As a special treat to our readers, I caught up with Titans EDGE rusher Derick Roberson ahead of the biggest game of the season this Sunday. Roberson is fresh off a two-sack performance against the New Orleans Saints that landed him a nomination for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.
Roberson discussed the team’s attitude ahead of the do-or-die game against the Texans this Sunday, why Mike Vrabel was instrumental in him landing with the Titans, his impression on the rest of the coaching staff and a whole lot more. This was a fun interview.
JM: What have the last few days been like for you? I imagine they’ve been a bit of a whirlwind. You’ve been inactive for most of the season but you showed up in a major way with a two-sack performance against the New Orleans Saints last Sunday.
DR: Yeah, it was a big day for me. I won’t deny that. I’ve been receiving a lot of praise for that performance but I’m a big believer in the 24 hour rule. I enjoyed it for about a day but then it was time to move on and get ready for the next one. We have a big one coming up here.
JM: How can you try to build on that performance and make sure you carry that momentum forward?
DR: I just have to keep my head down and make sure that I’m working hard. I have to make sure I’m comfortable with the game plan for this Sunday and understand what my role and assignments are. I have to make plays when my number gets called.
JM: I wanna talk a little about how you landed with the Titans originally. The journey of an un-drafted free agent can be pretty stressful. I know they had brought you in a for an official visit. What was that whole process like for you?
DR: I mean, it can definitely be pretty stressful. You obviously have your dreams and aspirations of being drafted. At the end of the day, I knew that I would get an opportunity to prove myself somewhere. I took a great visit up here and coach Mike Vrabel was a big, big reason that I decided to come here. I just hit it off with him right away. I like the staff a lot and I especially love Vrabel. I definitely landed in the right place.
JM: I’ll get to Vrabel a little later. I imagine you had other offers?
DR: Oh yeah, I had quite a few offers. Tennessee was always at the top of my list though. Coach Vrabel came up to Sam Houston and worked me out way before the draft. We did that workout together and I really liked his vibe. I thought we had great chemistry.
JM: You’ve had quite the journey. You were a top 100 recruit and have gone from the University of Texas to Sam Houston State to UDFA to sacking Drew Brees twice in your first NFL game... that’s quite a roller-coaster. Did you ever have moments when you thought you’d never get to this point? Was there anything specific that helped you push through the hard times?
DR: Truthfully, I never doubted myself. I always felt like I’d get an opportunity somewhere and I was confident that I would take full advantage of that. I’ve had a lot of great people in my corner and they’ve helped me keep my head up. From my family, to my friends and my agent, I’ve always had the right people in my corner. Even with the Titans, whether I was on the practice squad or whatever, during OTA’s and so on, all of my teammates here made me feel great about my chances. They constantly told me that I was going to get a big opportunity here as long as I just kept doing my thing and working hard. They helped me understand that I was on the right path.
JM: That’s awesome. What’s the message within this locker room right now? The team is obviously facing a huge “Win and In” scenario this weekend against the Houston Texans.
DR: Everybody understands that this is a playoff game. Our mentality is that we have to win this game no matter what. We plan to win this one, the one after that and the one after that and so on. We don’t have another option. We all wanna keep this going and we understand what’s required of us. We’re just trying to focus on this game right now.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. You have some great teammates here and you’ve touched on that a little bit. One of them would be Cameron Wake, the most experienced and successful edge rusher on this team right now. What’s it been like to learn from a veteran like him?
DR: I mean, it’s been unbelievable (laughs). He was one of the first guys I met when I first got here and I was pretty starstruck. After a while, I realized and appreciated how chill and laid back he is. He’s very humble and he’s an excellent teammate. He’s always looking to lend a helping hand. He’s been so successful in this league and he’s a big leader in this locker room. Even when I got my first sack last weekend, he’s on injured reserve but he was one of the first guys that came over to congratulate me. That’s just the type of teammate he is.
JM: That’s so great. Shane Bowen would be the coach you work mostly with on a day-to-day basis. What’s coach Bowen like?
DR: Coach Bowen is a funny guy. He’s one of the reasons I am where I am right now. He was apart of my visit up here and we had a great time. We sit down together, we go through the plays and he’s very patient. He takes time to make sure his players understand their assignments and what not. He’s a very cool cat. I like how he coaches. He’s a funny guy too but he’s always motivating us to be better than we are.
JM: Dean Pees is a veteran defensive coordinator that’s been incredibly successful in this league. What’s it like playing for a guy like that, and how does it feel to know that you have his confidence?
DR: One thing to know about coach Pees is that he’s incredibly smart. I truly feel like there isn’t anything he doesn’t know about playing defense in this league. He knows it all and he’s an excellent teacher and communicator. He does such a terrific job coaching us. Attention to detail is a big thing for him and he does a great job with the game plan on a weekly basis.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. You had some high praise for Mike Vrabel earlier. You mentioned him as one of the main reasons you choose the Titans over the other offers you had on the table. He’s a very hands-on coach and we often see him working with players one-on-one, especially with the pass rushers. What’s that like? Have you ever had such a hands-on head coach?
DR: I’ve never had a coach like that. I’ve had some great coaches but he’s very hands-on just like you said. I’ve never had a coach like that at practice. Coach Vrabel takes things to another level. He’ll walk around practice and coach every single position group. He’ll go from the offensive line, to the running backs, to us pass rushers and so on. It’s so natural to him. I’ve never had a coach like that. I love that about him. He’s incredibly involved and we appreciate that. Obviously he played in this league for a long time, he was very successful and he has our respect.
JM: He’s certainly one of a kind. That one sack you beat Ryan Ramczyk on was especially impressive. What can you tell me about that one?
DR: I was reading the ball. I felt like I could get him off the edge if I could get a good jump off the ball, which I did. I was watching film all week and I felt like I had a good feel for his tendencies. He shot his hands and I did a good job crossing him up. I was able to get to Drew Brees on that one.
Derick Roberson’s potential is really exciting. This is about as good a pass rush rep as you’ll see against Ramczyk. pic.twitter.com/6vUMH6LIhq— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) December 23, 2019
JM: What would you say is the biggest difference in your game from the start of training camp to right now?
DR: I was able to trust the process through camp and OTA’s and improve in every area I was working at. The coaches have done a great job getting me to this point. I’m playing with confidence right now. I know that I have the trust of my teammates and coaches and that’s a great feeling for a player.
JM: What’s the biggest animal you think you can win a fight against?
DR: I would probably say a kangaroo. They don’t panic as much as some of the other animals. They like to box (laughs). They’re most likely not gonna kick their legs forward at me or anything like that. I feel like a kangaroo is a good, realistic answer.
JM: That’s a good, realistic answer. One of my co-workers, Zach from the F Words Pod thinks he can beat up a mountain lion. He’s crazy, right?
DR: Oh yeah, I don’t know about all that (laughs). A mountain lion? No sir. You saw that video of that mountain lion that was caught on camera, right? Getting near the house? They look like they don’t mess around (laughs). You can tell by how they move they’re about their business. I’m not trying to get into a fight with a mountain lion.
JM: As long as we’re in agreement that he’s crazy. That mountain lion would mess him up! One last fun question here. You’ve praised your teammates throughout this conversation but let’s say you were going to war tomorrow and could only bring one Titans teammate with you. Who are you bringing and why?
DR: I’m bringing Rashaan Evans with me. No doubt about it (laughs). I know he isn’t gonna hesitate. He’s ready for whatever. I know he’s going head on, full force. I know he’d be right there in the middle with me. He’s relentless.
JM: I can totally see that. I’ve appreciated your time tonight, Derick. In closing, it’s all on the line this Sunday. Do you have a message for Titans fans?
DR: We’re gonna do everything we can to come out with a win. I hope we can pull this thing off for y’all.