Pickers mailbag: On Mike Vrabel's defense in Houston

pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Congratulations on making it to the weekend. I hope it was easier given the short holiday week.

TitansGoalpostWhatever you're up to this weekend, if you're thirsty I highly recommend Pickers Vodka or their new crafted cocktails that come in 12-ounce cans. You knew I'd love the Music City Mule. I'm also a fan of the Porch Punch and I am eager to try the Honkey Tonk Hurricane as well as the Lemon & Blues. 

Check them out, and please drink responsibly.

Members, you can find the broadcast from Thursday on Periscope or the private Facebook group page

On to the best questions of the week.

PK: Mike Vrabel wasn’t hired as head coach of the Titans based on the statistical ranking of the defense he coached last season. It was a group that was depleted by injuries and departures and it didn’t have good results. He also wasn’t hired based on what he’s done as a head coach in the past since he’s not been a head coach before.

That doesn’t make a guy a bad coach.

By your reasoning, should Ken Whisenhunt be back in the pipeline after coordinating the Chargers’ No. 1-ranked offense? Should

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Brian Orakpo on Mike Vrabel: 'This guy is all over the place and we love it'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Vrabel is more concerned with getting to know his team than he is with his team getting to know him.

Nevertheless, it’s clear his players are loving his energy and vibe and the story of a former player who rose up the ranks to be a key piece of three Super Bowl-winning teams.VrabelSled

Earlier this week, when I sat down with him and his high school coach, Gerry Rardin, for this podcast, they mentioned that they had lunch that day with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo.

It was the second time in recent weeks that Vrabel mentioned being with his two starting outside linebackers in a casual setting in team HQ. As he continues to get to know his guys, he spends some extra time with the backers at practice and clearly is drawn to kindred spirits.

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pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some thoughts out of the first OTA practice I’ve seen this summer.

Mobile QB being mobile: Marcus Mariota is being put on the move more, just as we expected in a Matt LaFleur offense. He looked great throwing on the run. I’m not allowed to detail the play, but there was one I’ve been looking for this team to run for some time and I can totally see it as part of their arsenal.

Mike Vrabel said he prefers to rush a stationary target because he didn’t have great wheels to track down a moving one. The Titans will play to people’s stengths and Mariota running and throwing is a strength for him. Vrabel said he, and his coaches, will just need to be sure he takes care of the ball and his body.

One other QB note: Back-of-the-line wide receivers are getting chances with the front-of-the-line quarterback.

Marcus Mariota to Zach Pascal. #Titans

A post shared by pkuharsky (@pkuharsky) on

Vrabel’s line of the day: “Sometimes players tune out coaches. But they rarely tune out teammates.”

Fortnite: Taylor Lewan was among the players who got Vrabel to sign off on a team Fortnight competition. I admit to not knowing the game. But guys from offense and defense are pairing up as teams and a rookie has to play with a veteran. They’ll whittle things down to a winner by the end of the minicamp June 14. Announcements are made at morning meetings about teams that have been eliminated. “RIP,” Vrabel said.

Hail, Michigan: Vrabel said in the podcast I recorded with him Tuesday night that he was a Michigan lean as a recruit for a while before he committed to Ohio State. So I was really surprised when Michigan’s fight song, "Hail to the Victors," played in the mix before practice started.

A smiling Vrabel said Lewan has infiltrated the music system and it wouldn’t happen again.

Out: Kevin Dodd and Phillip Supernaw were not on the field, though Walker said Supernaw was in the building and he was later spotted by a reporter. Rishard Matthews and Jack Conklin didn’t work. DaQuan Jones did some work on his own. Michael Campanaro might not have finished the session.

Fight: There was a pretty good fight. I don’t care much about a practice fight. Lots of reporters tend to make them into a huge deal. They are bound to happen and if no one is hurt they don’t generally matter much.

But the one between offensive lineman John Theus and defensive lineman Matt Dickerson was notable only because we saw a team policy in effect. Vrabel loudly threw them both out of practice and later said fighting gets you thrown out of games, it’ll get guys tossed from practice and the Titans don’t have time for it.

Theus trailed Dickerson into the locker room by 15 or 20 yards and I wondered where their lockers are in proximity to one another and what things would be like once they both got in there.

Anthem: Vrabel spoke to the team about the NFL’s new policy for the national anthem. He said when the time comes they will be able to make a choice under the league’s guidelines with the backing of Amy Adams Stunk and the organization.

Ending deal: Delanie Walker is entering the final year of his contract but said he thinks he can play four more years and would like to retire a Titan.

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YAZOO PODCAST: Mike Vrabel and his high school coach share some of Vrabel's origin story

YAZOO podcast stripeNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- You can learn a lot about a guy by learning about where he came from.

That was the thinking behind this week's podcast: An intimate visit with Mike Vrabel and Gerry Rardin, his coach from Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

The two talked Madison Blevins and I through Vrabel's 7-2 senior season, how an all-boys school helped shape him, his life as an only-child, Taco Day in Rardin's Spanish class, how students at a public school 20 minutes from home burned his dad's office there down and the lure of Notre Dame and Michigan before Vrabel decided to attend Ohio State.


Despite my attempts to get him to swear, Vrabel wouldn't use the full power of the forum.

Part 1, like podcast versions of my public Periscope and Facebook Lives, is available through iTunes, here, or directly through the Vokal website, here. Feel free to hook us up with a rating and review on iTunes.

If you're a member of the site, Part 1 and Part 2 are together, and all you have to do is head below the line. 

I think you're really going to want to hear this one, so if you're not a member, it's a great time to sign up. Just click here.

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Anticipation of NFL Draft in Nashville may be as big as draft itself

TicketsBarNASHVILLE, Tenn. – As Amy Adams Strunk said while Music City made its push to host an NFL Draft, Nashville knows how to throw a party.

It’ll be a biggie come April 25-27, 2019.DraftSign

No league has done better work making itself a year-round story. It’s quite remarkable that outside of an August-to-February preseason and season the NFL has created window after window of happenings. It’s even more noteworthy that all of them are positive, filled with hope.

The combine in late February is the first official look at draft prospects. Free-agency in March brings new talent to most teams. April’s draft was the second biggest NFL TV event to the Super Bowl in 2017. May brings rookie camps and OTAs. June brings minicamps. Only mid-June to mid-July is “dark,” and it helps build anticipation for the start of training camps.

And anticipation is the keyword in Nashville.

The uniform unveil on April 4 was a giant event, but the buildup to it was giant.

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Corey Davis' offseason work on his craft a key to Titans' receiving corps

Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By Steve Cavendish, guest reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There’s a scene in the middle of Hoosiers where, faced with putting a player he benched back into the game, Gene Hackman’s beleaguered high school basketball coach opts to go with just four players.

“My team’s on the court,” he tells a ref.

That’s general manager Jon Robinson with this corps of wide receivers. The Titans didn't re-sign Eric Decker. And instead of drafting another receiver or adding a high-profile name through free agency, the Titans GM has opted to go with a nucleus of Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe and Corey Davis.Davis84

It’s a group that has some question marks: Sharpe is returning from a yearlong injury; Matthews posted lower numbers in 2017 than in 2016; Taylor showed bursts of talent, but caught only 16 balls in his rookie season.

And then there’s Davis, the fifth-overall pick in last year’s draft and one of the players whose improvement may determine whether or not the Titans will contend for an AFC championship.

Davis’ numbers were good for a rookie. He was tied for fifth in receptions (34) and seventh in yards (375).

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John McClain on why Mike Vrabel will be a Titans' success story

Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By John McClain, guest columnist

The first time I heard Mike Vrabel and head coach in the same sentence was 2001 when the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots won their first Super Bowl.

As an NFL writer who covered the league for eight years after the Oilers moved to Nashville in 1997 and before I was assigned to the Texans’ beat in 2005, I spent a lot of time covering New England – regular season, playoffs and Super Bowls.

I got to know inside linebacker Ted Johnson, a seven-year veteran in 2001 who had played on Bill Parcells’ team that lost Super Bowl XXXI to Green Bay. We had a natural connection because Johnson had spent part of his childhood in Houston and was an avid Oilers’ fan.VrabelWatt

(Photo courtesy Houston Texans.)

In 2001, second-year quarterback Tom Brady – in his first season as the starter in place of the injured Drew Bledsoe – was getting a lot of well-deserved recognition, but it was the Patriots’ linebackers who were the strength of the team.

Under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, the Patriots’ linebackers were among the best groups in NFL history and would help New England win three Super Bowls.

Johnson played inside next to Tedy Bruschi. They were flanked by Willie McGinest and Vrabel. Interestingly, all but Vrabel are members of the media covering the NFL.

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Party Fowl Online Ads 01 1By Steve Cavendish, guest reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Five takeaways from the Titans' open OTA practice n May 22.

1) Newcomer Dion Lewis is as fast as advertised.

In drills and in 11-on-11 plays, the free agent from New England had a noticeable burst of speed. The running back also showed he has good hands when he sprinted out of the backfield on passing plays, catching a number of balls. He was a clear favorite of the crowd of 100-or-so season ticket holders in attendance.

2) In punt return drills, new signees Michael Campanaro and Deontay Burnett both got some work along with incumbent Adoree' Jackson.IMG 4724

Campanaro arrived as an unrestricted free agent after four years with the Ravens while Burnett went undrafted after coming out early from Southern Cal.

Burnett was expected to be drafted after catching 74 passes for 975 yards from Jets first-round pick Sam Darnold last year. With only the four draft picks available to the media so far, Burnett’s first response to a question was, “Am I supposed to be talking to you?”

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