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Podcast: Titans-centric Interviews From the Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- For this week's edition of The Paul Kuharsky Podcast, I recruited three smart friends with great views on the draft and beyond for chats.

You don't want to miss Pete Prisco of CBS, Dane Brugler of The Athletic and Ben Solak of The Ringer.

Prisco covered the Jaguars for a long time before he became a national guy. He sees interesting times ahead for the AFC South with a division better stocked at quarterback, where he's a big Will Levis believer.

Brugler has recently mocked Olu Fashanu to the Titans at No. 7 and sees a realistic scenario where the left tackle vs. wide receiver decision could be made for them. He can envision Marvin Harrison, Jr., Malik Nabors and Rome Odunze all selected in the first six picks.

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Titans' Player Shares Info on What Went Into NFLPA Survey

Titans' Player Shares Info on What Went Into NFLPA Survey

NFLPAINDIANAPOLIS -- The NFLPA's second annual survey of players reveals the Titans are particularly unhappy with two significant categories.

For the second year in a row, they gave the team an F for travel accommodations and they graded the team's treatment of families as a D+ a year after it was a B-.

NFLPA president JC Tretter was able to offer details on the travel grade, but checked the file and had no specific events that contributed to the decrease in the family treatment category.

"They offer roommates, they don't like the travel schedule itself, they don't have enough personal space on the plane, they scored low in all of it," he said.

As for the treatment of families, the report offers two notes, one negative and one positive: "They are one of 12 teams that do not provide a family room during games" and "They provide daycare on gameday."

I know they've had a family room in the past across from the locker room and I've seen action near it. Apparently, it's not been functional since Covid.

"If there is a reason for the drop, I highlight the reason it got worse," Tretter said. "If it was just we now change the way the grades are done, they are now harsher grades, or there are tighter bands of grades, I did not highlight a reason, the grades are just more spread."

The Titans were tied for 16th with a B- in the category in 2022 and are 17th in 2023 with a D+.

I spoke with one member of the team who gave me significant feedback on multiple categories.

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Titans' Prospects to Watch at the Combine

Titans' Prospects to Watch at the Combine

By MIKE HERNDON, columnist

The NFL Combine’s roots trace back to 1982, when team owners recognized an opportunity to collect top talent in a centralized location to gather medical information and organized the National Invitational Camp (NIC). Today’s combine has – like almost everything the league does during the offseason – turned into a made-for-TV event featuring the drills and events we all recognized today over the past 20 years.

Nov 24, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Troy Franklin (11) breaks away from Oregon State Beavers defensive back Ryan Cooper Jr. (1) for a touchdown reception during the first half at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Oregon receiver Troy Franklin/ © Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The core of the combine remains the medical evaluations, but those don’t attract nearly the attention that the rest of the events do for obvious reasons. Reactions to combine test results range from those who completely dismiss the “underwear Olympics” to those who obsess over tenths and hundredths of seconds as differentiators between the next star and the next stooge.

The reality is that combine results – and athletic testing in general – carry far more weight for some positions than others and not all drills are of equal importance across the board. If an edge rusher turns in a horrible combine, that should be a major red flag for their potential to become a top-of-the-line sack artist at the NFL level, regardless of his college production. However, history says that poor athletic testing is less likely to be a disqualifier for inside linebackers or interior offensive linemen.

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Titans Seem More Intent on Solving WR Than Ever

INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Vrabel and Ran Carthon waved at the camera in the corner of the Titans’ draft room and laughed at the people on the other side.

The Titans had just selected tight end Josh Wylie in the fifth round. The widespread presumption about the coach and the GM’s reaction was they were laughing at the fans and media who were calling for receiver help.

Brian CallahanThe team went on to sign DeAndre Hopkins as a free agent in the summer, but it was still predictably insufficient at the position in 2023 as it has been for so often in 24 years as the Titans.

Change is afoot now, however. The team has just its second offensive-minded coach in Brian Callahan and Carthon both spoke as if they will be intentional about adding to Hopkins and an otherwise unthreatening receiving corps that includes oft-injured Treylon Burks and Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell who will be recovering from torn ACL repair, and fringe players Mason Kinsey, Kearis Jackson and Tre-Shaun Harrison.

I asked Ran Carthon if he was determined to address a position that has been so problematic for so long.

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Top Titans' Brass Will Conduct OL Combine Interviews Virtually

Top Titans' Brass Will Conduct OL Combine Interviews Virtually

Ran CarthonINDIANAPOLIS – The Titans' top football people are at Lucas Oil Stadium to watch and meet with prospects. But while Ran Carthon, Brian Callahan, Chad Brinker and Anthony Robinson have the scouting staff with them, Callahan’s new coaching staff is not part of the evaluation process at the scouting combine. 

That’s a departure from what Callahan is used to, as Cincinnati has a sparse scouting staff and leans heavily on its coaching staff.

And the big three --- Carthon, Callahan and Brinker – will head back to Nashville in time to be part of Thursday afternoon’s groundbreaking for the new Nissan Stadium.

“Just the way it goes,” Callahan said of the schedule conflict, which seems like something that could have been avoidable.

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Titans' Mail: Deferring Needs, Derrick Henry Timing, Arena Football

Titans Three Red StarsGreetings people.

No dateline as I am moving between New Jersey and Indiana on Monday. Exciting times.

So here is a pre-combine mailbag as we get ready to hear from Brian Callahan and Ran Carthon on Tuesday as the combine starts to get rolling. Hopefully, we'll get a good deal of new information and insight to discuss out of that and then we'll get to know some prospects a bit.

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A Nine-Man Titans' Free-Agent Class from Mike Herndon

By MIKE HERNDON, columnist

Regardless of your feelings towards Mike Vrabel and the job that he and his staff did over the past two seasons, there is no denying that a big part of the team’s failures over that period can be attributed to a roster that has rapidly deteriorated since the 2021 season. The offensive line stands out as the biggest weakness, but it’s far from the only below-average position group in Tennessee.

In fact, I’d argue that the Titans are currently subpar in every unit on the roster as currently constituted.

Oct 15, 2023; London, United Kingdom; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen (6) after an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
Ravens ILB Patrick Queen/ © Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

To give an idea of just how much help the roster needs as of today, here is the full list of players that are both under contract and very likely – better than a 90 percent chance – to make the 53-man roster when the 2024 season starts (listed in descending order of cap charge):

  1. Jeffery Simmons
  2. Harold Landry
  3. DeAndre Hopkins
  4. Amani Hooker
  5. Peter Skoronski
  6. Arden Key Read More...
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Hard to See Titans Acquiring Tee Higgins in Tag-and-Trade Scenario

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The buzz from those around the Bengals is that the team is likely to put a franchise tag on Tee Higgins, the receiver who would be the top free agent at the position.

That will cost Cincinnati $21.67 million, a big number but one it can make worth given an estimated $53.2 million in effective cap space per overthecap.com. The franchise-tagged safety Jessie Bates in 2022 before losing him as a free agent to Atlanta last season.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) catches a touchdown as Baltimore Ravens safety Ar'Darius Washington (29) defends in the third quarter of a Week 2 NFL football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.
Tee Higgins/ © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The tagging period starts Tuesday and runs through March 5.

The Titans are desperate for receiver help and would likely court Higgins were he to hit the market given his 6-foot-4, 219-pound build and steady production – 24 touchdowns in 58 games to go with nearly seven targets and five catches a game that have produced an average of 63.5 yards a game and 14.3 yards a catch.

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