Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel just wrapped up an afternoon press conference. With free agency now seemingly in phase three, the NFL draft just weeks away, and the Pro Day schedule winding down, the timing felt right for us to hear from one of the Titans’ head honchos. We haven’t heard from Vrabel or general manager Jon Robinson in several weeks, so you know the local reporters had a bunch of good questions ready to go.
These were some of the best takeaways from the media session.
Vrabel says they’ve made a ton of decisions on the defense with the team’s best interest in mind, but it’s impossible to know how much better they are on that side of the ball until they begin to gather to in person.
Notes that the team had a vision for Bud Dupree and Denico Autry. Vrabel called them “instinctive players that make big plays. They’re difficult players to prepare for in a game.”
Vrabel on Bud Dupree and Denico Autry: These guys are instinctive players who have made plays and been productive. Have always respected how they've played. @Titans— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) April 5, 2021
Vrabel says that they’ve enjoyed the Zoom interviews with NFL draft prospects. Said they’ve probably had more time with the players thanks to the virtual visits. The entire coaching staff and scouting department has had several meetings with several players. The NFL allows 5 Zoom meetings per player.
Vrabel says that Isaiah Wilson did not change their scouting process. The organization will continue to do their due diligence and trust their process. Vrabel adds that they got a bunch of good players in last year’s draft.
Vrabel on what changes in draft evaluation process after Isaiah Wilson situation: We have to continue to do our due diligence and trust the process.— Terry McCormick (@terrymc13) April 5, 2021
Shane Bowen is the DC. Vrabel has nothing to add here when pushed on the topic by multiple reporters. He simply kept repeating himself. He said it’s Bowen’s job to coordinate the defense. Operations and mechanics won’t change. The daily duties remain the same.
#Titans' Vrabel: Fair to say that he's not being particularly expansive about what Shane Bowen's new role entails as defensive coordinator.— John Glennon (@glennonsports) April 5, 2021
Vrabel says he has no idea what the preseason, OTA’s or training camp will look like at this time. Last year was a good experience. The team is prepared to start the offseason virtually. The new team headquarters are still under construction. The team is prepared for restrictions regarding weight rooms, in-person meetings, etc.
Vrabel said #Titans are prepared to start offseason virtually this year, helps that they went through that last season as well.— Terry McCormick (@terrymc13) April 5, 2021
Vrabel has a lot of respect for Dennis Kelly but all decisions are made in the best interest of the team. Vrabel says it was a tough decision. Kelly was a player rep so Vrabel communicated with him a bunch.
#Titans' Vrabel: Lot of respect for Dennis Kelly and what he did for team. Decisions are always tough when you talk about players that have been there for a while, but that's the decision we went in.— John Glennon (@glennonsports) April 5, 2021
When scouting players at bigger programs versus players at smaller conferences, Vrabel says you have to be careful with the stat production. Pay more attention to play speed, instincts and skill-set then statistics. Look at what the testing numbers look like. If a guy had 20 sacks in a smaller conference, pay more attention to the skill-set than the stats.
On Josh Reynolds replacing Corey Davis: We’re excited to have Josh. They spoke to him about the opportunity to play a ton of snaps. He understands the system. He’s versatile. Can play inside and outside. Vrabel went on to call Nick Westbrook a good blocker and special teams player. Says they need to develop Westbrook’s route running ability.
They hope Derrick Henry continues to be durable, productive and a great leader. Henry is putting in the work right now that gets him ready for a long season.
On moving on from Malcolm Butler, Kenny Vaccaro and Adoree Jackson in the secondary: Calls it an important year for Kristian Fulton, just like any other player. Says Fulton got hurt early on and missed valuable reps as a rookie. Calls it an important offseason for him. Says change happens all over the league. It’s his job to coach the new guys up and get them ready.
On Kendall Lamm: Vrabel says that Lamm won’t “step into” the starting job. It has to be earned. It’s an open competition. Ty Sambrailo is in the mix. Both Lamm and Sambrailo are versatile and can play multiple positions. It sounds like an open competition at right tackle.
Vrabel says they considered hiring offensive and defensive coordinators from outside the organization, but felt Bowen and Downing were the best candidates.
Vrabel: @Titans interviewed and considered several outside candidates for coordinator positions— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) April 5, 2021
Says 31 teams all feel the same way right now. If you didn’t win the Super Bowl, you have to self-evaluate. The team is proud of winning the division, but they didn’t win a playoff game and fell short. “You have to reflect and think about preparing differently. That’s always a part of it. You’re just not afforded those opportunities in the middle of the season.”
Vrabel says they’re still looking for good players in free agency. At this stage, it’s more about how they fit the team and roster. They don’t have to be starters, but they have to add value to the team every day.