NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It's finally here. Well, almost.
The Titans kick off training camp in less than a week, so the start of the 2018 season is finally upon us.
This mailbag, well, it's starting now…
Rob S from Delaware
Question: Hey Jim. Are there any players on the team that clearly set the tone as far as tempo and hustle? Karl Klug was always one of those players we'd hear about every year with that type of mentality. Does any group of guys stay long after practice is over perfecting their craft? Also, how do you think Taywan Taylor is adjusting to the new system? As a rookie we saw him make a few mental mistakes, but it seems he's clearly the most talented player we have on the roster to be the 3rd wide receiver in.
Jim: Hey Rob. Good question. Karl is one of my all-time favorites, and I miss seeing him around. The Titans do have a lot of other guys who set the tempo, however, including a relentless veteran in linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Sticking with the defense, I think Jurrell Casey fits the bill as well. Offensively, Taylor Lewan is one of the guys you can't help but notice in practice because of the way he sprints down the field. Delanie Walker is another tone-setter. In reality, the team is filled with hustle guys, though. And with Mike Vrabel as head coach, they'd better be. As for Taywan, he's definitely shown improvement and is adjusting. I think he'll make even more of an impact this season.
Kelvin Ladner from Adams, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim I am super excited about this season as a Titans Fan. Hopefully I will be able to watch some of the games. I am currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Sustainment Brigade from Fort Campbell. Do you think our first and second round picks will start before the season is over?
Jim: Hey Kelvin. First off, thanks for your service, and stay safe! As for Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, I think both of them will make an impact as rookies. Will they start? Well, that remains to be seen. Will Compton and Evans are competing at one of the spots inside, and Compton has the edge as far as experience goes. He's been a productive player during his career. Evans is a talented guy, and he's improving, but he's not just going to be handed the job and he knows it. Another underrated and improving inside guy is Jayon Brown. He's had a great offseason. As for Landry, he's going to play, but he also has some veterans – Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan – in front of him. Again, I think both rookies will make an impact whether they're in the starting lineup or not. And no matter what happens this year, their time will most certainly come.
Mike Fuimaono from Salem, Oregon
Question: Hey Jim, how's it going? Hope all is well. My question is, what has been the all-around atmosphere with Coach Vrabel and his staff, and what are significant differences between the old regime and the new one in place?... Keep up the good work Jim! #TitanUp
Jim: Well, coach Vrabel is an intense guy, and he's not afraid to let a guy know if he's not happy or satisfied with the way something is being done. Heck, I check my stories for typos an extra time with him around. :)
In all seriousness, I covered the team when Jeff Fisher was head coach, and then Mike Munchak. I observed Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey. Vrabel is different than all of those guys. He's an in-your-face coach, and players clearly respect him. He was a part of a winning culture as a player, and he has a heck of a resume. Now his mission is to take this franchise to the next level, and he's going to do it his way.
Jason Burns from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Question: Hey Jim, I am a big Titans fan and long-time reader. Thanks for all of your insights and information. I first became a Titans fan for the 2008 season after a visit to Nashville. I only followed the NFL a little bit and I was way more of a Canadian Football League guy. I didn't have an NFL team so I decided to follow the Titans that season. What a decision it was! 13-3! It has been a little rocky since then but I really do believe that Amy, Jon and the new coaching staff has these team pointed in the right direction. I have watched almost every game since the 2008 season on TV. I try to make it to a game in person every season or two as well. I saw a game during Marcus' rookie season in New Orleans, it was the thrilling overtime victory. I also made it to Nissan Stadium last year for the Bengals game. The Titans are 2-0 when I attend a game haha. I dropped 1200 US (which is about 1600 dollars Canadian) at the Titans Locker Room during my visit. Anyhow I have two questions for you
1 - Has there ever been a Canadian born player on the Titans? I didn't recall any since I have been a fan.
2 - The GM and head coach of our local CFL team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, is a guy from South Pittsburgh Tennessee. Chris Jones is his name. He has been in the CFL and had a great amount of success in the past 18 seasons. He was involved at the college and high school level around Tennessee before he ventured north. I was just wondering if that's a guy or name that you are familiar with.
Have a great rest of the off season! Titanup!
Jim: Hey Jason. Thanks for taking the time. Sounds like you need to keep coming back! Good trivia question. Defensive lineman Stefan Charles comes to mind. He was born in Oshawa, Ontario, and he played at Regina in Saskatchewan. He was drafted by Edmonton with the 10thoverall pick in the CFL Draft in 2013. But he also received interest from a bunch of NFL teams, including the Titans. He then signed with the Titans, and went through camp. He was signed to the team's practice squad, but he left a few months later to sign with the Bills. He's actually still in the NFL, now with the Chiefs. And that's good information on Chris Jones. I must admit, I didn't realize that! Thanks for the info, and best to you.
Carlos Del Valle Leal from Queretaro, Mexico
Question: Hola Jim, feliz cumpleaños. ¿Crees que haya alguna posibilidad de que los Titanes vengan a jugar a México en los próximos años?. Pienso que tenemos un gran equilibrio entre la defensiva y la ofensiva, pero también creo que la adición de un gran WR nos pondría camino al SW ¿existe la posibilidad de contratar un WR?
(Translated: Hello Jim, happy birthday. Do you think there is any chance that the Titans will come to play in Mexico in the coming years? I think we have a great balance between the defensive and the offensive, but I also think that the addition of a great WR would put us on the way to the SB. Is there the possibility of hiring a WR?
Jim: Hola Carlos Gracias por los deseos de cumpleaños. Bueno, el equipo finalmente consiguió un juego en Londres, así que podemos descartarlo de la lista. ¿Quizás México está en el horizonte? No lo sé, pero los Titans nunca han jugado allí y sé que a la liga le gusta repartirlo. Basado en mi carpeta de correo, también sé que el equipo tiene muchos seguidores en México. En cuanto al receptor, el gerente general Jon Robinson parece estar confiando en los muchachos que están actualmente en el roster. Definitivamente hay talento, con Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor y otros en competencia. Tres de los cuatro son jóvenes y carecen de mucha experiencia, pero tienen un gran potencial. Tampoco estoy descartando nada. Otros receptores estarán disponibles antes de la temporada también, y podría conversar con Vrabel unas semanas después en el campamento de entrenamiento y decidir si necesita más ayuda. Las lesiones también podrían cambiar las cosas. Entonces tendremos que esperar y ver cómo se desarrolla esto. Que tengas un gran día.
(Hello Carlos. Thanks for the birthday wishes. Well, the team finally got a London game, so we can scratch that one off the list. Maybe Mexico is on the horizon? I don't know that, but the Titans have never played there and I know the league likes to spread it around. Based on my mailbag, I also know the team has a lot of fans in Mexico. As for the receiver spot, general manager Jon Robinson seems to be putting his faith in the guys currently on the roster. There's definitely talent, with Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor and others in competition. Three of the four are young and lack a lot of experience, but they have big potential. I'm also not ruling anything out. Other receivers will become available before the season as well, and he could chat with Vrabel a few weeks into training camp and decide more help is needed. Injuries could change things as well. So we'll have to wait and see how this develops. Have a great day.)
Walter Mitchell from Memphis, Tennessee
Question: Are the Titans planning on pursuing Dez Bryant because he would be the missing link and fill up some seats, just think back to 98-99 when the Titans added Yancey Thigpen with Kevin Dyson and Derrick Mason.
Jim: Hey Walter. Well, I can tell you the Titans aren't going to sign a guy just to "fill up some seats." And I can also tell you the reason the stadium was packed back then wasn't because of Yancey.
Fred Dickel from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Question: Please can we have 1 more guard to help Marcus Mariota for O-line support, and Dez Bryant?
Jim: Hey Fred. The guard position actually has good numbers. Josh Kline is the starter on one side, and it's Quinton Spain's job on the opposite side unless someone beats him out in camp. The team signed Kevin Pamphile (Buccaneers) and Xavier Su'a Filo (Texans) this offseason, and Cody Wichmann is another guy who is held in pretty high regard. I think the starters and chief backup(s) will come from this group. As for Dez, I just don't think he's big enough to play guard. He'd really need to beef up… :)
Tyler Kuppler from Sullivan, Indiana
Question: Jim, let's shift away from football. What's your favorite kind of beer? After games you have to kick back and relax -- what's your poison? Hopefully you say a tall cold can of Lite Miller beer.
Jim: Hey Tyler. I like Bud Light, Yuengling.
Michael Newsome from Drexel, North Carolina
Question: Hey, Jim. I have a merchandising question. Do you know if the Titans be selling jerseys with the 20-year patch on them? The last jerseys I bought were LenDale White and Albert Haynesworth with the 10-year patch. I wanted to buy a couple this year, but the ones for sale in the shop do not show the patch.
Jim: Hey Michael. Asked about this, and was told there won't be jerseys with a patch on them. Sorry.
David Dodson from Crossville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. I have been a fan since the Titans came to Nashville. Love our team this year and hope we can put it all together. My question is about our offense. I am always a little puzzled as to why on third down and short our playbook is to throw the ball 25 yards down the field. Seems like it is either huge first down or punt? Brady and Manning threw more 5 yard passes than anyone I know. Is this the year to keep the offense on the field? Or with the new players are we going to air it out and punt this year again? Thanks for keeping us informed.
Jim: Hey David. I think every team and fan base probably deals with frustration on play-calling at some point. Teams take chances sometimes because they want to catch the defense off-guard. We'll have to see how things play out with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. I do know he's been a part of some really good offenses, so there's reason to be optimistic.
Kenny Gore from Horse Cave, Kentucky
Question: Hey Jim. First I want to thank you for the great job you do w/ fan engagement. I think every Titans' Fan must feel a bit of a connection w/ you. That should mean a lot to them & does to me.
I just finished reading this week's "Mail Bag" & wanted to address a few things in it from a life-long fan's perspective.
1.) Taylor Lewan. A fan suggested trading him. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NUTS IMO. I get that some may look at it as a not so "Team 1st thing to do" - Holding out; that is... However, these men only have a VERY short time to gain the wealth that will carry them through thier entire lives; retirement & all. Most importantly though; I do not think the fan understands how important Lewan is to this team. Starting LTs are in VERY short supply & VERY high demand. If you have one you covet him, if you do not you covet the ones around the league! Pro Bowl LTs are MUCH MORE rare. If you have one; YOU DO NOT LET THEM LEAVE!!! The changes to the college game have made selecting a young Pro Bowl OT nearly impossible. This team has 2 of them IMO. I pray JRob does not trade/let either one get away. We have seen how ugly it can be w/o one of the OT being good. I do not want to see it again. Especially on the "Blind Side"!!! Lewan is a Special Talent & Special Personality to this team IMO. He brings a special Light-Hearted Fierceness I have not seen before in a LT.I never want to see that on an opponents side!! He brings a large part of our attitude to the Oline. You CANNOT replace that w/ just a random guy IMO.
2.) How we gauge improvement this year. I pray this team makes it back to the playoffs. It did my heart a lot of good last year to see MY TEAM in the playoffs again after so long. I was suffering through a set back after knee surgery & it certainly lifted my spirits. However, I do not think we can say that not making it would make the season a "Failure"... There are SO MANY areas that we could vastly improve; improvement in those areas would nearly make up for it. The Pass Rush needs to get better. We need the secondary to improve the amount of turn overs it creates. Outside of Byard; I am not sure there was really a guy in the secondary who got more than 2 picks. On the offensive side of the ball; there are HUGE improvements to be made obviously. I believe we will be playing a much more team friendly scheme this year. I believe we finally have a Coaching Staff committed to tailoring an offense around the talent of the Players. Just making the offense more entertaining to watch; would be a big improvement IMO. No offense to Mularkey. He did a lot for this team. Things we needed in a bad way; for a very long time. He helped change the culture of the team; & that was big IMO. However, the offense was VERY much sluggish & hard to watch much of the time... I hope we make it to the playoffs. However, I think there are MANY ways this team can make big improvements w/o making the playoffs; & still improve as a team. The AFC South, as well as the AFC in general has vastly improved this year. Making the playoffs this year may take at least winning the AFC South; which will be much harder this year just off returning injured players. Our schedule also looks much more difficult. I just wanted to say: To fans of this team. The playoffs MAY not come this year. There will most likely be some growing pains w/ such huge change to the offense & defense. However, that does not mean we made a mistake by making a change. I have faith in Amy Adams Strunk. This Owner has done nothing but good since taking over. Any Male Owner who had accomplished half as much; would be Owner of the Year IMO. I also have a huge amount of faith in Jon Robinson. He has turned this team/roster over nearly completely & changed the climate of the team as well. Vrabel & his staff have done/said all the right things thus far. If they keep doing the right things; wins will come. We just may have to be more patient than we want to be... It may take a year to get past the growing pains of such huge change.
Jim: Good to hear from you again Kenny, and thanks for the comments. You make some good points, so I'm just going to end this with your take…
Have a great weekend everyone!
The Titans kick off training camp on Thursday, July 26 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. The schedule includes 15 open practices, including two with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, plus night practices at Centennial H.S. and Nissan Stadium. (Photos: AP, Donn Jones, Gary Glenn)