Jim Wyatt. SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE – Titans coach Mike Vrabel met with reporters on Monday at the start of the team’s offseason program.
Here’s a look at the hot topics:
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said he’s feeling better, and the plan is for him to add weight to his 6-foot-4 frame to help with his durability.
Vrabel likes where Mariota is at the start of the program.
“I would say that Marcus looks good,” Vrabel said. “(We’re) looking for a strong player — this is a big league. I can remember playing against John Elway and Dan Marino, and these quarterbacks that – they’re big men. We play against Deshaun (Watson), he’s a big player, and Andrew Luck, so I just want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can and he’s doing everything he can to stay healthy and stay durable, and to be able to help us on the field.”
Back to Work
The Titans will be in different phases of the offseason program before the work wraps up with a minicamp in mid-June.
Training camp will begin in late-July.
For Vrabel and his coaching staff, there’s excitement because players are back in the building in full force since the end of last season.
“I would say (the vibe in the building) is a lot better than when it was just coaches and scouts,” he said. “I mean this with all sincerity, that the reason we coach is to try to help players improve, to try to make the team better. When they’re not around, it’s hard. I’m not in the business of coaching to be able to hang out with other coaches. I love being around players, and guys that have energy and love football, and want to learn and improve. We took that first step today, and we’ll come back tomorrow and see where we’re at.”
Vrabel didn’t keep attendance, because the offseason program is voluntary, not mandatory.
“I would say that the players that weren’t here had reached out, and we talked and communicated,” he said. “We just ask that if they’re going to be here that they be on time, that they be engaged and get something out of this time. But again, it’s not mandatory and we all understand that.”
He anticipated players would be in good shape.
If they’re not, teammates could chime in.
“(Conditioning) will start to show when we’re out on the field running, and if guys are out of shape, lagging behind, that usually gets taken care of pretty quickly, I would say, by the players,” he said. “Right now I think that – I don’t know if that was somewhat of an issue today. But, I would trust that our players and our leaders would find a way to bring that person along.”
Delanie Walker’s Health
Tight end Delanie Walker continues to recover from last year’s ankle injury.
Walker said he’s made great progress, and is currently running on a treadmill.
The Titans will monitor Walker before turning him loose. Right now, the plan is to be patient.
“I think that Delanie (Walker) has played a lot of football, and played at a high level,” Vrabel said. “He knows his body better than anybody. I watched him do that last year as he would prepare for OTAs, and prepare for training camp. Unfortunately, we lost him early on, but I think that he’ll do everything he can to work his way through the offseason and find a way to be ready for us when we have to start practicing.”
OC Arthur Smith Taking the Reins
New offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith, promoted this offseason after previously serving as tight ends coach, addressed the offensive players on Monday.
It’s Smith’s show on offense now.
Matt LaFleur, the team’s OC last season, is now the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
“I think he was excited,” Vrabel said of Smith. “I think it’s a new challenge for him. He had prepared just like he would, I think, if he was getting ready to host a tight end meeting. He jumped down there in front when it was ready for the offense, excited to get rolling and sharing the vision that he has for them, and where we want to go as an offense and how we want to improve on the details, and make sure that we’re giving the players everything they need in this offseason to start doing some of those things. Whether the quarterbacks are throwing with the receivers and the running backs, or when we start to head into Phase Two where we can do some things on the field to help fix and improve the details of each and every position.”
NFL Draft Prep
In addition to having players back in the building, the Titans are also gearing up for the NFL Draft.
Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson meet regularly, and that will continue leading up to the April 25-27 event in Nashville.
“Jon and I have conversations and meet daily about the team, about the draft now,” he said. “Our coaches will meet with scouts this week and talk through players. The idea is that we’re just trying to see it through the same set of eyes, and have the same vision for the player and where we see them. It makes for interesting and good discussions. You hear the scouts’ opinion on a player and what they think, sometimes a coach has a different opinion. They’re both correct, it’s just one guy is looking at it from a scouting perspective and another guy is looking at it from a coaching perspective. I just try to ask those guys to do those exercises with the scouts like I would with Jon (Robinson) every day for our entire roster. They’re going to do it at their position, I think it builds a good dialogue and hopefully we can identify and target the right players.”
Depth at Guard
The Titans signed former Rams guard Rodger Saffold to play one spot, but the guard spot opposite him remains up for grabs.
This offseason, the Titans released guard Josh Kline, and opted not to re-sign Quinton Spain, who ended up in Buffalo. There’s a chance the Titans could add more players to the competition in the NFL Draft or in free agency.
Meanwhile, the competition is under way.
“I think we’ve done a good job and have tried to develop (Aaron) Stinnie,” Vrabel said. “Corey Levin is a young player still heading into his third year, and then Kevin Pamphile who we lost to injury in the third week of the season last year. He’s healthy, he’s excited to have an opportunity to compete like the rest of these guys.”
“Good to Great”
Vrabel made it clear on Day One he’s not satisfied with going 9-7 – the team’s record the past three seasons.
He wants more.
Vrabel likes the makeup of the team, but is looking to take the next step. Safety Kevin Byard said Vrabel told players they should carry a positive mindset even as they walk the halls at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
“I love coming to work, I love coaching these guys, I love watching them succeed individually,” he said. “I love even more so watching them succeed collectively. We don’t have a whole lot of bad guys. I love watching and getting the reports of these guys doing things in the community, not only here but in their hometowns. I love seeing their families come to training camp, and seeing them after the game with their family. Those are all things that I enjoy. I think we’re heading in the right direction. I don’t deal with a whole lot of issues that come across my desk.
“We’re going to try to remind ourselves that we’re trying to be great every day. Instead of throwing it out there, ‘Hey, I’m good,’ ‘I’m great.’ We’ve got to believe that we can be great to take the next step and do that every single day.”