NASHVILLE – Titans head coach Mike Vrabel held a video conference call with reporters on Monday, one day after the team's 28-25 win over the Houston Texans.
Here's a look at the hot topics as the team heads into a week of preparations as the AFC's No.1 seed.
The Titans will play the weekend of January 22-23 at Nissan Stadium in the Divisional Playoff Round.
-Vrabel noted the Titans played several of the teams they could face in their first playoff contest during the regular season -- the Bills, Patriots and Steelers. So, he said the team will do some advance work on two of the other potential playoff opponents – the Bengals and the Raiders – this week in addition to working on themselves. "We've played everybody but the Bengals and the Raiders, so we'll probably get some advance work done on them and continue to focus on us and what we have to do better, and how we have to play better," Vrabel said. "And try and find ways to coach better and get healthy and continue to work on things we think are important to help you win."
-Vrabel said the Titans will continue to monitor running back Derrick Henry's progress. The Titans placed Henry on the "Designated for Return from Injured Reserve" list last week, which cleared the way for him to practice three days last week. But Henry was not activated for Sunday's game in Houston. "We talk about the same things all the time about the players that are returning from injury, the ones that go back into the football game," Vrabel said. "(It's) 'Can they make whatever they have worse? Can they protect themselves? And, can they reasonably do their job?' So, I think for Derrick, having not been out there, I think there's going to be some looks that he's going to have to get in practice. We're going to have to see how he responds to some cutting and some reactionary stuff. We'll continue to look and see how he is progressing, and then we'll make a decision."
-Vrabel said "playing well is really important" when asked about the importance of having playoff experience, something many of the Titans have after the team's recent postseason appearances. "I think making great decisions, taking care of the football, trying to play complementary – I think all of those things are important. Experience is great, but it comes down to execution."
-Vrabel offered some praise for tight end Anthony Firkser, who caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown against the Texans. "I think Anthony is playing with more confidence, and I think he's done a better job chipping when we've asked him to chip, and I think that has given him more confidence," Vrabel said. "Just for him to be able to start that – I think that really improved the 49ers game, and when we've asked him to go out on routes he has gotten in the routes quicker. He had some really nice plays yesterday. So, I think the confidence level has really improved there."
-Vrabel said the Titans were "leaking oil" and "we weren't very good as a team in the third quarter" against the Texans, as their 21-0 halftime lead shrunk to 21-18. He said he was proud of the way the Titans offense executed in the four-minute offense at the end of the game, however, when the Titans were able to run out the clock with an eight-play, 35-yard drive in the final 4:04 of the contest. Vrabel said the players communicated the keys on the last drive, which made him especially proud.
-Vrabel said he's asked the coaches to compile a list – and he's compiling one himself – of one thing each guy can do to improve, whether that's physically, mentally, or on technique. The reason: Taking care of the little things is important.
-The Titans made several tough catches across the middle on Sunday, from Nick Westbrook-Ikhine to Julio Jones to Firkser. With a smile, Vrabel, who caught touchdown passes in his playing days with the Patriots in addition to his full-time role as a linebacker, said "I never got hit like that. I wouldn't have been going out on passes if I got hit like that." Vrabel credited the players for their concentration, and he said a lot of the success there is because of the trust with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Vrabel also singled out rookie receiver Racey McMath for being aggressive in his pursuit of the football on a play that resulted in a pass interference call on the Texans.
-The Titans had all five of their starting offensive linemen – LT Taylor Lewan, LG Rodger Saffold, C Ben Jones, RG Nate Davis and RT David Quessenberry – play every snap vs Houston for the first time all season. Vrabel noted the Titans have played well when back-ups have been needed to step in. He said the starting group didn't play perfect football vs the Texans, and the challenge is for them to play even better moving ahead.
-Vrabel said he has "a lot of respect" for running back Jeremy McNichols, who was waived over the weekend as the Titans kept running back Dontrell Hilliard instead. Vrabel said it was strictly a personnel decision, while noting "Dontrell has taken advantage of every opportunity." Hilliard ran for 57 yards on nine carries on Sunday, including a big run on 3rd and 2 and an 11-yard run late that allowed the Titans to run out the clock.
-Vrabel said the Titans will be on the practice field this week during the bye week, but he didn't give too much detail on what the practice week might look like. "We're still working through the schedule," Vrabel said.