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Pickers mailbag: First-string offense in the preseason and The Tennessean's change

pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Greetings as you kick off what I hope is a glorious summer weekend. May it be filled with responsibly consumed Pickers cocktails.

If you missed the Periscope from earlier this week, here it is. I cover my Midday 180 vindication against the ridiculous accusation that I run a burner Twitter account.

I also did a shorter, free-for-all podcast this week. Find it here. Please subscribe while you are there.

On to the questions of the week, and a reaction to the development at The Tennessean.

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Mike Vrabel: 'I don’t know as a coach if I’ll ever be truly confident'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel has a swagger and a charm that makes him seem super-confident.

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And I think he is self-assured in his approach, and his willingness to adapt his approach, as an NFL head coach.

But it doesn’t translate in the way we might expect with regard to his team, at least not in the way he talks.

Asked last week if his confidence level in the team was high and if that was part of having a team event rather than a practice on the final day of minicamp, he basically said no.

“I don’t know as a coach if I’ll ever be truly confident.

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New Titans' offense may not quash multiple tight end sets

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans used three receivers just 44 percent of the time last season, the second-least in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the Rams, where Matt LaFleur coached last season, ran three-wide receiver formations 81 percent of the time, a league-high.SupernawWalkerKC

Tennessee isn’t likely to be equipped to flip from very little to quite a lot.

Receiver depth is a question they carry into the summer break. And while Phillip Supernaw was out for many offseason practiced, presumably for an injury we don’t know the details of, Luke Stocker saw a lot of action along with Delanie Walker.

Tight end coach Arthur Smith said there are some misconceptions about two- and three-tight end sets.

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After offseason of work, Marcus Mariota's wider base is more natural

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – You’ve regularly seen video of a standard quarterback footwork drill: Five long, narrow pads are on the ground spaced out like ebony piano keys. Signal-callers weave through them, up, and back, side to side, keeping their eyes downfield.

During Titans minicamps, those pads were occasionally turned a different direction, creating a lane for quarterbacks to straddle.MariotaPatJags

Quarterback coach Pat O’Hara pointed to make QBs change directions and then to instruct them where to throw.

It was the clearest example of Marcus Mariota’s work on widening his base.

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Why Nashville thinks it's got better than a 50-50 shot to be a World Cup host city in 2026

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Day 2 of the 2018 World Cup, I’ve been pondering Nashville’s chances to be one of the American host cities for the 2026 World Cup.

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While the U.S. combo bid with Canada and Mexico (known as United 2026) for a 48-team tournament outlined the number of games in the states (60 with 10 each in the other two nations) and the number of host cities in America, FIFA can make any adjustments to that it likes.

Nashville is one of 17 US candidates, but Atlanta is one of two cities the U.S. Soccer bid put forth to host a semifinal. Would FIFA want two nearby Southeastern cities hosting games?

Butch Spyridon, CEO of the city’s convention and visitors bureau, doesn’t think Atlanta will foil a Nashville bid.

He said overcoming the perception that Nashville isn’t a soccer town is bigger than competing with Atlanta.

“Until they come, until they witness, then they flip,” he said. “I think we’ve got better than a 50-50 chance. I like our chances.”

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While the NFL will have the ultimate say in how Nashville lays out the draft and surrounding events, the city would like Roger Goodell and those announcing picks would do so from the stage at Ascend Amphitheater.

“Our pitch, my preference is Ascend Amphitheater,” Butch Spyridon, CEO of the city’s convention and visitors bureau. "It’s the money shot for the city – a music venue with the skyline behind you.”

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Photo courtesy of Live Nation, The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp

But to make it work in that setting, it will likely have to expand. The size of the venue “seems to be the only real issue” the NFL has with the idea, he said.

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TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Over the course of an 85-minute practice, both sides will make some plays.

But for the second consecutive day Wednesday, my overriding takeaway was that the offense has a long way to go and put forth a disjointed, choppy effort that centered around receivers failing to get open.IMG 1205 1

Perhaps that’s a tribute to the secondary, where the Titans have a quality trio in Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan.

But they are going against a receiver group missing Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews and Michael Campanaro. That puts Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor at the head of the line. I’m not allowed to say who moves up – because we know that information being out would lead to a season-opening loss in Miami.

But look at who the receivers are after that: Nick Williams, Darius Jennings, Zach Pascal, Devin Ross, Jordan Veazy, Deontay Burnett. Maybe there is some promise there, but I’m not counting on any of those guys to separate in a big situation.

Sustaining good stuff was an issue at times for the offense, Vrabel said. [Unlocked]

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Offense, Marcus Mariota were sputtery at minicamp opener

TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The offense will bump and stall some as players work to master what Matt LaFleur is asking them to do, and I saw a lot of that at minicamp’s opening practice.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

The team is working without its two starting tackles and Taylor Lewan stayed away over his contract situation and Jack Conklin continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in the Titans playoff loss in New England.

Corey Davis only did a little early work, Rishard Matthews continues to be out and Michael Campanaro is also not practicing. The receiving depth was also a factor in a choppy day.

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