ASSISTANT HEAD COACH / DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
Do you have a scouting report on Titans G/T Dennis Kelly from Tight Ends Coach Tim Kelly?
"If he's anything like his brother, he's a good guy. He's big and he's a good guy."
Your players have talked about Titans QB Marcus Mariota's ability to throw in the pocket as well as extend plays with his legs. What are your thoughts on Mariota?
"My sentiments exactly. He is fast, he can run, he runs an offense well. He scored against us last year a couple times with his feet. We're going to have to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket and not letting him get outside. They had a couple of zone read plays last year and they probably still have it in the repertoire. So, we're going to have to do a good job of taking care of him."
How much does it change the Titans offense with TE Delanie Walker out of the lineup?
"I think that will hurt them a little bit, but in this business, it's always the next man up. They've got three tight ends and they signed MyCole (Pruitt) to help out. I think (MyCole Pruitt) is somebody that (Mike) Vrabel knows and knows his work ethic and all of that. I think that's one of the reasons they signed him, as well as his ability. So, we'll see how he fits in and how soon he might fit in. He's got a couple of other tight ends that run well and do a good job of blocking because they use multiple tight ends."
What difference did you see in DE J.J. Watt in the first and second half last week?
"I think that, as we mentioned before when we talked about guys coming back from injury that they have to get on the field and they've got to twist and turn and plant and take a hit and things like that, I think those things were happening in the first half. Then, in the second half, he became more comfortable. We say he knocked the rust off in the first half. Then, in the second half he was more comfortable with the assignments that he had to perform on the field and he began to show up more."
Is it exciting to see DE J.J. Watt play well?
"It's always exciting to see him in the backfield. It's very helpful because he's a playmaker. When he makes plays, it helps the other guys also because he lifts everybody up."
Can you get a sense of if OLB Whitney Mercilus and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney have knocked the rust off in practice?
"Not totally. No, you have to get into the game. You've got to get into the game. They were both a little rusty so we'll have to see this week if the rust has been knocked off yet or not."
What's it going to take to get the pass rush clicking?
"I think the rust has to get knocked off, for one. Then, they have to work in practice with the game plan to get themselves free because many times in pass rush it comes down to a one-on-one battle. You have to be able to beat the guy you're going against, whether it's with your moves or whether it's with power or a combination of both. So, we'll work at it and hopefully we'll be able to get more guys getting into the backfield and getting after the quarterback."
Can blitzing help create more of a pass rush?
"Blitzing will help if they don't block them because then you hit the quarterback. If they block them, then you take your chances on the back end."
Does practicing against QB Deshaun Watson help the defense prepare to face a mobile quarterback?
"I think so because he's mobile and he can make plays. Just trying to corral him should help them going against (Marcus) Mariota."
Does practicing against QB Deshaun Watson help the defense prepare to face mobile quarterbacks this season?
"To a degree. The thing that we don't have to do is we don't have to game plan for Deshaun because it's practice. If we run up the field past him and he pulls it down and runs for a couple of yards, it doesn't hurt as much. During the regular season, a mobile quarterback, you have to plan for him. So, we have to have a good plan to handle (Marcus) Mariota."
Do you game plan differently if the Titans end up playing two backup tackles?
"That will depend on what Mike (Vrabel) thinks about those guys and what he plans to do with them. They're big, physical guys along that front. They'll come off the ball and hit you. So, whether they will run a zone scheme or whether they will run a gap scheme, that will depend on what he thinks about them and what his game plan is."
Is that more of an in-game adjustment than something you can really get worked on in the week?
"No, I think that during the week you figure out the strength of your players and then try to put a plan in place that will allow them to be successful. Then, if they're not successful in the game, then you make game plan adjustments."
Are there any advantages or disadvantages with Head Coach Mike Vrabel knowing you, the staff and how you all think?
"Well, I think there's some considerations you might need to give to the fact that he knows the system. So, there are a few things that we will do to try to throw him off and keep him off balance. But, it's the players who play the game. So, our players have to play better than his players, and if we do that, we'll win."
Does it help you at all that you know what he likes to do as a coach?
"All of that has to be taken into consideration, but that's one of those in game things that we'll have to see in the game, what's he's trying to do in the game. Particularly, our offense will have to see that because he's a defensive-minded guy. So, what he does defensively will impact our offense a little bit more."
What are you expecting from DE J.J. Watt this week?
"I expect him to continue to knock the rust off and get better every week. That's what I'm expecting. Hopefully that will occur, and if it does, that will help us."
What is it about S Kareem Jackson's skillset that allowed him to have such strong game at safety in his first time?
"He's an experienced player, he's a good player and he's a smart player. So, all of those things combine to allow him to be able to play in a position that he was playing and make the plays that he made. I think that versatility will help us going down the road."
With CB Kevin Johnson out, do you see him moving around the field?
"I think so. I hope he moves around the field. I hope he makes tackles like he did last week and gets hands on the balls and all of those kinds of things. I thought he had a pretty good game overall."
What challenges does the Titans backfield present?
"Well, they got two very good running backs. One of them is a little bit bigger, stronger, runner, the other one is a little bit quicker runner. So, we just have to know who's in the game and understand what their abilities are and how we need to defend them. But, both of them we need to get guys to the ball, as many guys as we can, to keep them from getting a seam or a crease because both of them, if you give them a crease, they can run for a touchdown."
What do you tell players like DE J.J. Watt and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney so they don't get frustrated when holding calls are missed?
"Well, you have to kind of get used to it because they'll make some calls but they'll not make some calls. If you let it get to you and bother you, then that impacts your game. So, you just have to understand that sometimes they might hold you a little bit longer so you have to knock the hands off, you got to do something to get the hands off of you so that you can go make a play. Everybody, most of the defensive lineman in the NFL have to deal with it, and so you deal with it and play."
Isn't it easier said than done?
"Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes it is, but if you can get your hands on him before he can get his hands on you, then you got a chance. But, if he gets his hands on you first, then you're struggling a little bit."
With quarterbacks who come from spread systems in college like QB Deshaun Watson and Titans QB Marcus Mariota, do we overstate how much of what they do are RPOs?
"No, I don't think he overstated because if it's there, they seem to take it and gain yards. So, the run-pass situation, he's running the read option, and if you don't honor it and don't honor him, then he pulls the ball and runs down the sideline for a big gain. You don't want to see that so you have to honor him. But, that's the kind of ability they have, and you understand and know that going in."
TIGHT ENDS COACH TIM KELLY
Do you have a bet with your brother (Titans G/T Dennis Kelly) on this game?
"No, no bets. It will be good to see him. We always try to find some time pregame to go out and catch up. It's really the only time during the season that we get to see each other, so it's kind of cool. It's cool for my family. I think it's tough for my mom and dad during the game. I think they're kind of torn, but no, it's always good to see him pregame."
Will your family be at the game?
"Yeah, my mom will be there and my sister will be there. It's only a couple hour flight from Chicago, so it's relatively close."
There seems to be a good opportunity for your brother (Titans G/T Dennis Kelly) with the other tackles out.
"Yeah, I don't know too much about their offensive line but I know that he's playing a lot right now. I think he's playing OK."
Will your family wear jerseys of both of the teams on Sunday?
"They always usually have something because he was with Philly when we played them back in '14 and they had a half jersey or a half shirt with one side Texans, one side Philly. We always joke around that my dad wants me to win and my mom wants him to win, so it's kind of a little inside joke there."
What's it like for you to get to coach against your brother?
"I'm very proud of him. He's worked really hard to get where he's at, so it's pretty cool to see my younger brother out there playing in the NFL. I'm very proud when we play him to go out there and see him."
What's the age difference between you and your brother?
"He's four years younger."
Did you ever play with your brother?
"We never did. I was a freshman in college when he was a freshman in high school."
Can you give us a rundown of the Texans tight ends group?
"I'll start with Ryan Griffin. Ryan's been a steady veteran presence in the room. He's a prototypical pro. He comes in, he works hard, he knows all his assignments, he does exactly what we ask him to do, studies, and really he's been a good role model for those two younger rookies. Jordan Akins has come in (and) with his previous experience being a professional baseball player, I think he kind of has a general idea as to what it takes to be a pro. Now, there's still a learning curve and he's still seeing things for the first time every day, but both him and Jordan Thomas come in every day with the right attitude and trying to get better."
How rare is it to see a player like TE Jordan Thomas in regards to his size and mobility?
"I think if you take a look at the landscape of the tight ends in the NFL right now, there aren't too many guys like that. With Jordan, it's a process of us just trying to continue to teach him the intricacies of the position and the intricacies of the offense."
Is it hard to find time for all three of your tight ends?
"I don't think so. I think with the rotations we have during practice and during the games, I think they're all getting pretty good time."
Would you like to get TE Jordan Thomas the ball more?
"I mean, Deshaun's (Watson) going to throw to the guys who are open. He ran a great route on that play and he was able to finish the play, but Deshaun is going to get the guy who's open the ball."
What was your initial impression of TE Jordan Thomas' blocking ability when you worked him out in a pre-draft visit and how much has he improved as a blocker?
"Like I said, it's still an ongoing process. He's still learning all the different techniques. Every day it's something that we have to work on with him because it's not the most natural thing right now because he just hasn't done a lot of it. But, when we went down there to work him out, obviously his size was the first thing you notice. He's a big, strong, long guy. As far as the workout, I held the bag, I felt the pop and felt he was strong enough and willing enough."
What aspects of the position are TE Jordan Akins still working to master?
"I think you can say for both of the young tight ends, really the amount of detail that goes into it in both the pass game and the run game. Jordan did a good job on Sunday as far as executing his assignments in the run game and in the passing game he did, too. I think for both of those guys, I think they're probably a little more comfortable in the passing game, but learning what it takes to be a tight end every single day, every single down, as opposed to just going out there and getting extended from the formation and running a bunch of routes. I think he's still learning all of that."
If TE Ryan Griffin stays healthy for all 16 games, how good can he be?
"Ryan's a very good football player. He runs good routes, he's really good in the run game and he's very smart, he's reliable. With that, he just needs to continue doing what he's doing and then I think the sky's the limit."
What do you think QB Deshaun Watson's comfort level is with all three tight ends?
"That's something that can always get better. That's why we're going out here in an hour or two, to go out there and practice and really work on that confidence, and really, like I said, the reliability of being where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. I think that's something that we can continue to improve on every single day."
Is there a special moment that sticks out about you and your brother?
"Like I said, every time we play them, pregame is a pretty neat experience for both of us because we just kind of go and all go sit on our bench and he'll come. The weird thing is that we don't talk about football at all. As we say our goodbyes, I tell him, 'Good luck. Don't play too well and stay healthy.' That's the big thing for me, personally. I just hope he goes out and stays healthy this game."
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
Have you heard from your family in South Carolina?
"Yeah, I talked to my mom the other night. She said everything's pretty good down there right now."
How worried are you about Hurricane Florence?
"Very worried. Last time something like that came here, it wasn't a good look. You don't want that for nobody, so I hope everybody is safe down there."
Does the potential of Hurricane Florence make it nerve-wracking for you after seeing Hurricane Harvey here?
"Yeah, it's very nerve-wracking. A lot of people lost their homes and family members. You don't want to see anybody go through that, so like I said, I'm praying for everybody back down in South Carolina."
Do you feel like the pass rush is ready to get cranking this week?
"We need to. Got to. We don't have a choice. Like I said, we've got a big game this week against Tennessee, a divisional game. We've got to get going. These guys know us, we know them. We just have to get after them and go get them."
What's it like chasing around Titans QB Marcus Mariota?
"He's probably the fastest back in the league. The guy's fast. You've got to keep him in the pocket, make him throw out of the pocket. You don't want him running out. We don't want him running around because he can hurt us with his legs."
What are your thoughts on the Titans backfield?
"That's a good duo. Big and small. (Dion) Lewis is a very, very good back out of the backfield, can catch and run. (Derrick) Henry, downhill, you don't want to let him get his feet going. Try to contain both of those guys is going to be a tough task for us, but I think we're up for it."
What kind of temper do you expect from this game as both teams look to avoid an 0-2 start?
"It's going to be high. You know we're not trying to lose a division game. We're not trying to go 0-2 this season. I'm expecting us to come out rolling and try to get after those guys early."
How important is it for you to get the first sack of the season?
"It's very important. They all come in bunches. Once you get one, they all start rolling in, but like I said, we've got a good front around here. I don't expect guys to hold the ball long against us all season long. It is what it is. We're just trying to win games."
What did you think about NT D.J. Reader getting two sacks last game?
"Oh, man. That was big. I told him he's starting off early. That's my boy. I'm happy for D.J. He's a great player, he works extremely hard, so I hope he keeps coming with it."
WR WILL FULLER V
Can you talk about what it's like to be back?
"It feels good to be back out there with the guys. I feel like I've been away forever, so just getting back out there practicing with the guys feels good."
How frustrating was it to deal with that injury?
"The hamstring is always tricky because you don't want to rush it back. So, I feel real confident now. Like I said, I'm glad to be back."
What does it mean to you to have all the coaches and players talk about how good it is to have you back and what your speed brings to the offense?
"It feels good, but I wish I was out here the whole time so we can get that connection going in week one. But, it feels good just to get back out there with the guys like I keep saying."
Can you talk about the brief four games you and QB Deshaun Watson played together?
"Yeah, it was fun. I think the sky is the limit with us playing together, everybody playing together. So, now that we're all back, we'll see where we can take off from here."
What are your thoughts on how the offense played against New England?
"We could have played better, and we know we fixed those things in film this week, so, just getting back out here on the practice field and fixing all the mistakes and just try to play better the second week."
Do you feel like you're a more complete receiver than when you came into the league?
"I mean, I always had an emphasis on my route running, so, I would say so."
We asked Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel about your speed and he started talk about how hard you worked at blocking. Is that true?
"Oh yeah, I'm a team guy, so whatever they need me to do. If they tell me to go down and block a safety, I'll stick my head in there and get the job done."
What are the challenges of the Titans defense?
"They have two real good corners with Adoree' (Jackson) and Malcolm Butler. They play really different, so whatever side I line up on, I have to be ready for something different."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
Titan's Head Coach Mike Vrabel said that sometimes you prefer tighter coverage, what is he talking about and why do you like that?
"Contested catches. When guys are playing me and not the ball, they miss the whole concept sometimes of defending me because they're playing me and not the ball."
How much of an advantage is there when the defender is playing you and not the ball?
"Big advantage. Big advantage."
Can you talk about Titans CB Malcolm Butler?
"Malcolm Butler's a good player."
Since the Titans have had Head Coach Mike Vrabel, have you noticed anything different there?
"Vrabel's a great coach. He wouldn't have gotten that job if he couldn't get that team wins. Watching film, we know what we have to go out and do to be successful against these guys, and I'm pretty sure they'd say the same about us. It's about going out on Sunday and making plays."
How frustrated were you after watching film of Week 1?
"I don't want to talk about the past. Titans are our focus. It's a long season."
What does WR Will Fuller V add to this offense?
"He adds speed. He can open up the field, help me get open, keep guys focused off of myself, Lamar Miller, Deshaun (Watson), he can spread the field."
Have you had a chance to check in with your family with what's going on in the Carolinas?
"Yeah, I have. Most of my family's in the upper part of the state. We're in the valley, like Clemson. So, it's surrounded by mountains, so, I think we should be good. But, I have friends and teammates and their family is down there, so, I just hope they stay safe."
After experiencing Hurricane Harvey last year, does that make it a little more concerning?
"Yeah, it does of course. You can't control mother nature. The only thing people can do is prepare themselves for it."
How big is consistency for you guys this week?
"Being consistent, that's the name of the game, and making plays. We didn't make enough plays that's why we didn't come up with a win. The focus is on the Titans and having a good week of practice."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
Has the chemistry on the back end of the defense been easier to build than you anticipated?
"Yeah, I think it's been easier than expected because we have a lot of veterans. Justin Reid's probably the only rookie that's playing, but he's well ahead of his time. He's very smart. We can bounce ideas, different things off of him. He's been catching up really well, but I think the best thing that's helped us is that we're a veteran group on the back end."
Besides the obvious, why is it so difficult to win on the road in the NFL?
"For one, it's not your fans there. For the most part, you're traveling. You have to wake up, and most of the time it's different time zones and different things like that. It's a lot of different things that kind of go into effect, but at the end of the day, we have to make sure, obviously, we sleep well the night before, we get up early, get ready to go and even look over certain game notes just to put ourselves in that mindset."
What are the challenges of going on the road in back-to-back weeks to start the season?
"Well, it's tough. We knew. We saw the schedule and when everybody saw it. We knew we were going to start on the road to begin with. So, we understand the importance of scratching out wins on the road, but like I mentioned, any time you play a division opponent, they know us, we know them. Their head coach was our D-coordinator last year, so it's going to be like a bloodbath out there. Everybody's trying to fight to survive. We just have to make sure that we're the team that comes out on top."
What are your thoughts on the Titans' running back tandem of RB Derrick Henry and RB Dion Lewis?
"That's the ideal backfield. You've got a big back, power back and then you have a guy that can work in space. Henry, he's downhill, but if you give him the edge, most guys won't catch him. Dion Lewis is kind of the same time of back that we faced last week with James White. They can run him out of the backfield, they can line him up outside. They have a lot of different options that they like to use on offense. We just have to be ready to match up with those guys."