NASHVILLE – Two weeks from today, Titans fans will be lining up at Saint Thomas Sports Park for the first open practice of training camp.
I can only hope they're lining up to read this weekend's mailbag.
Let's go …
Neil Hayward from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Question: Hello Jim. I have been an Oiler/Titans fan since the Warren Moon era and enjoyed the Titans London game very much, even if the result wasn't in our favour. I look forward to the next trip across the pond to Wembley with great anticipation, hopefully I don't have to wait too long. As to my question, I have seen a number of so-called experts putting the Titans last in the AFC South. I am a bit confused by this as the team would seem to have come through free agency and the draft with mainly upgrades. Is this lack of respect for the team, and are the player OK with being seen as underdogs? Titanup.
Jim: Hey Neil. Well, I'm sure some players will view it as a lack of respect. But complaining about it doesn't win games, and let's face it – the Texans won the division last year, and the Titans need to prove they can beat the Colts before they can make any noise about being picked behind them. I guess being picked behind a Jacksonville team that finished 5-11 – after beating them twice – is questionable, but in the big picture preseason projections don't mean anything. Heck, last year the Jaguars were a popular Super Bowl pick. I'm sure players will embrace the underdog status.
Mojo Kanoa from Mililani, Hawaii
Question: Aloha Jim! Thanks for all you do!! I just got a quick question. Do you think Mariota will be more of a pocket passer this coming season? Really want him to stay healthy and avoid outside the pocket plays that will end up getting him injured. Mariota has yet to have a receiver to surpass 1000 yards. Also, our passing TD's are at a league-low. Just wanted to get your take on this. We have faith that our HAWAII Boy will do great things for the Titans this year and years to come!! Mahalo Jim! Titan Up Yo!!!
Jim: Aloha Mojo! I suspect Marcus will once again work inside and outside the pocket. With the extra weight, he can absorb hits a little more. I'm not saying you're going to see him running the option. But I'm also not going to sit here and say he's going to strictly stay in the pocket. I expect him to pick his spots like previous years.
Patrick Bruga from Petaluma, California
Question: Hi Jim. As you know I'm extremely happy about the team's performance in December especially the dominance of our run game. When I look at Derrick's season highlights I see a Titans helmet on EVERY defensive player. Every individual defensive player is stood up and on the backs of their heels. From the line and TEs to the WRs everyone is executing at their individual job for that play. This really gives Derrick the time to get moving and pick his spots. One thing I've noticed is that often the hole Derrick is heading for is being blown wide open by Luke Stocker. The more I watch what Luke did for the team the more I wish he was still with us. Do you know if Ryan Hewitt is going to be the guy to attempt to fill Stocker's shoes? Will Fluellen be at all considered for this role? Thanks Jim.
Jim: Hi Patrick. Luke was an underrated contributor last year. He got a lot of attention for the 4th down run at the goalline in Houston, but you nailed it – he was solid as a blocker in the running game. That's why the team wanted him back. But he signed with the Falcons instead. Fluellen, as you mentioned, will be a factor on plays when he's in the game. He's added 16-17 pounds and will work at fullback. But the tight ends are going to have to step up. You mentioned Hewitt, but his challenge is to make the team. The team has a bunch of other guys ahead of him in the pecking order at the position, from Delanie Walker to Jonnu Smith to MyCole Pruitt to Anthony Firkser. Hewitt, who joined the team after the June minicamp, will be in the mix during training camp but he's going to need to perform well in a hurry.
Dolores Scott from Wilsonville, Oregon
Question: I love the mailbag and read it regularly. Being a Duck fan and a Marcus Mariota fan, I am now a Tennessee Titan fan and really like the team. I think in February the team added Hroniss Grasu who played with Marcus at U of O. i have not heard about him during OTA's or what position he would be competing for. I know he played center at Oregon. Also you have indicated Marcus has put on weight, but does he have access to nutritionists to make sure it is a healthy weight gain? Thank you for all you do for Titan fans.
Jim: Hi Dolores. Thanks for reading. I wrote about Hroniss earlier this offseason. You can read that story HERE. He's competing at center, but he's battling with some other guys who are ahead of him on the depth chart. As for Marcus, the team has a nutritionist and he has talked about his improved diet. Marcus is pretty disciplined, so I bet he'll stay on track, especially with folks helping him. The team has a brand-new new cafeteria and meal selections, so he'll have a chance to keep a really healthy diet.
Will Morris from Edmond, Oklahoma
Question: Hey Jim. Big fan of the work you do. I was just wondering if there is any possibility that Jeffery Simmons plays this year? I know some people criticized the pick because he was coming off an injury but I wanted to know what his status is looking like as of now. Thanks so much!
Jim: Thanks Will. Way too early to know about Simmons and if he'll play this year. He's roughly five months removed from the knee injury and it's regularly an 8-9 month recovery time. He just started jogging. I've said before it wouldn't surprise me if he sat out the entire season. But it also wouldn't come as a shock to see him late. I can assure you the doctors/trainers/coaches won't rush him. And I can also assure you he's been working hard in rehab. I saw him leaving the facility one morning this past week as I was headed in.
Lucas Bolinger from Gallatin, Tennessee
Question: Hey, thanks for answering my last question regarding the Oilers helmet. This one is simple, but will original AFL teams (Titans, Chiefs, etc.) be wearing 60 year anniversary patches?
Jim: Hi Lucas. Everything I've heard suggests NFL teams will put the focus more on the 100th season than the AFL anniversary. The Titans will have 100th year branding on the front collar of their jerseys, at the 'v' in the top middle, where the team wore a small NFL patch last year. And you're going to see that plenty this fall across the league.
Addy Crocker from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Hi Jim! Do you think that next offseason the Titans will be a big offseason team making trades and picking up free agents? The point is do you think they will be a big offseason team?
Jim: Well, Addy, this probably depends on what happens this season…
Derek Brokmeier from New Bern, North Carolina
Question: Hey Jim, hope you're having a good off-season so far and your family is doing well. I know you have answered this already but I don't remember what the answer was. I'm going to try to drive to Nashville with my 5 year old to attend a training camp practice to try to get autographs. I was wondering what day would be the best to go with the highest chance of receiving the most autographs? I ask bc my son's birthday is on August 2nd and it's an 11 hour drive from where I live and this is the only reason for us traveling to Nashville so I would really like to capitalize on this opportunity. Any advice you could throw my way would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance Jim and I hope you have a great remainder of the off-season. P.S. Titan-Up 👍
Jim: Hi Derek. All is good on my end. It's been a great summer -- made a family trip to Boston and up into Maine, and I went to Omaha, Nebraska to see Vanderbilt win the College World Series. We all snuck down to West Palm Beach for the July 4th weekend. Now I'm counting the days to training camp. As for the best chance for autographs, your best bet is the Saturday, August 3 night practice at Nissan Stadium. I suspect players will sign autographs either before or after the event, but make sure you get as close to the front row as possible. The practices at Saint Thomas Sports Park each day will feature some players signing, but I'm expecting most guys will be signing at the Nissan Stadium practice. More information on that night will be released in the not-so-distant future, but it's scheduled for 6-8 p.m.
Have a great weekend everyone!