INDIANAPOLIS -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick recently offered high praise for Jon Robinson, describing the Tennessee Titans new general manager as "an asset to any football program."
A longtime scout under Belichick, Robinson returned the favor Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I owe a ton to that man. I respect the heck out of him," Robinson said of Belichick. "And his record speaks for itself. Whether through discussions or just watching how he went about building the football team there in New England, I learned a lot of football from my time there. It was really special."
Although Robinson acknowledged that Jason Licht of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers "opened the GM curtain" for him, he emphasized that New England is football's version of an Ivy league education.
"New England is a unique place. It forces you to learn football," Robinson continued. "It forces you to learn more than just this player can do this. It's he can do this and this is how he's going to fit into our football team.
"It teaches you big-picture things when it comes to roster building. I think that is what has prepared Jason (Licht), and (Thomas) Dimitroff, and Scott (Pioli) and Bob (Quinn) and now myself to really attack our own individual clubs with a similar philosophy and yet our own personality on the football team."
- Coach Mike Mularkey clarified the term "exotic smashmouth," which has been used to describe his offensive philosophy with roots in Pittsburgh early this century.
Mularkey explained that the Steelers ran a lot of exotic plays with Kordell Stewart, Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward -- all of whom played multiple positions with versatile skill sets early in their respective careers. "Exotic" was the term used to keep defenses off balance. "Smashmouth" came into play because opposing teams knew it was always going to be a physical clash in Pittsburgh.
As Robinson explained, "the style of football that we're going to play is a downhill, run the football, be a physical football team." That's three "footballs" in one sentence if you're counting at home.
Although Mularkey echoed that smashmouth approach, he stressed that he is not describing the Titans' offense as exotic.
- Dorial Green-Beckham will have an opportunity to compete for a starting job, but Mularkey made it clear that the second-year wide receiver better come to offseason practices with a better handle on the playbook after struggling with route running as a rookie.
"A lot of that will depend on Dorial," Mularkey explained. "We'll know right away (whether he's been studying). ... I think he knows that's a point of emphasis for him. He'll have a lot to say on whether he's that guy or not."
- Mularkey reiterated his intention to loosen the reins on Marcus Mariota as a runner. Not only will Mularkey encourage Mariota to leave the pocket more often, the coaching staff is also going to design more running plays for the speedy quarterback.
"I think you can protect yourself better as a runner than you can as a pocket passer," Mularkey offered.
- Mularkey and Robinson both emphasized the need for all five offensive linemen to improve in protecting Mariota. Whereas the left tackle emerged as a high-profile position in the 1990s and 2000s, the Titans aren't placing the blindside on a pedestal. Mularkey pointed out that J.J. Watt can line up anywhere and attack any position on the offensive line.
The Titans' representatives dropped hints that Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil would be a fit at the top of the draft, allowing Taylor Lewan to move to the right side and Jeremiah Poutasi to kick inside to guard.