NASHVILLE – It's time for the Tuesday mailbag, and I'm sure glad we're talking about the playoffs and not the NFL Draft.
With a playoff spot clinch, it's now on to the Patriots.
And time to open up another mailbag …
Reuben Alvear from San Francisco, California
Question: I've been an Oiler/Titan fan since '89. I was stoked to see the guys get into the tournament, as it seems they dig playing for Mike Vrabel. In Wk 16 vs NO as soon as I saw D. Henry on the sidelines I wondered if he was being rested for Wk 17. Well, that choice looks extremely smart! :-) I was extremely stoked for #22. People seem to believe he's had "one good game in his life (vs JAX on 12/6/18)," which makes me wonder what D. Henry have they been watching?? All the critics and experts will not give the Titans any chance to beat New England, which is fine by me. Before the season some football analysts said Tennessee would finish 3rd or 4th in their division because the Texans, Colts and Jaguars all had more talent. The Titans are a gritty, resilient and tenacious bunch. I don't doubt their ability to show up, compete and hit the opponent in the mouth. I believe the Titans' challenge is consistent execution.
Jim: Hey Reuben. You're right on the decision to rest Henry, and it was a smart move. And heading into the playoffs, the team is going to need him now more than ever.
Jack Castonguay from Boston, Massachusetts
Question: Hey Jim! TITANUP!! I wrote in at the beginning of the season as a 'long suffering Titans fan from New England' who was looking forward to the drama and storylines throughout the year... boy did this season (week 17 especially) not disappoint. We're now one of only four teams to have 4 straight winning seasons and at least 2 playoff births, and I feel like we've played our way into a Sunday night game or two next year already. Lots to be excited about even if our boys are sent home from Foxboro with an L. But enough of that talk! My question for you Jim is what might you know about a Boston area watch party for Titans fans who want to support the team but can't afford tickets? I'm not sure if there was anything in 2017 but I'd love to get the conversation going for an option this week. Thanks Jim!
Jim: Well Jack, you have even more storylines now as the Titans head your way. Not sure on the Titans fan party yet. These things usually materialize during the course of the week. Keep an eye out on my Twitter page (@jwyattsports) because I'll tweet it out if I see info. Here's the 411 on Titans fans planning a tailgate at Gillette Stadium on Saturday for anyone interested: CLICK HERE.
Michael Newsome from Drexel, North Carolina
Question: I couldn't be more happy with how the playoffs shook out. I was in Foxboro for the Blizzard of 59 game, and I stayed until triple zeros on the clock and took all my lumps. I was hoping to be there to claim my vengeance in person, but I won't make it out. But can't wait to see the team go introduce themselves to the nation in a big way! Couldn't be more proud of Henry and how the O-line has finished the season, either. I haven't seen the team acknowledge something, though. I may have missed the team's acknowledgement, but Henry has moved into the franchise's all-time Top 5 Rushing Yards list AND the all-time Top 5 Rushing TDs list (passing Steve McNair to #4 in TDs).
Jim: The Blizzard of '59 is another way to put it. 😊
And you're right --- with 38 career rushing touchdowns, Henry passed Steve McNair (36) for fourth place on the franchise's all-time rushing touchdowns list.
Cole Welch from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Can Malcolm Butler return at any point in the playoffs? I can't find a definitive answer on this anywhere. The secondary was our strength early in the season, but the injuries are catching up to them. I love Ty Smith and Sims can do very well at times, but they don't have the experience of Butler that we could need to make a deep run. Love to hear your thoughts! Thanks Jim!
Jim: Malcolm Butler is done for the year. He cannot return this season. Teams are allowed to recall two players from Injured Reserve and the Titans used the two on defensive back Joshua Kalu and kicker Ryan Succop. So you will not see Butler on the field again this season.
Brandes Morris from Peoria, Illinois
Question: Please teach the defense better tackling techniques! PLEASE!!!
Jim: Believe me, you don't want me teaching tackling techniques.
Alejandro Contreras from Aguascalientes, Mexico
Question: Hello Jim. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
We are all celebrating our team playing a January match again; hopefully we'll be celebrating a playoff victory next Saturday. One Comment and One Question. First, I want to stress how important the guys wearing the suits can be for a team when the season progresses. Look at other teams, the bad calls by GMs and HCs really ruin seasons! Not our case though, I think we have a great management in place. I am thinking of Tannehill, Humphries, Vaccaro and other additions on the offseason, and our draft picks J'Simmons and AJ Brown. Most of those guys became "steals", I obviously don't have to mention how important they have been for this playoff run. I guess the kicker situation could've handled better, but who am I to complain, it is a new season now and I am confident Joseph will show up when called upon (he hasn't kicked any 3PAT yet, to my memory, has he?) Second, my question. What is the expected return of Humphries, Raymond and Jackson? I think we will need Adoree' to make our secondary complete against the Pats. Thank you for the time you take every week to answer our questions.
Jim: Good points on the acquisitions. As for the injury questions, Tuesday's Injury Report will begin to provide some clues on all three guys.
Jacob Travis from Nolensville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim, job well done during the regular season! My dad used to work with you at The Tennessean and he's let me know you're the real deal. Keep up the great work!
It's been kind of weird watching this team's long-time identity change from one that depended on their defense to win games to an offensive juggernaut over the course of a season. I am by no means a football analyst but from a fan's perspective, it just seems our defense has taken a step back, ending the regular season 24th in Passing Yards Against and 21st in Rushing Yards Allowed. And just the eye-test of this defense leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the "beat-you-down" aggression (especially in the rush defense) that's been a hallmark of this team over the last decade. I know there is so much more that goes into analyzing team defense so I was hoping to get your opinion on where we stand heading into the playoffs? I've just grown so accustomed to watching a perennial Top 10 defense, it's become confusing and a bit frustrating honestly, to see this dip. I think our offense has carried us to the playoffs and will put us in a position to make a run but defense wins playoff games... do you think we have what we need on that side of the ball to win games in January?
Thanks for your dedicated work to this team and this city, Jim. You've got a family of life-long fans and friends in Nolensville!
Jim: Hey Jacob. Yes, your dad Kent is a great guy. And every time I talk to him, he's bragging about you. Tell him I said hello. As for the defense, it does need to turn things up a notch. But I do believe it's a defense that can win in January. I do think the losses of cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson have hurt the overall play, but tackling was more suspect in Houston and it's going to need to be better against the Patriots. It is weird to see the offense carry the team, but that's what it has been of late.
Some crazy stats:
-The Titans scored 35 points in five games in 2019. In franchise history, only the 1960 (five games) and 1961 (seven) teams scored 35 points five or more times prior to 2019.
-The team's six games in 2019 with at least 400 yards tied for the third-best total in franchise history and the most since 1991 (six).
-The offense's 5,805 total net yards in 2019 ranked fourth in franchise history and amounted to the team's highest total since 1991 (5,987).
But again, the defense will have to return to form if the Titans are going to be able to make a run at the trophy. Thanks for the comments. Maybe I'll run into you in Nolensville – I was there, at Martin's, on Friday night!
Tim Everett from Salisbury, North Carolina
Question: Hello again, Jim! What a game for our Titans, even if it was a second fiddle Texans team. The defense played a great second half, but will face a tougher challenge in the "GOAT" being Tom Brady. What is the status of Adoree? He had his mistakes in the past but has been better this year. Thanks Jim, for all you do!!
Jim: Adoree' hasn't played since Dec 1 since the foot injury in Indy, and he's hardly practiced. I talked to him last week and he's frustrated, but working to get back. I put this one in the TBD category.
Micah Layne from Coalmont, Tennessee
Question: Watch out AFC here we come riding the Henry train from Nashville thru New England thru Baltimore non stop to Miami!!! Maybe a little bit much but who has a QB throwing this good and the league leading rusher? The Titans Baby!!! To see where this team has come from and where we ended the season is amazing. I was proven wrong about our OC after the slow start to the season he has shined with his play calling the second half of the season! Congrats to the Team and Organization on a great season. WE ARE NOT DONE!!!!TITAN UP!! Thanks Jim.
Jim: Appreciate the feedback, Micah.
Alan Ray from College Grove, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. I wonder what the naysayers are saying now because I believe this Team has done even better than Good to Great by having first gone from Good to Bad. These last 10 games have been like the Rise of the Phoenix. From the ashes to the sky. Also, the players. Great guys all but I mean, does it get any better than Derrick Henry? For the moment, set aside his Rushing Title, forget he has the most TDs for a RB this season and just look at the man. Derrick is one of the kindest, humblest, and most thankful persons I have ever seen considering his immense talent, admirable achievements, and famed notoriety. He has the courage of a Lion, the spirit of a Warrior, and the heart of an Angel. With the Rushing Title, he thanked the people in the kitchen and the cleaning staff. After pre-game warm ups, he sought out a loyal Titan's/Henry Fan suffering from cancer he'd read about and gave him the gift of a moment of consoling friendship and some photo ops. What a blessing he is to his teammates, Nashville, and the planet. And he's a pretty good football player. We are blessed he is a Titan. Anyway, I feel better about us going to play the Pats than I did KC. They can do this! Happy New Year Everyone and Titan up!
Jim: Hey Alan. It was a memorable day in Houston, no doubt. Now the Titans need to go erase some bad memories in Foxborough against the Patriots. It won't be easy. Thanks for taking the time.
Henry Martin from Jacksonville, Florida
Question: Hello from Jacksonville!!! I just want to say GREAT JOB by the Titans, not just the players but everyone in the organization. I have been saying it ALL year long......BELIEVE!!!! It was not the prettiest season, but everyone grinded out until the end and punched our ticket into the playoffs. Last thing I want to say is for all those fans that bailed out after the Bills or Broncos game and want to come back.........YOU ARE NOT TRUE FANS!!!!
Jim: Everyone is welcome here, Henry. I will say the mood of a lot of folks sure has improved. It's been a while since I got one of those "Fire Everyone!" emails …
Dan Broadwater from Grantsville, Maryland
Question: Hey Jim. Great win. Happy for Derrick. Happy for the team. Happy to be a fan. A few weeks ago I wrote you for the first time asking your opinion on getting Mariota involved in the offense somehow in a package to give the defense one more thing to prepare for. Well, it happened this week. Vrabel said after the game about expanding on that package. I think it has potential to be electric if they get it right with the running/receiving abilities of both Mariota and Tannehill. Is this something you've seen them practice and what do you think the possibilities are?
Jim: Hey Dan. I get to watch practices, but I can't share what I see or else I'd be banned from practices, or fired. So I'm not about to tip off the Patriots heading into Saturday regarding anything I've witnessed. Instead, I'll just use an emoji: 😲.
Have a great week everyone and Happy New Year! 🎉