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Marcus Mariota: Now is not the time to be assertive about what I don't like in the offense

pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the Titans gave him new coaches and a new system, I’ve made a simple request of Marcus Mariota:

Take ownership of the offense.MariotaRefJags

That means, at least once he’s gotten a handle on it all, he needs to work to have as much of a stake in it as Matt LaFleur.

Asked earlier this week if Mariota was offering a lot of feedback on what he likes and doesn’t like about the offense, LaFleur smiled as he answered.

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YAZOO PODCAST: John Middlekauff measures Marcus Mariota against Derek Carr and Jimmy Garappolo

YAZOO podcast stripeNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Former NFL scout John Middlekauff's been in Nashville this week, and he watched the Titans' OTA practice on Tuesday after visiting with old friend Jon Robinson.

John was nice enough to visit with me in this week's podcast where we talked about the positive trend of complicated offenses, the ranks of which the Titans are now joining. 

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Also on the docket: The fraternity of scouts-turned-journalists, the appeal of Malcolm Butler when he was on the market, the Titans' overall talent level and where Marcus Mariota fits in compared to the QBs he sees most often and most closely -- Derek Carr of the Raiders and Jimmy Garappolo of the 49ers.

Part 1, like podcast versions of my public Periscope and Facebook Lives, will be 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. 

It's a good conversation you'll want to hear. And if you missed last week's sit down with Mike Vrabel and his high school coach and want to be part of Monday evening's Periscope/Facebook Live with Jon Robinson, it's a great time to become a member.  Just click here.

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Titans’ coaches making sure players understand ‘the why’ behind plays

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Some autocratic coaches may give off a vibe to players regarding the construct of plays: Don’t ask me why, just run it.

Mike Vrabel is not taking that approach at all.

Matt LaFleur said the Titans want the players running their plays to understand exactly why they are being asked to execute them.

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Matt LaFleur assesses Marcus Mariota's attempt to play with a wider base

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota appears to be doing well playing with a wider base, something he said he concentrated on during his offseason in Los Angeles.

I tried to watch it closely on Tuesday during the Titans OTA session and he was generally in the athletic position players are asked to be in as they start anything, with his feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.MarcusPriest

On one dropback I saw him set in that stance as he surveyed the field, step up and to his left and reset it in for a bounce or two, then tuck the ball and take off. Of course, I don’t have the immediate reference to compare it to the width of his stance previously. I did look to compare it to his veteran backup, Blaine Gabbert, who I felt was a bit wider.

My understanding is that a narrow base prompts a quarterback to overstride and that overstriding tends to produce high throws. Two seasons ago, I thought Mariota’s primary passing inaccuracy was throwing high to the right. Last year his misses were not as consistently similar.

To Matt LaFleur it seems not to rate as as much of an accuracy issue as a getting the ball out issue – which can obviously relate to how open a target is and the timing of a play,

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TicketsBar2NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The best thing I saw at Tuesday’s OTA Titans practice was an open-field one-on-one tackling drill that produced some great competition and some energy I felt carried over into the next couple parts of the session.SharpeStretch

In a grid that was roughly 15 yards wide, an offensive player with the ball and a defender stood in the center side by side facing in opposite directions. They ran away from each other to a cone, then changed directions.

The ball-carriers job was to get beyond the defender. The defender was supposed to leverage the sideline and square up for a non-contact win.

I’ve been at a high percentage of open Titans practices dating back to 1997, and I’ve not seen it or anything like it before.

It struck me as a smart, practical way to break the game down into a small important element. I saw Tajae Sharpe beat Jeremy Boykins and Dion Lewis

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Kevin Dodd's absence making more room for young backers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Holes open in a 90-man depth chart, from injuries and absences.

Smart guys who fill those holes can make an impression that has a lasting impact on their careers.IMG 0761

“That’s what this business is about,” Mike Vrabel said. “First of all, you’ve got to be able to recognize opportunity, be smart enough to recognize an opportunity when it’s in front of you. And then do everything you can to take advantage of it.

"If you get reps with the first-team, second-team, whatever team, it’s an opportunity. So some guys historically have been able to recognize when

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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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