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Hot Topics from Titans Coach Mike Vrabel's Monday Press Conference


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans coach Mike Vrabel held a press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team's 20-17 win over the Texans.

This Sunday, the Titans will face the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Here's a look at some of the hot topics:

Update on the tackles

Titans right tackle Jack Conklin is improving and "will probably do a little more this week," per Vrabel.

Conklin has been practicing in recent weeks, but he's been among the team's inactives the first two games as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery.

Left tackle Taylor Lewan remains in the concussion protocol, and tackle Dennis Kelly is out of the hospital, Vrabel said. Kelly was hospitalized last week with an illness.

"Taylor, I would say, is progressing well," Vrabel said. "You don't get the clearance until you practice and then you see an outside doctor. So I can't say that he's cleared, but I would say he's progressing well through the return-to-play protocol."

Vrabel complimented the play of tackle Tyler Marz, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday and started at right tackle.

"He competed and gave us a chance to win, which is exactly what we asked for coming in," Vrabel said. "It was great to see him be a player of note in the game. It was awesome, going up against J.J. Watt your first NFL game. I was happy for him."

"Outstanding" Casey

Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey made a big impact in Sunday's game, sacking Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson twice, and pressuring him on other occasions.

Casey twice pressured Watson on the final play of the game, circling back around before Watson eventually threw the football.

"Outstanding," Vrabel said of Casey. "Outstanding by Jurrell, another guy who will get a game ball. He was the player of the game defensively. His effort, his production. He had some missed tackles, unfortunately those were on the quarterback, so he could have had a few more sacks.

"… We need that every week from Jurrell. That's the effort that we need, and have come to expect from him over the last couple of years."

Praise for Gabbert

Blaine Gabbert, an eight-year veteran who led the Cardinals to a win over the Titans last December, started Sunday's game and completed 13-of-20 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating of 97.3 was the third-highest rating of his career in games with at least 20 passing attempts.

Gabbert engineered a 12-play, 62-yard drive that was capped off by kicker Ryan Succop's game-winning field goal with one minute left.

Vrabel praised Gabbert on Monday.

"Blaine will get a game ball. He made some great throws, and he was the player of the game offensively," Vrabel said. "I think Blaine gave us a chance to win the game and executed two great throws on that last drive."

Game balls

In addition to Casey and Gabbert, Vrabel also awarded a game ball to special teams ace Dane Cruikshank, who scored on a 66-yard pass from Kevin Byard on a fake punt.

"Dane had two tackles on special teams, and obviously had the huge play, the huge catch and run," Vrabel said. "He caused another penalty on special teams."

Vrabel's game ball

Titans center Ben Jones handed Vrabel a game ball after his first NFL win as a head coach in the locker room after the game.

Vrabel said he'll treasure the ball, and the moment.

"I appreciate it, I really do," Vrabel said. "I appreciate Ben, his leadership each and every day, playing through the bumps and bruises. … He plays hard, plays every snap for us, never wants to come out. So he is certainly a leader for us offensively.

"It meant a lot, but it wasn't about me getting a first win against Houston. It was about the players rallying together and giving ourselves a chance to win and executing the situations at the end of the game that we needed to execute."

Rookie debuts

Edge rusher Harold Landry played for the first time this season, and he flashed. He was credited with two quarterback hits while playing 35 snaps on defense.

"I think it was OK," Vrabel said of Landry's performance. "There was some good, some bad. He has to do some things better, but at least we got him out there and we got him started."

Linebacker Rashaan Evans played just one snap on special teams.

Vrabel said Evans continues to work himself into a position where he could play a bigger role moving forward.

"We just have to continue to make sure that he progresses," Vrabel said of Evans. "Moving forward, trying to give him a bigger role to make sure that he can help us. … We'll try to give him a little more this week to help us."

Butler talk

Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler was in coverage on the 39-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Will Fuller on Sunday.

He was also victimized by a deep ball in Week One at Miami.

"I think it is hard to talk about corner play over the course of a season," Vrabel said. "It is hard to evaluate after two weeks. I love Malcolm's competitiveness. I love how hard he plays. There's a lot of great snaps in there, and there are some snaps we'd all like to have back."

Vrabel said the Titans need to do a better job of coaching technique to allow Butler to make more plays in coverage.

The latest on Mariota

Quarterback Marcus Mariota's status has not changed since the end of last week, and his availability for Sunday's game vs. Jacksonville will depend on how much improvement he shows in the coming days.

Mariota was active but didn't play on Sunday vs. the Texans. Gabbert played the entire game for Tennessee,

Mariota, who is dealing with the lingering effects of an elbow injury, will be evaluated again today, and Vrabel said he's hopeful. Vrabel also made it clear the team plans to go with Gabbert until Mariota is ready.

"He is continuing to get treatment, and we want the best for him, we want the best for the team," Vrabel said of Mariota. "So when Marcus is improving, we'll let you guys know his status. … I am hopeful that it will improve as quickly as possible."

As of midday Monday, however, Vrabel said Mariota's status "is probably the same as it was Friday or Saturday," when the team decided to go with Gabbert for Sunday's game.

Mariota continues to get treatment.

"There's some things he can do, and there's some throws that he can't really comfortably make," Vrabel said of Mariota. "So we'll see where he's at as this thing goes on.

"… It could be something that actually … gets better overnight, and it gets better tomorrow. So that's kind of where we're at. We're waiting to see, and every day is a new day."

Mariota didn't finish the season opener against the Dolphins after suffering the elbow injury. He was a full participant in last Wednesday's session leading up to the game vs. Houston, but after watching the session and talking more with Mariota and the training staff, the team decided to scale back his work on Thursday and then again on Friday.

Mariota was injured in the season opener after taking a hit by Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes. Mariota had just handed the ball off to running back Derrick Henry, and he didn't have the ball when he was hit.

Mariota said last Wednesday he's working through some of the symptoms, including some slight tingling, but he's optimistic moving forward.

On Sunday, Mariota supported his teammates like a pro, Vrabel said.

"I thought he was great," Vrabel said. "I think the first guy that I turned around and saw (after the game) was Marcus. He was happy for the team, and he understands that we have to play the players that every week give us the best chance to win. … They all want to play, and they all want to go out there and help the team.

"But you have to be honest with the staff, be honest with your teammates, and say, 'I don't think I am helping the team by playing, and not being at 100 percent. … I think he handled it well, handled it like a professional, and he was ready to back up Blaine if he had to go in there."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 2 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Houston Texans in Week 2 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)