei Correa to step up in 2019, along with Sharif Finch. And I do think you're on to something with Evans - I expect him to be more involved as a rusher as well, even if he's not lined up at edge. But more pressure needs to come from inside as well.
Brad Smith from Birmingham, Alabama
Question: Hey Jim. I also wanted to ask about the pressure on Mariota this year... I feel like if he doesn't pan out this year the team has to really scramble. Since no good QBs really hit the FA market we'd either have to trade up to get a star rookie QB (like Tua- the next Flyin Hawaiian) or we'd almost have to start all over again to tank and rebuild. I'm confident in MM8 but I also can't remember a season I've been more nervous for. Am I crazy?
Jim: Hey Brad. Let’s face it, every NFL player is under some kind of pressure. It’s a put up or shut up league. But of course he’s headed into the final year of his contract, so I get where you’re coming from with this. Let’s not forget Marcus and Ryan Tannehill are both headed into the final year of their respective deals, so the team will have options on where it could go, including using the franchise tag. But let’s do forget about getting Tua. C’mon, he’s projected to be the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft so the team would have to be awful to be in range to get him.
Kevin Berkner from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Question: Hey Jim. Your McNair, Young, Mariota comparison article was pretty big eye opener. Looking at the stats compared to Steve and Vince it should be no brainer on resigning Marcus to a long term deal. My question is. With his injuries does that say knock off a deal say from a 5 or 6 year deal to a 3 to 4 year deal ? Maybe kinda show us you can stay healthy and and will show you a longer commitment. Or because of Mariota's injury history do the Titans really just have to worry about protecting themselves here with this re-sign?
Jim: Hey Kevin. Thanks for reading. Here’s the info you’re speaking of - Mariota’s passing numbers compared to McNair and Young after four NFL seasons:
Steve McNair (45 games, 38 starts from 1995-1998)
Stats: 634-of-1,130, 7,659 yards, 56.1 %, 6.8 pass yds/att, 170.2 pass yards per game, 38 TDs, 28 INTs, 78.0 rating, sacked 79 times, 23-22 record.
Vince Young (45 games, 39 starts from 2006-2009)
Stats: 596-of-1,034, 6,843 yards, 57.6 %, 6.6 pass yds/att, 152.1 pass yards per game, 32 TDs, 39 INTs, 72.3 rating, sacked 62 times, 27-18 record.
Marcus Mariota (56 games, 55 starts from 2015-2018)
Stats: 1,015-of-1,605, 12,004 yards, 63.2 %, 7.5 pass yds/att, 214.4 pass yards per game, 69 TDs, 42 INTs, 89.4 rating, sacked 130 times, 28-28 record.
But I’m not going to try and fool anyone by saying the GM will see this and decide to give Mariota a long-term deal based on the numbers. No way. What the team wants to see is Mariota staying healthy, improving, and producing at a high level. While Mariota's stats compared to McNair and Young are pretty eye-opening, the reality is he’s now being compared to the star QBs of today, and moving forward he’s going to have to prove he can be one of them.
David Stalder from Albuquerque, New Mexico
Question: Is A.J. Brown the draftee that's related to Antonio Brown?
Jim: Hey David. No, you’re talking about former Oklahoma receiver Hollywood Brown, who was picked by the Ravens.
Gary Nihipali from Hauula, Hawaii
Question: Aloha Jim, Thank you for keeping us Hawaii fans and others around the world updated with all things Titans. Not a question, more an opinion on the negative Mariota comments. You have to admit that last year was the worst when it came to protecting Mariota, (47 sacks). Some of it was his fault for holding the ball too long, etc. but the majority was the lack of protection for him. How do you expect any quarterback to be injury free taking that amount of hits? What happened? Just a few years back the Titans had the best offensive line and last year with basically the same players it went downhill. Constantly changing coaches and offensive coordinators doesn't help either. Some are even ready to write Mariota off since Tannehill was signed as a backup QB. However. I'm glad to see that improvements were made to bolster the line, especially at the guard positions. I think they've added enough WR positions and should finish shoring up the offensive line. After all, if you're QB doesn't have ample time and protection to make a positive decision either way then bad things will happen. We're a better team than that, I know. I believe that Coach Vrabel, GM Robinson and Owner Amy Adams Strunk are taking positive steps in the right direction to make our Titans a playoff team. And I believe that Mariota will have one of his best years in 2019, Shaka Braddah and TITAN UP!
Jim: Aloha Gary. And thanks for taking the time.
Dave Maniaci from Honolulu, Hawaii
Question: Here is an interesting fact about most 4th Q comebacks of all time. Ryan Tannehill has more comebacks than Aaron Rogers, former Titan Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota, Nick Foles, and Jared Goff. Tied with Cam Newton, Joe Namath and Steve McNair! Tannehill is the best backup QB the Titans have ever had and I believe in the entire league. That being said my question is if certain players play better in certain circumstances/situations would it not be best for the team to recognize that and play the best player for every down and situation? In other words, if a player is a starter, it should not be necessary for them to be the finisher based on game play, run heavy or pass heavy teams, and down situations. What do you think about there being rotational players in every position based on down and situation? Thanks as always for your venerable insight.
Jim: Back-to-back from Hawaii! Aloha Dave. Always dropping some knowledge on us, and I appreciate it. Some positions do rotate players, to keep them fresh, especially on the d-line. But coaches like to see players develop chemistry with one another, especially at o-line and in the secondary, for example. Coaches want to see their best players play. Sure, you’ll continue to see some rotation, including at running back where coaches look for matchups at how the team is being defended. But it doesn’t apply to every position. Hope this is what you’re looking for here…
Phinehas Wiley from Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Question: Hello Jim, hope all is going well. I've been wondering as we come into the 2019 season what will Dion Lewis' role be this season? Will it be the same as last year? Will he see a definite decrease in touches? Also, what do you see the Titans starting O-Line as on Opening Day and last question do you think the Titans will be able to rush the passer more effectively than last year/ in more crucial moments? Thank You for doing this Jim!
Jim: Perfect timing Phinehas. Because this gives me a chance to hammer home the fact coaches will rotate players. Derrick Henry is going to get a lot of work this season, but the team is going to play Dion Lewis. In OTAs, he’s caught a ton of passes, and I could see some quick pitches and dump-offs to him in space, where he can make guys miss. How much he’ll play will depend on how games go, but he’s going to have a role, which will be bigger in some games than others. As for o-line, I think the left side is set with LT Taylor Lewan and LG Rodger Saffold, with Ben Jones at center. Kevin Pamphile is my early favorite at right guard (but competition could change things) and we’ll have to see what happens with Jack Conklin in his recovery. I know Dennis Kelly is more than capable of playing right tackle if needed. The pass rush is TBD. Wake will help, and the extra experience of guys like Landry and Correa and Finch. But they’re going to have to prove it.
Have a great weekend everyone!