Vra­bel faces old boss as Tex­ans visit Ti­tans

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY TERESA M. WALKER

NASHVILLE — Mike Vra­bel knows Hous­ton coach Bill O’Brien pretty well af­ter spend­ing the past four sea­sons work­ing as a Tex­ans as­sis­tant, in­clud­ing as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor last sea­son. Now Vra­bel has his own team in Ten­nessee, and to­day he will square off with his former boss while look­ing for his first vic­tory as an NFL head coach.

Vra­bel hopes his fa­mil­iar­ity with the Tex­ans helps in the Ti­tans’ home opener, but he cau­tioned against see­ing that as a ma­jor ad­van­tage.

“They’ve added some new stuff, and they’re do­ing new things and they’ve got some new per­son­nel,” Vra­bel said. “Hope­fully we can get pre­pared enough to go out and win a game on Sun­day.”

Vra­bel went win­less in the pre­sea­son as the Ti­tans fo­cused on try­ing to get to the reg­u­lar sea­son healthy. Af­ter a 27-20 loss to the Mi­ami Dolphins last Sun­day in the opener, the Ti­tans put tight end De­lanie Walker on in­jured re­serve, and two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Le­wan is re­cov­er­ing from a con­cus­sion. Quar­ter­back Mar­cus Mar­i­ota also hurt the el­bow on his throw­ing arm, and backup Blaine Gab­bert could be needed even if Mar­i­ota starts.

Hous­ton has dom­i­nated this AFC South ri­valry lately, but the teams split the sea­son se­ries last year, with each win­ning on its home field. Hous­ton vis­ited Nashville last De­cem­ber with quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son out with a torn ACL, and Mar­i­ota left the Ti­tans’ ear­lier loss in Texas with an in­jured ham­string.

Wat­son was back for the Tex­ans’ opener, which Hous­ton lost 27-20 at New Eng­land. The Tex­ans are back on the road for a sec­ond straight week, and nei­ther team can af­ford to fall to 0-2, rais­ing the stakes even higher.

“We want to win very badly,” Ti­tans line­backer Der­rick Mor­gan said. “It’s a di­vi­sional game. You don’t want to start out 0-1 in the di­vi­sion. You want to get some mo­men­tum and go from there.”

Mike Vra­bel

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