Dean Pees had fun scheming pressure with Mike Vrabel, now Titans need to finish more

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – During Mike Vrabel’s two years leading the Titans, the defense has failed to sack the quarterback consistently enough.

In 2018, it recorded 39 sacks, 16th in the NFL, led by Jurrell Casey’s seven (tied for 38th in the NFL).

In 2019, it recorded 43 sacks, 13 in the NFL, led by Harold Landry’s nine (tied for 22nd.)

LandrySackEagles

Much of my banter with Vrabel over those two seasons has concerned sacks and gone something like this...

Me: You should value sacks more.

Him: You put too much stock in sacks. We affect the quarterback in a lot of ways. Get your nose out of the stats sheet.

Me: But what if you got a guy who can sack the quarterback?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Retired Titans defensive coordinator leaves a hole in the Titans coaching staff and some intrigue about how Mike Vrabel will work things in his absence considering no one now carries Pees’ old title.

Vrabel recently said Shane Bowen will be the lead voice for the defense when the head coach isn’t in the meeting room or with the defense on the field, but still did not say that he will call the defense, though that is what I have now long presumed.PeesSkype

In an hour interview with The Midday 180, Jonathan Hutton and I had a chance to ask Pees about how often Vrabel jumped in to make a call over the last two years and how he envisions things might go now. [Unlocked]

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Unknowns: Who gets Tajae Sharpe's role with the Titans?

Unknowns: Who gets Tajae Sharpe's role with the Titans?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the days since the Titans wrapped their remote offseason work, we'll examine some issues that didn’t get a great deal of resolution given no time on the field…

Who takes on Tajae Sharpe’s snaps?SharpeTDBucs

Sharpe was a pretty good fourth receiver for the Titans. He had 25 catches for 329 yards with a career-best 13.2-yard average and a career-high four touchdowns.

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Titans have just a month left to get a deal done with Derrick Henry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans have one month to negotiate a long-term deal with Derrick Henry, otherwise he’s got to play the 2020 season under the franchise tag and the sides cannot talk about a new contract until after the season ends.

Henry is due to make $10.278 million under the tag. The Titans tagged him March 16 and he signed it on April 2.

HenryBucs

The debate over second contracts for running backs is one of the biggest in football, except that the pay-them side is shrinking and doesn’t have a great deal of support from recent evidence.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – "Where are the NFL Owners now during this powerful movement?"

That’s the title to a Wednesday tweet by ESPN reporter Dianna Russini of a video clip from Get Up.

In it, she suggested that numerous NFL owners listen to Hall of Famer Jerry Jones and seemed likely to wait to hear from the Cowboys owner and follow the lead of the first domino to speak on social injustice – an idea that gained traction with at least one other outlet.AmyAdamsStrunk2019

But actually we’d seen or heard statements from at least 10 NFL owners, 32 percent of them, by then -- Jeffrey Lurie of the Eagles, Gayle Benson of the Saints, Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens, Jed York of the 49ers, George McCaskey of the Bears, Jim Irsay of the Colts, Dee and Jim Haslam of the Browns, Kim and Terry Pegula of the Bills, Cal McNair of the Texans and Shad Khan of the Jaguars.

Commissioner Roger Goodell also wasn't waiting on Jones when he apologized to players for the league’s failure to support them before and pledged to change last week. He did that just a day after an impactful video was released by some of the league’s most visible players, and many of us wondered if Goodell had consulted with any of his bosses at all before making his statement.

Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk stepped forward Thursday with a strong statement of her own, also ahead of Jones.

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Shane Bowen to be Mike Vrabel's top defensive lieutenant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As head coach, Mike Vrabel is going to have to step away from being the head of the Titans' defense.

When he leaves defensive meetings to be with the offense or special teams or for other CEO duties, outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen (pictured below, right) will take the defensive lead, Vrabel said Thursday in a Zoom meeting with reporters.

It’s the furthest Vrabel has gone at acknowledging he is the de facto defensive coordinator after Dean Pees retired and Vrabel didn’t hire or designate anyone to replace him.VrabelOfficeZoom

I’ve presumed from early on that Vrabel will be the defensive play-caller, which is not as big a job as offensive play-caller, a job done by several head coaches including Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan, who squared off in the Super Bowl.

Vrabel still says he does not know. [Unlocked]

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Impassioned Ryan Tannehill expands on support for Black Lives Matter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ryan Tannehill took on the mantle of leadership the Titans needed from their quarterback when he became their starter in Week 7 of 2019.

He followed up a recent Instagram post in support of Black Lives Matter with a strong, reasoned message in a Zoom press session Wednesday. It’s a stance teammate Rashaan Evans called “courageous,” and one I think will give Tannehill even more leadership juice in a room that was already very fond of him.Screen Shot 2020 06 10 at 4.07.28 PM

“Guys in the locker room are watching,” Evans said. “Situations like that bring guys closer and closer together.”

A white NFL quarterback being so comfortably outspoken on issues of race in the days following the murder of George Floyd amid protests asking for reforms is not something I think we’ve seen elsewhere, which makes it an especially impactful to teammates and the organization, and as a story. [Unlocked]

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Jurrell Casey's anger is understandable, but Titans were very good to him overall

Jurrell Casey's anger is understandable, but Titans were very good to him overall

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jurrell Casey remains understandably upset from the jolting trade that sent him from the Titans to the Broncos for a seventh-round draft pick in March.

"Coming off an injury the year before and playing the whole season for ya'll, no complaints, I did everything you wanted me to do and you throw me like a piece of trash,” Casey said on the Double Coverage podcast, hosted by Jason and Devin McCourty, first brought to my attention by Turron Davenport. “At the end of the day, none of these businesses are loyal."

CaseyFFRams

Casey was an excellent player for the Titans for nine years. He delivered 51 sacks as an interior defensive lineman in a 4-3 or playing in a 3-4 while earning spots on five Pro Bowl teams. He was the franchise's Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016 and 2018.

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