Mailbag: Signing priorities, Jadeveon Clowney chaos, alternate universes without Jon Robinson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Hi everyone. Here we are, opening weekend. I admit I wasn't always sure we were going to make it.

But the league and teams have done excellent work and we've seen a lopsided game and get a full slate Sunday and a long wait Monday before the Titans kickoff in the nightcap.

I hope you'll give the podcast a listen before the game, and also enjoy this mailbag during the long countdown.

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(Photo courtesy Seattle Seahawks.)

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A.J. Brown's late-game fatigue improvement gets first test in Denver's altitude

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gifted, cut and fit, it’s hard to imagine fourth-quarter fatigue being much of a problem for A.J. Brown.

But between his breakout rookie season and a second campaign that starts in the elevation of Denver Monday night, the receiver has put a heavy focus on next-level conditioning that will help ensure his late-game routes look just like the runs he runs early, making it hard for defenses to slow him late.AJBrownLeapCatchGW

(Photo: A.J. Brown by George Walker, Tennessean via pool.)

He set out with an offseason focus to clean up the steps at the top of his routes, particularly when he is tired.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Believe me, I am surprised as you are.

And I've got no history of picking anything right with any consistency.

But on Thursday's edition of The Midday180 it was time for us to lay out how we expected the NFL season to play out.

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After some outrageous numbers, where the Titans may regress

 

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In matters of advanced statistics, I know I am way over my head, so I turn to people far smarter than I am.

Because I know with regard to some of the things the Titans did a year ago, it’s just not going to be possible for them to do them again or to repeat them.TannehillShotgun2GW

For example, the Titans converted first downs on 45 of 111 plays (40.5 percent) in the red zone last season, best in NFL per Inside Edge. That was nearly 20 percent better than the worst team, Jacksonville. And it was nearly 10 percent better than the league average of 30.6 percent.

“That definitely tends to regress year to year,” said Aaron Schatz, the head of Football Outsiders.

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Jadeveon Clowney's pro-day moment and what coaches think of him now

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The first NFL player Jadeveon Clowney made look bad might just have been Kelcy Quarles, who was most recently on the roster of the Edmonton Eskimos but has been with the Giants, Patriots, Colts and Browns.

As a junior in 2013, the defensive lineman was Second Team All-America and First Team All-SEC at South Carolina. But at his pro day in the spring of 2014, he had the misfortune of following Clowney in drills.ClowneySeahawks2

(Photo courtesy Seattle Seahawks.)

Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn ran that session. One of the drills linemen ran under his watch entailed a line of flat, Agile pads.

Players stood flat-footed with the long, narrow pads lined up in front of them, and Washburn asked them to explode forward, over the pads, landing flat-footed, maintaining balance. Then they were to run full speed ahead, leaning first to the right to pick up a racquetball, then to the left to get a second one. (See napkin drawing below.)

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With defensive disruptor in place, time for Titans to top 9-7, win AFC South

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It’s time.

Are the 2020 Titans better top to bottom than last year’s version? We can’t say for sure.

A lot of roster movement was about replenishment more than improvement.

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But Jadeveon Clowney was the big piece, expected to complete the team, a defensive disruptor.

With him on the roster, tacking on the ever-present caveat about injuries, there is no excuse for the Titans not to surpass the 9-7 record of the last four years and capture the AFC South crown.

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Now, Mike Vrabel needs to work his magic, get the most out of Jadeveon Clowney, Vic Beasley

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In two years as Titans coach, Mike Vrabel has shown himself to be a very good teacher and tactician, a relationship-builder with rapport with everybody.

He’s certainly a motivator, but on a team where Vrabel and Jon Robinson have sought to bring in guys who love football and put the team first, he’s got two high-ranking players who may be challenges on his plate now.ClowneyArrivalTweet

In Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley, two players with great physical gifts at the Titans’ big position of need, Vrabel will have to do his best work in bringing out their best football.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Because he’s been so flakey, Titans fans may want to hold off on the full celebration until they see a picture of him on the practice field.

But as of right now, Jadeveon Clowney has told the Titans he’s coming to join them in Nashville. He's not here yet and he's not yet signed the deal he's agreed to and still has to pass a physical.

That confirms Dianna Russini's Twitter report. Yes, I'm also aware of what Josina Anderson's said Clowney has said. (Check back for further developments.)

Provided he follows through on that and signs his deal, Clowney needs to produce on a defensive front that is in need of edge-setting run defense and the sort of influential quarterback disruption that may not produce sacks for Clowney but bolsters the team’s overall, too-often insufficient rush.clowney

(Photo courtesy Seattle Seahawks.)

Earlier Saturday the Titans kept only four outside linebackers at the roster cutdown deadline.

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