Head Coach Nick Sirianni knows what to expect Sunday when the 7-4 Tennessee Titans come to Lincoln Financial Field: They are a mirror image of their head coach, Mike Vrabel, and that means they're coming to play hard, physical, nasty football.
That's the Titans' trademark, and it's a high compliment in the NFL.
"I was on a staff, my first job in the NFL, Mike Vrabel was the captain on the Kansas City Chiefs," Sirianni said on Monday at his day-after press conference. "Man, I couldn't say more good things about him as a player, and I know – I've obviously never coached with him, but the way he led as a football player on that team, coming from a great Steeler team and Ohio State teams and back to when he went to Walsh Jesuit, then being on those Patriot teams, that guy knows how to lead people and lead men. So that's on full display. It was on full display as a young coach, where I learned a lot from him as that goes and what a captain is supposed to look like. Now, it's on display from him as a coach. So, I like to say just, first and foremost, he's a damn good football coach and he's going to have those guys ready to go.
"Then that defense that they had – you asked me about the defense. Obviously, I have a lot of experience going against that defense. They're good. They're really good. Again, they're physical. They're sound. They don't beat themselves. They don't have a lot of penalties. My early studies on them are that I'm seeing a lot of the things I saw when we played them when I was with the Colts. (Titans DT Jeffery) Simmons, he's a really good player. Plays at a very high level and still playing at a high level. I was with (Titans DL) Denico Autry with the Colts, and he's a really good player. Really tough player. Again, fits that mold of what Tennessee bases itself off of ... You know what? We're good, too. We are going to have to be on our stuff, but we know this is a very sound defense, very physical defense, and so we'll have to be on it, and we're going to work like crazy to make sure we put our guys in the best position to make plays."
Sirianni also had high praise for some young defensive backs who have had to step in with veterans injured – Josiah Scott has been in the lineup as the nickel cornerback with Avonte Maddox on Injured Reserve and Reed Blankenship played on Sunday night in place of safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Depth has been challenged in the secondary and both Scott and Blankenship have responded.
"They just come to work every day and we trust they know what to do. That's just a piece of it. We trust they know what to do because they work hard and they're smart and they study hard, but you also have to have talent to do it, and they have that as well. Both of those guys have major talent. That's why they're on this team. They're tough, they're smart, they have talent, and so you have that faith in them," Sirianni said. "You have that faith in them that they're going to go out and perform and do the things they need to do to help us win. I think Josiah was able to do that at times last year for us, so we've seen that. He was also great on special teams for us all last year, and continuing into this year.
"So sometimes you don't get to see that live unless it is on special teams. Every time Reed has had an opportunity to play and perform, he's done a really good job. So, we have a ton of faith in those guys. That's the reason they're here, is because we have faith in them. If you don't have faith in them – and it's not blind faith. You hear me say that all the time. It's not blind faith, it's faith that they give us because of the way they practice, because of the way they go about their business and prepare, and now, the way they're playing."
Sirianni said he would update the injury situations of Gardner-Johnson, who left Sunday night's game with a rib injury, and defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who is eligible to come off Injured Reserve after spending time there with an ankle injury, later in the week.
For now, it's about preparing for the Titans, a team that is coming in off a loss to the Bengals with one thing in mind: To grind down the Eagles, to be more physical on the road. and to win a close game. Tennessee has not allowed more than 20 points in eight straight games, so the Titans have something special going defensively.