NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We're in the final weekend of September, and man did that month fly by fast.
At 2-1, the Titans enter Sunday's game against the Eagles with some momentum, but it's going to take a big effort.
We're also heading into this mailbag feeling good.
Let's do this…
Michael Bishop from Church Hill, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim! I feel it's amazingly impressive that without Jack Conklin, the Titans are (still one of the) best offensive lines in the NFL! The Eagles are sure to test us this week on all 3 sides of the ball and have the depth to give us a big test before the month is over. So my question would be, while both teams are almost a mirror image of one another, would it be more of a game changer to open the passing game up more or to let Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry run loose?
Jim: Well, Michael, it's going to take both. First, some good news. Conklin is expected to return on Sunday, so the first-team offensive line will finally be together. Guys like Tyler Marz and Kevin Pamphile did a great job in his absence. As for the plan of attack, the Eagles are ranked No.1 in the NFL in run defense, and they're stout up front. The Titans will need to have some success running it to set up opportunities downfield. Henry said he's considered his play "trash" so far, so he'll be motivated. With Marcus Mariota back in the starting lineup and closer to 100 percent, I expect the Titans to take more chances downfield, which hopefully will open things up in the running game as well.
Mike Turner from Aguascalientes Mexico
Question: Hi Jim! Huge Titans fan for years and the biggest fan here in Aguascalientes. Haha.
First question is do you think we will get to see the Titans load up the backfield with Derrick and Dion at the same time? Seems like a triple threat on the ground when you include Marcus and a heck of a diversion. I think I we need to pull out all the stops come Eagles time next week. Also one point: Maybe I'm just partial to my Titans but I still feel the NFL channel and others are not giving the Titans the credit they deserve. When our defense plays great their comments are usually something like the opposing teams offense was off. Sorry but I'm pretty frustrated with that. Maybe it's just me. Thoughts?
Jim: Hey Mike. Well, Titans OC Matt LaFleur has been pretty creative so far, so I'm not ruling anything out when it comes to the potential for a two-headed monster. Would be a nice wrinkle, huh? As for credit, I know guys get fired up about that sometimes, and the lack of respect angle, but it's too early to worry about that. It's a long season. Keep winning and respect will come.
Ross Allwein from Orangevale California
Question: Hi Jim. Thanks for all you do. I've been a fan since 1990. I'm still pumped after that win in Jax, and I'm hoping the team gets greedy this weekend against the world champs. To me this coaching staff is right on point, I think a lot of us fans like to coach along for fun and feel we're smart enough to get a W. With past staffs I could see the cracks in the scheme from afar, but even magnified this staff seems to have them totally smoothed out for every situation. My question is: What differences do you see that Vrabel and his staff have brought to the everyday habits of the team. FOR THE BOYS!
Jim: Hey Ross. For starters, Vrabel has a great presence about him. He's a no-nonsense guy who doesn't make excuses, and wants things done right. He'll let guys know in front of everyone if something isn't done correctly, and it doesn't matter if the guy is a seven-year veteran, or an undrafted rookie. He's also proven to be pretty bold in his game-day decisions, going for it on 4th down, running a fake punt, and implementing the Wildcat. Guys have bought into what he preaching.
Jonathon Patten from Portland, Oregon
Question: Hey Jim. First off, thanks for all the reports, mailbags, podcasts, and other hard work you do to keep us Titans Fans informed. Living here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we don't get much on Tennessee up here. Lifelong Titans fan here, starting with the 1993 Houston Oilers, when I was 5 or 6. Actually, my wife is from Houston even, my Mother-in-law once worked for Bud Adams and my wife even played croquet with Amy Adams Strunk in her youth. And I married her without knowing any of this!
Anyway, I got side tracked. My question is, I try not to pay attention to the power rankings this early in the season too much, but I DO look at them. And I really feel like, year in and year out, we are CONSTANTLY in the bottom half to third of the NFL, despite beating highly ranked teams. I mean, come on. We beat the Jags in a game that EVERYONE but Titans loyal thought we had no chance in. We beat a mostly healthy, albeit no Clowney, Houston squad that, once again, no one thought we could win. Were they pretty? Well, that depends. Defensively, we're doing great in those games. I say they were pretty enough. So, how long until we STOP getting the short end of the stick in rankings? I mean, Jags dropped, what, 2 spots after losing to a supposed 20-something team. Meanwhile we move up to... 20-something...? Where's the love?
Jim: Hey Jonathon. Great story on the Adams family. I'll have to ask Amy about her croquet skills. I hear ya on the rankings, and to be honest, this has been the case since the team arrived in Nashville. It's a small market, so the team doesn't get the same exposure. But like I was telling Mike, it's too early to worry about the power rankings. Being high in the rankings doesn't win games, which is more important. I know they're fun to watch, but what matters most is where teams rank in January, and February. Hopefully things will look good then. Appreciate the question.
Matthias Schuster from Rochester, New York
Question: Hey Jim! Are we missing something big without Delanie Walker? I see Jonnu Smith is getting a lot of snaps but 0 targets. Seems like Walker/Smith skill sets align more than Walker/Stocker but Stocker still is getting the targets? Seems like you'd want the ball in hands of guys that can RAC like Walker was so good at. Maybe it's just game flow early in the year but curious to hear your thoughts on if Matt needs to Smith more involved. Ps. Hats off to Amie Wells... loving the OTP! Hope to see you guys in Buffalo! #titanup!
Jim: Hey Matthias. You're right about Jonnu's snaps. He's playing a lot, but he hasn't been targeted much. I do expect him to be a bigger part of the offense, moving forward, in part because of Conklin's return. He might not have a much on his plate from a blocking standpoint. Plus, with the Rishard Matthews development this week, even more guys will be needed from an offensive production standpoint. I'll take the visor off and give Amie a hat tip for you! See ya in Buffalo!
Henry Long from Brentwood, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. What would be the reasoning behind using a much needed and critical CB like Adoree Jackson to return kicks when other capable returners are available who can be replaced much more effectively in case of injury.
Jim: Hey Henry. I get where you're coming from, but one of the reasons the Titans drafted Adoree' was to take advantage of his play-making ability as a returner. He's just been returning punts, by the way. Darius Jennings is handling kickoffs. I understand the risks, but the guy is going to make a big play in the return game at some point.
Tanner Steckly from Iowa City, Iowa
Question: 1) Are the Titans running WR sets closer to Mariota because he can't make all the throws with his injury? I am a believer in spreading the WRs to stretch the defense horizontally and vertically to open running lanes from shot gun, pistol or single back formations. It's kinda like walking through a room with a couple of people compared to a crowd. I am just hoping that when Mariota's feeling comes back we will use the speed of Taylor and Davis to keep the number of defenders in or near the box down because the only way the defense can contain Henry is with a crowd.
2) I watched a video of Ben Jones literally tackling a coyote on the practice field. In the video the camera guy referred to the coyotes as becoming more and more of an issue. Clearly they are getting to comfortable with humans and I can see why they would want to keep them at a distance. Would the organization ever consider getting a couple of practice mascots in guardian dogs. I live in Iowa but just drove down to Knoxville, TN to get my purebred Anatolian shepherd puppy. That bread comes from Turkey and is literally bred to protect areas and livestock from coyotes and wolves. They also make good family dogs yet dwarf wolves and always "know what to do". They are low maintenance and always have the mentality of "Do your job". I guarantee you that you would never see another Coyote. Even though the country side in me loved the video it would be better than watching my starting center jump on a wild animal. Maybe worth a mention to JR; I know Logan Ryan wouldn't hate the idea. Tanner from Iowa
Jim: Hey Tanner. There's no question the offense has been scaled back in recent weeks. Mariota's longest throw last Sunday went roughly 35 yards in the air on a play the Jags were called for pass interference. Everything was short to mid-range because of limitations related to his elbow injury. But he's closer to 100 percent now, so I expect to see more plays downfield. Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur this week talked about the importance of airing it out more.
As for Ben Jones, I have to break it to you, but that coyote wasn't real. The team puts fake ones on the field to keep the geese away. So I guess he got you! :)
Montreal Wells from Charleston, Mississippi
Question: Hey Jim, I have two questions 1st question Why don't we use our big powerful back Derrick Henry every chance we can? If I was Matt LaFleur, Derrick would be in every down as long as it is 3rd and less than 5 now more than 5 yards to get a first down on 3rd down I understand why Dion Lewis is in. 2nd question why don't we use Dion Lewis more in special teams as our KR, PR, and gunner instead of having Adoree Jackson who we count on to shut #1 and 2 WR. And use him on 3rd and long not 3rd and short. Also this is my first time writing you even tho I read and watch every week and thank u for all u do for us Titans fans. #TitanUp
Jim: Hey Montreal. Appreciate it. Henry will get plenty of chances, but Lewis is a great change of pace back who has been effective. As for Adroree', and I mentioned this earlier, I like his play-making ability back there…
Joquez Richardson from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: With Marcus still having pain in his throwing arm, could you still see the coaches opening the playbook a little more even if they see little improvement from this week?
Jim: Hey Joquez. Marcus had a good week. I expect him to be able to do more this weekend from a passing game standpoint, and hopefully he'll keep improving. He's scheduled to start vs the Eagles, with a wider range of plays to work with.
Craig Bowen from Atlantic City, New Jersey
Question: Since I'm an EAGLES FAN and I'm trolling on your website. Should I bring my "SHINE BOX" to the game or what?
Jim: Only if you're planning on shining some shoes. Bring your black polish – mine are a little scuffed up.
Ben Reichel from Ringgold, Georgia
Question: Hi Jim. I have a major concern. Obviously a huge Titans fan as I haven't missed a game since the Titans moved to Tennessee and I try to physically attend at least one game each year. This year I'm attending the Eagles game with my son, niece and her boyfriend. They are all huge Eagle's fans (not sure why).
However, my question surrounds the Titans mascot. The raccoon is an absolute embarrassment. I had to explain to my brother at last years Seahawks game why our mascot was so lame. I honestly didn't know what to say. I'm dreading how I'm going to be at a loss for words again. Rocky Racoon???? Really? How about a soldier or some type of army guy? Please, please tell me change is coming.
Jim: I hope T-Rac skips reading the mailbag this week. His feelings will be so hurt if he sees this…
Mike Temple from Birmingham, Alabama
Question: My question is - Dane Cruikshank displayed some blazing speed on the fake punt TD, has there been any thought to occasionally using him on the offensive side of the ball as a deep threat? Thanks as always for your good work Jim.
Jim: Dane has been great on special teams. But I don't forecast a move to offense. The team has a guy in Taywan Taylor who can stretch the field, and he's much more polished as a route runner. But you never know when Dane may get open on a fake punt…
Anthony Jackson from Austin, Texas
Question: Hey Jim! Just a few quick questions. When do you anticipate Jack Conklin being a full participant with no limitations? And, do you think when healthy, this team can become a top 10 offense in the league?
Jim: Yes on Conklin. He's good to go. On No.2, I think the offense has a lot of potential, but not sure it can reach top 10 status this year, just being realistic. In the future, yes. But that's OK for this year. Teams have gone a long way – and won Super Bowls – with an offense outside of the top 10.
Jordan Newbury from Cushing, Texas
Question: Hey Jim. Greetings from East Texas! I hope you are doing well, sir! I am so very pleased with the grit of our football team! Our defense reminds me of some of our earlier, Fisher era Titan teams; tough and relentless! My question, however, regards our offense. Have you seen the Titans trot out both Henry and Lewis at the same time,yet? And if not, can you see that happening? I imagine that would create a matchup nightmare for opposing D's! Thanks for keeping us informed, Jim!! #TitanUp and God bless!!
Jim: Twice in one week for this question. Let me mention it to the head coach and OC …
Ju Joyner from Suffolk, Virginia
Question: Jim, what are the odds of us getting Dez? We need another BIG play receiver and I feel a Bryant/Davis tandem would be awesome!
Jim: Slim and None, and I just saw Slim in the parking lot waiting for a Lyft.
Isaiah Allen from Colorado Springs, Colorado
Question: Hey Jim! Really excited about the Eagles game on Sunday. Besides that, I watched all of the Titans preseason games, and was impressed with Devin Ross, the undrafted rookie WR from Colorado. I saw he got injured and was released from injured reserve. I follow him on instagram and it looks like he is training and is close to getting healthy. Is there any chance we sign him to the practice squad/53-man roster in the near future? Thanks
Jim: Hey Isaiah. Good question. Devin was impressive, and I think he had a great chance to make the team/practice squad with how he played before his injury. I'll just say I wouldn't rule it out.
Gregory Crouch from Wisconsin
Question: Hi Jim. I talked at you a week and a half ago about the lack of confidence and questioned Vrabel's direction at QB. So good to see the coach's support as well as the support of the players. I understand Marcus isn't 100 percent. But I still feel Vrabel was hiding behind Mariota's injury to see if Gabbert could be the starting QB. Someone as humble as Marcus needs to know the coaches and team are behind him to be successful. I thought at the beginning of the year this team was good enough to get back to the Super Bowl. I still do. GO TITANS!
Jim: Oh man, Gregory, this is a bad take. Appreciate the question, but your suspicions are way off base…
Mark Semone from Modesto, California
Question: Hey Jim, Lifelong Oilers-Titans fan from Northern CA. It all started with my idol Earl Campbell and I have been bleeding BLUE every since. First time in the forum, loyal follower and thanks for all you do keep us informed out here on the West Coast. Not so much of a question I have Jim, but more of it's been a long time since I have seen a culture around this team in which we truly believe we can win each week. I really sense early on coach Vrabel and his style and demeanor are truly paying off, you can tell he is a players coach and he "gets it". Enough from me, I can't wait to keep readin' more of your posts - this weekend should be EPIC. We are that lucky team that welcomes the opportunity to host both Super Bowl participants from the previous season. Titan UP!
Jim: Hey Mark. Thanks for taking the time.
Kenny Gore from Horse Cave, Kentucky
Question: ave fought through a lot of injuries & I will not lie; I was very concerned about the past 2 games. I did not see us beating a dynamic Texans' offense. I did not see us beating a TOUGH Jags defense & offense that pretty much dominated the Pats... Yet, this team FOUND A WAY!! I WILL NOT question them again!! Seriously, if we look back in the past; these are the types of games we would lose. I cannot say how much faith this coaching staff bought w/ these 2 wins! Marcus has NEVER been a question for me. I know many do question him; THEY ARE CRAZY! Marcus has continually WILLED this team to multiple wins! Kansas City Playoff win jumps to mind. I feel he did very similar in the Jags game! I LOVE THE KID!
My question: Do you see the defense just getting more comfortable & better?? I've seen growth in just 3 games. The 1st game was rough; especially w/ the unprecedented circumstances. Houston game was some better; & the Jags game was leaps & bounds better IMO. Do you see the same things; & do you see the defense just getting better as the year goes on??
Jim: Hey Kenny. Good to hear from you. The defense has been solid. It's a veteran group, and there's talent across the board. So yes, I see the unit getting better and better. Some challenges are coming up, of course, beginning with the defending Super Bowl champs on Sunday.
Have a great weekend everyone!
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series between the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)