NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel and his staff have elevated the play of a lot of players on the Titans during his four seasons at the helm of the team.

And the coach’s swagger suggests he feels he can get the job with just about anyone he gets with the right composition.

Mike Vrabel

That fits right in with a theme he struck during his pre-camp press conference on Tuesday when he answered a question about whether the team has gotten more talented around Ryan Tannehill on offense going into the 2022 season.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mark Howard, who spent 16 years as the co-host of “The Wake Up Zone” on 104.5 The Zone after working as a sports anchor at News Channel 5, passed away Sunday at his Bellevue area home in Nashville.

He was 65.

Mark Howard and Terry Crisp

Mark Howard with Terry Crisp, courtesy of the Predators Foundation.

Howard was a very popular host and with good cause – he was an encyclopedia of sports knowledge with a good sense of humor, willing to laugh at himself. He grew up in Connecticut which split his sports allegiances. He was a die-hard fan of the Yankees and Giants but also of the Bruins.

He was a graduate of Ithaca University.

I’m sure obituaries will more sufficiently cover his background.

I just wanted to touch on what Mark meant to me.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One last open weekend before camp starts, so I asked for your pre-camp questions to stuff a mailbag.

Titans Graffiti

I think we did pretty well, so here is your weekend read.

David Jackson What do you think happens next year if we make playoffs and RT has a rebound statistically, looks better, but isn’t successful in the playoffs? But because we were in the playoff hunt we never got to take a look at Willis.

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Titans Training CampNASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans rookies report for training camp on Saturday, veterans on Tuesday and they all will be on the field for the first practice of training camp on Wednesday.

One of the most popular questions I get at this time of year is about how players are paid during camp.

They don’t start to collect on their base salaries until regular season games are played.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the Mike Vrabel era, there have not been many real training camp battles for starting spots.

As camp opens next week that should be different, though I will be surprised if many of the favorites wind up losing out.

Treylon Burks

Treylon Burks/ © George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Let’s take a look at the fights we expect to see, ranked in the order of legitimacy of competition.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Aside from the concerns about the personnel at receiver and on the offensive line and questions about Derrick Henry, the primary question analysts pose about the Titans in 2022 is a familiar one.

Last year’s team did exceedingly well in close games, and the expectation for teams that do well in close games in a given season is that they will regress to the mean the following season.Titans Logo

I’m no statistician and I can’t sort through all the tendencies here.

But I have evidence to suggest that while Tennessee may be a worse football team this year, it won’t be because it forgets how to execute and succeed in close games.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There are plenty of reasons the upcoming Titans’ season can go sideways. 

Personnel issues at receiver and on the offensive line are chief among them.

Mike Vrabel

The defensive front is the top element looked to that can offset the problems.

But as I look ahead to what will unfold, the one thing I think fans of the team should feel most confident about is the guy pacing the sideline wearing the headset.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In Shane Bowen’s first year with the defensive coordinator title, he and Mike Vrabel emphasized a full conceptual understanding of the defense for players at every spot.

They wanted to build on a really bad defensive 2020 when the scope of defenders was apparently too narrow and they thought the unit's failure to fit together was part of the issue for an all-time bad third-down defense and a group that could not find even 20 sacks.

Shane Bowen and Mike Vrabel

Pool photo/ George Walker, The Tennessean

The request was well-received and executed.

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