NASHVILLE – These months keep flying off the calendar, huh?
We're into December, and on to Week 14 in the NFL.
Every game is important now as the Titans continue their quest for the playoffs, and next up is a game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Let's pass the time by knocking out another Titans mailbag…
Darin W from Bountiful, Utah
Question: Hello Mr. Jim -- two quick questions. Does Tramaine Brock come in here and play significant minutes? And is he going to be an impact player for the Titans? I vaguely heard of him before he was claimed. Thank you
Jim: Hey Darin. Yes, because the team needs him. Brock signed on Tuesday and he's practiced all week. Meanwhile, cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and LeShaun Sims missed practices all week and they've been ruled out for Sunday's game. Look for Brock to get significant playing time alongside Logan Ryan and Tye Smith, with Kareem Orr in the mix as well. The good news is Brock has plenty of experience. Brock, most recently with the Cardinals, has registered 11 interceptions, 53 passes defensed and 246 tackles in 113 games of NFL experience over 10 seasons.
John Domes from Antioch, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim, enjoy your posts and your answers to our questions. I have been a fan for about 13 years and currently on my 5th year as a season ticket holder since I moved here from South Florida. This team really seems to be different from previous teams. They seem to be playing with a special kind of swagger that looks very promising. Out of the 20 years of the franchise does this team remind you of a previous team? Thank you for what you do!
Jim: Hey John. Great question. I'm going to say this team reminds me of two teams -- the 2002 Titans, and the 2009 Titans. The 2002 team started 1-4, and a lot of folks wrote them off. The team then won 10 of 11 games to finish with an 11-5 mark, and it eventually made it to the AFC Championship Game, where it lost to Oakland. The 2009 team, like this season, had a quarterback change (Vince Young replaced Kerry Collins) – and an explosive rushing attack -- that sparked a big turnaround. Those Titans stared 0-6 before winning 8 of the last 10 games. Chris Johnson hit 2,006 yards that season, but the team missed the playoffs. This year's team has a lot of potential and it is getting on a roll like both of those squads did. We'll see how things play out for the 2019 Titans.
Lee Pope from Jackson, Tennessee
Question: Just want to start by saying that I became a Titans fan in 1997 when I saw my first NFL game at Liberty Bowl stadium in Memphis against the Steelers. Have been diehard ever since!
Couple quick thoughts from this last mailbag.
1. Mariota is nowhere near a fraud and is what seems to be a good man. He has all the talent needed but has declined mentally since being in TN and truthfully I think he hears footsteps every snap. A change in location I feel may do him a world of good.
2. Guys, come on! December 3, 2006 against the colts, Rob Bironas 60 yds??? I died and was reborn that day. George TRUCKING Lewis was definitely a close second.
3. Ryan Tannehill...... He never came here thinking he was going to play back up for long and the team didn't bring him here to do so. The writing was on the wall but they had to give MM one more shot before they pulled the trigger. Tannehill is a great QB, I always thought so, just in a bad situation. I think the Titans knew that we had a pretty good chance to compete this year and needed a competent stop gap between franchise QBs. I'm just curious if RT sticks beyond next year and if they draft a high-end prospect in 2020?
Jim: I'm with you on No.1. He's a great guy and I hope he does well no matter where he plays next season. Touching on your second observation, that was in reference to memorable games in the Titans-Ravens series, so while the Bironas kick was a memorable moment, it doesn't qualify. As for No.3, I get what you're saying with Tannehill's thought process. But Tannehill never would have seen the field if Mariota's inconsistent play didn't give him a chance. I don't subscribe to the "Titans brought Tannehill in to start theory." The team traded for him so it would be protected if Mariota didn't play well or got hurt, and again, his inconsistent play opened the door. What happens forward remains to be seen.
Nicholas Russell from Memphis, Tennessee
Question: What are us Titans fans expected out of these last four games? 2 out of the 4 are against Houston and we still have to play the Saints. What do you expect and what are the Titans chance for the division looking? Thanks
Jim: What are fans expecting? I can't answer that one, but I have a hunch. And I'm not going to sit here and say the team needs to win 3 out of 4 or win all four or split as long as the team wins both games vs. the Texans. I'm just going to say the team needs to beat the Raiders on Sunday and then go from there.
John Smith from Mayfield, Kentucky
Question: What's happened to Sharif Finch? He was starting now he's active but not playing.
Jim: Hey John. Sharif hasn't made the impact I thought he would make. I just think the time he missed this offseason while recovering from his shoulder injury kept him from reaching his potential, and I think the setbacks he's had during the course of this year provided even more road blocks. Sharif played on Sunday vs. Indianapolis, but he was inactive for five of the eight games prior to that. He has just two sacks in seven games.
Jimmy Dee from Battle Ground, Washington
Question: Hello Jim. I'm getting the feeling that a lot of people are looking past the Raiders and I think that's a mistake. Yes, the Raiders had a bad game against the Chiefs in Kansas but that might not be indicative of how well the Raiders will play against the Titans in Oakland. I just read an article that talked about how Derek Carr doesn't play well in cold weather and Kansas City was cold when the Raiders got beat bad by the Chiefs. I wouldn't expect the Raiders to play bad this Sunday in Oakland where the weather will be good. In addition, both Carr and Coach Gruden have a lot to prove because they're taking a lot of heat from fans and experts, and Carr's job could be on the line for the Titans game and games afterwards. Also, the Raiders aren't out of the playoff hunt but they need to win from the rest of the regular season to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs. All of this means that the Raiders have a lot on the line in Sunday's game and Carr will be playing in the type of weather he plays best in. I expect the Raiders to be very tough to beat and I'm wondering if you hear anything around the locker room that the players are up for the Raiders game or if it seems like they're taking it for granted that they'll win????? I think they need to treat this Sunday's game like it's one that they could lose if they don't play their best football.
Jim: Hey Jimmy Dee. I can assure you no one is looking past the Raiders. If the Titans don't find a way to win, it's not going to be because they kicked back eating "animal style" In-and-Out burgers and walking around Fisherman's Wharf or Jack London Square. It's a tough league. The Raiders have won six games. The Titans will need to play well to win. And the Titans are expecting to get Oakland's best shot after they played poorly the last two weeks.
Jordan Newbury from Cushing, Texas
Question: Howdy Jim. I noticed Khari Blasingame played quite a few snaps in our W over Jacksonville (and he played 23 more snaps – 10 on offense, 13 on special teams – vs Indianapolis). He certainly didn't seem to be a liability on offense and comes across on screen as a true fullback. Is that the case? What can ya tell us about him? Thank you Jim, have a blessed day!
Jim: Hey Jordan. Khari is a tough kid. I watched him play his entire college career at Vanderbilt, and I watched Titans head coach Mike Vrabel make a beeline to talk to him after an impressive performance at his pro day. Blasingame will continue to line up at fullback and on special teams. And if the team needed him to play running back in a pinch on game days, coaches are confident he could do that as well.
Terry Anderson from Glasgow, Kentucky
Question: Hey Jim. Thanks for taking the time to read. Ryan Tannehill has played well since taking over the starting role. I know he's only signed for this season. Have you heard anything about signing him up for a couple more years or do they franchise tag him later?
Jim: Hey Terry. Appreciate you taking the time. I can only tell you these will be questions answered when the season ends, not now.
Tyler Huntley from Virginia Beach, Virginia
Question: Hey Jim. Just wanted to voice my opinion on the Mariota situation. Yeah Mariota did lose his starting job to Tannehill, but that doesn't mean the fan base should trash him. I feel he really brought a winning atmosphere to this team the past few years and especially a playoff win, when we were the underdogs against the Chiefs. Anyways thanks for doing what you do every week we true titans fans appreciate it
Jim: Appreciate it Terry, and you're spot on.
Philip Ford from Hillsboro, Oregon
Question: I've always hoped Dane Cruikshank would be a rotational player one day with his physical tools he had coming in and the plays he has made the last couple years on special teams. Do they just not feel he has the ability to play snaps with all the secondary injuries we are having? He's a heck of an athlete to be a special teams specialist.
Jim: Hey Philip. Dane has gotten better, no doubt. And he's a special teams ace. Right now though he's not going to bump either Kenny Vaccaro or Kevin Byard for snaps, and coaches have relied on safety Amani Hooker for significant snaps in extra DB packages. I'm not saying Cruikshank's snaps in the defense won't eventually come, but I'm not expecting a change in the pecking order for now.
Cason Romero from Thompsons Station, Tennessee
Question: Hi Mr. Jim. How are you? No question this week, but I wanted to share with you that I have a new Unofficial Tennessee Titans Podcast for kids that I just launched last week. Your work on the OTP inspired me to start my own, so thank you! The second episode uploaded this morning. It's a quick listen (under 12 minutes) and I'd be honored if you would take a listen while you're traveling to Oakland this weekend. You're a topic of conversation in both episodes. Thanks for all you do in helping me learn more about the Titans in a super entertaining way! From, The Fifth Grader.
Jim: Dang Cason, just listened to the podcast and you did a great job! You sound like a pro! Even sang your own version of Old Town Road in there, too! Props to mom, too, who dropped some knowledge and also some #momjokes. Rode the Colts out of town? 🤣 Thanks for sharing. I'll include your podcast in here if others want to listen. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/34TE67Q.
Mike Reinhart from New Riegel, Ohio
Question: Jim, For the 5th year in a row, we made the journey to Indy to see the Titans. Every year we are near the Titans tunnel to the field. I am amazed how friendly the Titan's players are early in pregame with autographs and selfies. Is it like this in every city for Titans? Does the organization make a special effort to emphasize to the players to be good ambassadors? Alsom a thumbs up to Indy fans, they are friendly and cordial every year.
Jim: Hey Mike. A great turnout in Indy from Titans fans, huh? Players do a great job of noticing fans and communicating with them in pregame. Sounds like you got there early, which is the best time. Gates at stadiums open two hours before kickoff, and the earlier the better. I've noticed players are more likely to stop coming off the field in early warmups (roughly 1 ½-2 hours before the game) compared to when they're in uniform as the game gets closer, no matter the city. I always tell fans to get close to the tunnel the team comes in and out of.
Blen Henton from Columbia, Tennessee
Question: I have to say the turnaround has been remarkable over the last few games. I think a big part of that is that the Titans now have a dual-threat offense. In previous years, teams could sell out to stopping the run, and if they were successful, the Titans were in big trouble. Now I think we have created a tactical dilemma for opposing defenses. If they stack the box against the run, then we have a credible threat to burn them with the passing game. If they don't stack the box, then Derrick Henry will chew them up with the ground game. I heard one radio personality that nicknamed our offense "Arm and Hammer". I loved it! I must also tip my hat to the special teams play as of late. They have been amazing. My question concerns the running game. Has our success on the ground lately been a result of the improvement in the passing game, or has our success in the passing game been a result of our improved running game? I guess it is kind of a chicken or the egg type question.
Jim: Hey Blen. I have to give credit where it's due here – Mark Howard of the Wake-Up Zone on 104.5-FM came up with the "Arm and Hammer" nickname. I heard several clever ones when they were discussing this past Wednesday. And I have to say I think you answered your own question. I think the two go hand in hand. There's no question the threat of Derrick Henry in the running game has opened up things downfield, and made play-action a much bigger part of the offense. But the success of the passing game – and Ryan Tannehill's ability to throw the ball downfield with success – has certainly helped the running game as well.
Have a great weekend everyone!