NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.
Outside linebacker, Tennessee Titans
Born: Jan. 6, 1989
Experience: Eight NFL seasons
[Getting to the top of the AFC South] really starts at winning our home games and winning those games against Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville. We can't put ourselves in a position to where we're looking back like, "Ah, man. I can't believe we let that one slip away." A game in September might not feel as dramatic as December, but we were 9-7 last year and snuck in the playoffs. If we would've won one or two more games, we would've had a home playoff game.
The AFC South has come out of the trenches to be one of the stronger divisions, at least on paper.Andrew Luck is back. [Deshaun] Watson will be back. Jacksonville was in the AFC Championship Game, so we have a lot of competition within the division. That's why it's so important to take care of that first.
We played [Houston] before [Watson] kind of took off. He played Cincinnati before us, and he had some wheels and played well. But it wasn't anything explosive yet like it was against us. We knew he had talent but we found out real quick what type of player he is.
Watson is an incredible talent and you saw the response. When he got hurt, it was like people were hurt because he was hurt. A lot of fans felt that way. ... When he's healthy, he's just somebody we're going to have to deal with. He's a great talent.
[Andrew Luck] is a thorn in my flesh. He is a really good guy and I hate to see him go through what he went through last year. I've never won a game against him. He's probably one of the best competitors I've played against, and I know he's played hurt a couple times. He doesn't quit and when [the Colts] have him, they're never out of the game. We've blown double-digit, fourth-quarter leads against the Colts in my history, so he's a special guy.
The biggest difference is the culture of the team. When I came in [in 2010], there was a particular culture already in place with a lot of older guys on the team. Coming in as a rookie, it was me trying to get my bearings and understand what the NFL was like. That was with Jeff Fisher and I only had one year with him.
As [Fisher] transitioned out to [Mike] Munchak to [Ken] Whisenhunt to [Mike] Mularkey and now to [Mike] Vrabel, it's a lot of change. Everybody comes in with their own philosophy and leadership style, and for me, spending the last couple years with Mularkey, it was a very consistent culture. You knew what was expected of you because he was the same guy every day. He took us to the point we got to last year as far as being able to know what's expected, having the right players in the building and we're really hoping to build off last year's success, not let that be our ceiling.
My role is becoming more of a mentor vet to the younger guys who come in. I'm really trying to do my best to coach them up on what it takes to be successful in this league on and off the field. It's about taking care of your body, being attentive, engaging in the meetings and making the right decisions. Me, along with [Brian] Orakpo, [Wesley] Woodyard and [Jurrell] Casey, we try to impart our wisdom onto those young guys so they don't make the same mistakes we made.
It's really paramount for the players to lead the team internally. If you come in as a young guy and see older guys doing something a certain way, you can look to and replicate that because he's been doing that at a high level for so many years. That's really big for the older guys, myself in particular, to help mold what you want the DNA to be [in the locker room].
When [Vrabel] was announced [as head coach], I knew him from watching him over the years so I knew he had a lot of knowledge to give. I think that if you're anybody that wants to be coached, then you will benefit by having somebody like that in the building who played your position.
He'll be at [the linebackers'] individual sessions going through drills or watching tape and going over technique. We get a lot of one-on-one time with him just being at his position. That's his background -- coaching linebackers -- so he's definitely involved in the day-to-day process.
To have another set of eyes on us is going to be invaluable. We have our D-coordinator, linebacker coach, then Vrabel. When you have different perspectives like that, you can kind of take pieces from each person and polish your game.
We don't rate our [defensive] success on the numbers. I think it's being able to be counted on in the clutch situations, whatever it looks like. If it's the two-minute drill and having to get off the field or close out the game or getting the ball back for our offense, we as a defense want to be counted on in those tough situations to deliver. If you look at it from that lens, that will result in improvement in different categories.
To me, it's all about limiting points. For us, that's priority No. 1. We want it that when the defense takes the field, everybody can relax because we're going to do our job.
[Derrick Henry has learned] a lot of patience. Coming out of Alabama being a Heisman Trophy winner, you want to contribute Day 1. Having DeMarco [Murray] in front of him and having to wait his turn, splitting carries, I know it's difficult because that's the competitor in all of us. I think that helped mature him in a lot of ways. We were telling him that this was valuable time for him. Running backs' careers aren't what they used to be. You don't want to get a ton of tread on your tires. Let this time be a time of learning and observing and honing your skills. To see him take off like he did in the playoffs and transition to the No. 1 guy, I think it's his time. He's been groomed and ready. We have all the confidence in the world in him.
[Rookies Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry] bought in. They are ready to go. Obviously, there's going to be a learning curve when you're coming from the collegiate level to the pro level, but they're engaged. Every time I see them, they're working, studying, asking questions. It's been a good process for them so far.
As a pass rusher, that's your goal to get double-digit sacks. It still haunts me. I had nine sacks with three games left in 2016. I was waking up at night after the season in a cold sweat, dreaming that I had the 10 sacks. That's just something you work for.
You have those situations where you are dropping into coverage because it's all part of the scheme. As a 3-4 outside linebacker, I have to be comfortable doing that from time to time. But the more you focus on results and numbers, the more uptight you become and it stunts your performance, in my opinion. If you're focused on the task at hand, you're able to execute a little better. That's my philosophy now as opposed to being so consumed with the 10-sack number. It's being consumed in being the best person and player on the field, and results will take care of themselves.