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Mike Vrabel Has Dramatically Changed His Tone Regarding Julio Jones

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This summer, the Titans and their newly-signed Hall of Fame receiver, Julio Jones, were the talk of the town. The offense was supposed to be unstoppable, and the Titans were supposed to cruise through a weak AFC South with relative ease.

Funny how a blowout home loss can change the narrative really quickly.

Since arriving in Nashville, Jones has enjoyed total carte blanche with the organization and in the media. Nobody has dared criticize him publicly, even when he pulled the oldest veteran trick in the book, developing a “nagging” preseason injury to avoid practicing. That’s not to say Jones wasn’t actually injured, but even Vrabel made it clear that the Titans were intentionally going to be “cautious” with their new receiver.

Then the Cardinals rolled into town, embarrassed the Titans in front of their own fans 38-13, and exposed the entire organization as ill-prepared. Jones’ poor stat line (3 catches for 29 yards) was made significantly worse when he took a swing at cornerback Byron Murphy and drew a totally unacceptable unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

“Critical mistake,” Vrabel said, no longer shielding his players. “That is absolutely nothing that we coach or teach, so that would fall into the category of doing dumb shit that hurts the team, right there in bold letters.”

No mincing words, there. And the rightful criticism was just beginning.

“We had some drops – (Jones) dropped some passes,” Vrabel said during his postgame press conference. “Those are contested catches, but those are the ones that we have to come up with.”

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jones’ woes weren’t just attributable to a couple drops and a hot-head moment; he simply wasn’t able to get open. Jones averaged just 2.16 yards of separation when targeted against the Cardinals, more than a half yard below the league’s Week One average of 2.87 yards.

All told, the day was Arizona’s, but the NFL season is nothing if not long and grueling, so hopefully Tennessee can take the gut-punch in stride and be better for it. When a team acquires an elite talent at any position on the field late in his career, all the team can do is hope for health and motivation. The season is young, and Julio Jones should be healthy right now, so all that remains is the question of proper motivation. Maybe some tough love in the public eye from his no-nonsense head coach will light a fire in Jones’ belly, and Titans fans will get to see why he’s a Hall of Famer in the making.

Written by TK Sanders

TK is a southerner who has lived on both coasts and definitely prefers sunshine to snow. A former entertainment executive in Los Angeles, he was run out of Hollywood for misgendering a director's dog, and is now forced to blog for a living. Breaking 80 will always be his number one goal in life.

Follow him on Twitter @outkicktommy.

One Comment

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  1. I think it sends a message to the whole team that nobody’s above a butt chewing when you make decisions that hurt your team.

    I think the entire fan base had a similar reaction on Julio’s personal foul – a collective “you gotta be kidding me man!” with a variety of expletives inserted. It was 10-0 AZ, Titans were starting to pick up a little rhythm trying to answer, Henry just had his first decent hole for 7 solid yards to set up a 3rd and 1, and then way down the field Jones gets a ridiculous personal foul to turn a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 16. I think that one play deflated the team’s confidence to get back in it. They punted two plays later and it was never close after. Honestly, you can look at most games and there’s one particular play you can point to where the game was on a knife’s edge deciding the ultimate direction, and this play was the one imo. One stupid penalty like that may not directly affect the score or stat sheet, but it certainly affects every other emotional aspect of the entire team when you’re trying to respond and get back in a game. Best to get it out of everyone’s system in game 1 I suppose.

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