Five Hot Topics With Titans HC Mike Vrabel on Thursday

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NASHVILLE – Titans head coach Mike Vrabel took part in a live event for season ticket members on Thursday.

Along with Titans GM Jon Robinson, the head coach tackled questions on player news, offseason updates, draft preparation and more in a session with Titans Vice President of Broadcasting Mike Keith.

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

-Jeffery Simmons, offensive weapon?

Vrabel provided an interesting answer, or tease, when asked about the possibility of using the defensive lineman on the offensive side of the ball by a season ticket member.

"I don't think that is too far-fetched," Vrabel, with smile, said of Simmons. "For Jeffery, he could play a lot of places. Big Jeff can play a lot of different places for us."

-Could running back Derrick Henry be the first player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons?

Vrabel was asked about finding the right balance for Henry while being careful not to overwork him.

"It's no secret that Derrick is a large part of what we are, and who we are as a football team," Vrabel said. "We try to be smart as we prepare. Nobody prepares for the rigors of the season more than Derrick. I'm not going to say that Derrick is the hardest working player in football; I wouldn't do that to the players around this league. But I can't imagine that any of them work harder than he does, and he understands that, and the toll that he is going to take."

Vrabel kidded with a season ticket member who expressed concern over his workload following a year when Henry ran for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns on 378 carries.

"You can't have it both ways," Vrabel said with a smile. "You can't want 2,000 yards, and then have him standing next to me."

"We'll always try to do what is best for the team, and what is best for Derrick," Vrabel continued. "Just be smart and make sure he is communicating with us and how he feels, and we're evaluating his performance."

-Vrabel said the team is preparing for the virtual offseason program, which begins next week.

He said the coaching staff has been together, in-person, in recent months, which has been a big help.

"We've been together to have meetings, and to communicate," Vrabel said of his staff.

Vrabel said being able to attend some of the Pro Days this offseason leading up to the NFL Draft has also helped, even though "it was vastly different than in the past" pre-COVID.

"We've also gotten a lot done virtually," Vrabel said. "I feel like we are ahead of where we were last year as far as communication, our meetings with our coaches, hearing them talk about the players and how they've seen them. But I do think getting out there and being with the players is critical, and it is something we enjoy. But I do think being able to meet with our coaches, and come back and meet with our scouts and Jon's staff, has been great."

-The Titans struggled on defense in 2020, from allowing points to too many third down conversions.

The defense has to find ways to improve, Vrabel said.

"What we want to do is we want to be great, and be better situationally – third down, red zone," Vrabel said. "When you look back at it, the third down was really where opportunities continue to rise. It gives the chance for the offense to get into drives. So being better there is something we are obviously going to focus on and hopefully that can start to improve (the defense).

"We are looking to win, and being an aggressive defense that continues to take the football away. That is something that always is going to be critical, and being really good in the red zone."

-The Titans added veteran Jim Schwartz to the coaching staff as senior defensive assistant earlier this month.

Vrabel provided some insight on how the pairing it all came together. Schwartz has 14 years of experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL including eight years (2001-08) with the Titans. Schwartz joined the Titans after spending five seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles (2016-20).

"Jim is somebody that I've known," Vrabel said. "As we went through our conversations, he was basically a quality control coach for Bill Belichick, and I spent eight years with Bill as a player. We talked somewhat essentially the same language. So, this process is something we talked about since he finished up contractually with Philadelphia. It worked out and I think it works for everybody with what he is willing to do at this point and time and what we'd like to have him do, and help us out. He is local here, he loves the Titans, and he was excited about coming on board and trying to help us in any way that he could just like everybody else in our organization."

Earlier this offseason, Vrabel promoted Shane Bowen to defensive coordinator, and he's expected to call plays once again in 2021 after doing so as outside linebackers coach last season.

Schwartz will be a resource for Bowen, and the defensive staff.

When asked about what role Schwartz could have, Vrabel said he'll help the team.

"I think what his role is, it' just like everybody else, to help the team, to help us win," Vrabel said of Schwartz. "No job is too small for any of us, and I am confident that is what he'll do. As he works his way into what we are doing, it has been good to see him meeting with different guys and meeting with the defense and meeting with me.

"I would imagine that maybe he would look at players for the draft, as we get down here and we get a different set of eyes, a guy that has been around the league for a lot of years and has been successful."

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