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Bill Callahan Gives Titans Chance To Turn Biggest Weakness Into Strength Quickly

Bill Callahan Gives Titans Chance To Turn Biggest Weakness Into Strength Quickly

By MIKE HERNDON, columnist

The last two seasons of Titans football have consistently featured one glaring problem that Mike Vrabel and staff were not able to solve – offensive line performance. Only the Giants and Bears have allowed a higher sack rate over the last two years than Tennessee’s 10.6 percent.

That result is simply not compatible with winning football. Among the ten teams with a sack rate allowed of more than 7.5 percent, none have compiled a winning record over the last 34 games.

Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jack Conklin talks with coach Bill Callahan during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 in Canton, Ohio, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Bill Callahan coaches Jack Conklin/ © PHIL MASTURZO / USA TODAY NETWORK

Given the statements and interviews provided by Amy Adams-Strunk, Ran Carthon, and Brian Callahan since the latter’s hire two weeks ago, it’s safe to say that Tennessee’s new direction features a heavy emphasis on passing the football on offense. To do that, the Titans will need to protect the passer much better than they did during the last phase of the Mike Vrabel era.

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How NIL Will Impact Titans, and Every Team, In The Draft

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the evolution of NIL continues to create issues and debate in the college ranks and alter football at that level, there is a trickle-down effect for the NFL.

With transfer portal possibilities on top of the ability to make money off name, image and likeness available on campuses, fewer underclassmen are declaring themselves eligible for the draft.

TreVeyon Henderson
TreVeyon Henderson / Courtesy Ohio State Athletics

One hundred thirty players did so as recently in 2021. This year it’s less than half that -- 54. With 76 fewer players on draft boards – though not all necessarily draftable – good scouting takes on an even bigger premium.

Titans president of football operations Chad Brinker acknowledged that on a recent episode of the team's podcast.

“We’re seeing because of NIL, some of these players who could potentially be your third, fourth-round type player, still premium picks, deciding to go back to school,” he said. “They are making pretty good money playing college football.”

But he also hit a couple of times on another interesting point:

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Chad Brinker's Forward Vision Makes it Seem Like Titans Were in Dark Ages

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Where the Titans are heading now sounds great. But as president of football operations Chad Brinker described much of it on the team’s official podcast, it sure made it seem like the franchise has been operating in the dark ages.

Based on some of what he said, you can’t help but ask how ownership and management allowed the Titans to get where they are.

Chad Brinker

Yes, much of what Brinker said sounds good, sound and sensible – though quite difficult with all the people and departments that need to buy in and pull together. I understand the enthusiasm, but the organization needs to temper it a bit, I think, based on the timetables Brinker spoke of.

I like him in the bit I’ve chatted with him and it’s all encouraging. But what the hell have they been doing that there is so much work for him now?

A few things that struck me:

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New Titans OL Coach Bill Callahan Boosted Alan Faneca, Unknowns As He Built Rep

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Hjalte Froholdt played in eight games for the Patriots in 2019 after they spent a fourth-round pick on him, but he didn't start any and was waived before Week 12.

The Texans claimed him, but things didn't pan out there either. Froholdt's agent had one destination in mind for him at that point: Cleveland.

Joe Panos of Athletes First helped convince offensive line coach Bill Callahan and the Browns to sign Froholdt during the 2021 season.

Cleveland Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan works with the lineman during OTA workouts on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 in Berea.
© PHIL MASTURZO / USA TODAY NETWORK

"If I have a guy that I need developed, a dude who's on the street who needs a job or an undrafted guy, I will 100 percent sell him to Callahan," Panos said. "Because I know he can develop him.

"Froholdt is a perfect example. I sell him to Cleveland. He's on the practice squad. He made the 53. Started playing. Started starting. And now he's the starting center for the Cardinals. Ask him. It's Bill Callahan who got him there. One hundred percent."

After news broke that Brian Callahan was able to get the Browns to release his dad, Bill, to join the Titans as their offensive line coach, I spoke to Panos and Pro Football Hall of Famer Alan Faneca about him. 

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Implications of Dennard Wilson In, Terrell Williams Out For Titans

Dennard Wilson
  Dennard Wilson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. With Dennard Wilson coming to Nashville to be Brian Callahan's defensive coordinator, per multiple reports, the future of Shane Bowen becomes murky.

Callahan held on to Bowen as a potential DC as he saw how his search unfolded.

He landed a young coach who's got great experience working with top-flight defensive backs with the Rams, Jets, Eagles and Ravens. He's connected to Ran Carthon from time together with the Rams.

In Baltimore, players loved him and found him relatable while fellow coaches respected him.

Bowen had interviewed in Jacksonville and with the Giants, and while New York has not hired yet there doesn't seem to be momentum there.

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How Brian Callahan’s Football Philosophy May Impact the Titans' Draft Approach

How Brian Callahan’s Football Philosophy May Impact the Titans' Draft Approach

By MIKE HERNDON, columnist

New Titans head coach Brian Callahan hasn’t been shy about making it known how much he values the wide receiver position in comments both before and after his hiring in Tennessee. Last week he discussed the famous Ja’Marr Chase-Penei Sewell debate from his time in Cincinnati during an appearance on 102.5’s Stillman & Company.

Nov 18, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Malik Nabers (8) hauls in a 40-yard touchdown pass against the Georgia State Panthers in the fourth quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports
LSU's Malik Nabers/ © Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports

His answer was both insightful and revealing about his opinion on the value of wide receiver and offensive tackle as positions in the modern NFL. Callahan came down on the Chase side of the Bengals' internal discussions in the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft.

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A Hitch In A Potential New Derrick Henry Titans' Contract

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Plenty of fans are writing contracts for Derrick Henry that would keep him with the Titans for at least a ninth year and perhaps a 10th.

He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time when contracts expire and the new league year starts on March 13.

Derrick Henry
  Derrick Henry/ Courtesy Tennessee Titans

Spotrac projects a one-year, $4.39 million contract, which is the most reasonable thing I’ve seen.

AtoZ recently sketched out a two-year, $20 million deal with $12 million guaranteed and a 2024 $5 million cap hit, which is way too much.

A Henry contract with the Titans isn’t so plain and simple. There is a hitch.

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Brian Callahan and The Idea of 'Enough Scheme' for the Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Shortly after the Titans hired Brian Callahan, I wrote about how Titans fans should be shouting “Oh, Happy Day” just off of one thing he said in the summer of 2023:

“The teams that win the most games are generally the teams that pass the ball the best.”

That’s obviously a major departure from the Titans' overriding philosophy since 1999.

Enough Scheme

Then at his introductory press conference, he said something else that qualifies as a big deal after we’ve seen an often-stubborn offensive approach too often get stymied without alternative.

“The offense is always going to have enough plays,” he said. “There's always going to be enough scheme.”

Travel back with me, if you will, to Dec. 17, 2023, Week 15.

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