Vrabel: Big play at Philadelphia not big enough

David Boclair

No doubt the Philadelphia Eagles would have been happy to have Jeremy McNichols’ 37-yard run – or anything close to it – Thursday night.

A day later, though, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel was not satisfied. He said it should have been longer. Much longer.

“We got about the minimum out of what we would have got out of that run if you’d have seen how it was blocked from the end zone,” Vrabel said Friday after having reviewed game film.

On the third play of the second quarter Thursday at Philadelphia, McNichols took a handoff on a play going to the right, cut behind the left side of the line and broke to the sideline before he finally was tackled. Three plays later, the Titans scored their first touchdown and were on their way to a 27-10 victory in their preseason opener.

It was the longest play of the night by the Tennessee offense and accounted for as many rushing yards as the Eagles had the entire contest. Philadelphia’s longest gain on 17 rushing attempts was six yards.

In fact, among the 11 preseason contests across the league Thursday night there were only two running plays that went for more yards.

“I (saw) two defenders on the back side and they got cut,” McNichols said. “So that was a big ol’ hole. Then I saw a safety and I felt like I could outrun him and just got to the sideline.”

Left tackle Taylor Lewan and left guard Jamil Douglas were the ones who got their men to the ground. Vrabel also singled out tight end MyCole Pruitt for his block on the play, which helped seal the left side and create the cut-back lane.

“It was a pretty cool thing to see what all those offensive linemen had been working on kind of translate,” Vrabel said. “[It was the] first time they (executed) cut blocks as opposed to [practicing] on a dummy and a launch pad.”

McNichols was a fifth-round draft pick in 2015 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Boise State. In four seasons as a professional he has played just three games and has carried the ball twice for four yards. The Titans signed him off of Denver’s practice squad last December but he did not appear in any of the final four games.

Against Philadelphia, he was the first of the Titans’ reserve running backs to play (Dion Lewis started and Derrick Henry did not make the trip). He finished as the game’s leading rusher with 44 yards on eight carries. Next for the Titans was Dalyn Dawkins, who finished with fewer yards (35 yards on 10 attempts) than McNichols had on that one.

“I was on practice squad so I got a lot of reps at practice and it just prepared me for these moments that’s coming up,” MicNichols said.

His big moment against the Eagles could have – and should have, according to his coach – been even bigger.