Tennessee Titans defensive linemen DaQuan Jones and Matt Dickerson have drastically bettered their respective games heading into their second year under head coach Mike Vrabel. Both players credited a focus on improving technique as the reasons behind their overall improvement.

“What’s crazy about this league,” Jones said, “is that everyone thinks when you go out there it’s some magic trick or something like that, but it really comes down to fundamentals. Whether you’re playing with good hands, good pad level, good knockback, shock and shed. It all comes down to the stuff you learn in high school and in college early on, and really just trying to critique and get better at the small details.”

“Just constantly trying to be perfect,” Dickerson said, “trying to get down the fundamentals of everything. Hopefully, it translates to the game. There’s always constant improvement you can work on, faster, stronger hand placement. We kind of took on that challenge.”

The forward leaps that Jones and Dickerson have taken were on full display during the Titans’ second preseason game on Saturday night. Both players made an early impact when they were in the game, making multiple solid plays in the backfield.

“It was solid,” Jones said of his performance on Saturday. “Can always be better. Wasn’t very happy with myself on the first play, I turned my shoulders out there. But each time I’m out there, I’m really focused on my technique and fundamentals. Just trying to get better and I feel like we did that today.”

“They’ve taken the coaching, they’ve put a lot of work, themselves, in the weight room,” said Vrabel, asked about Jones and Dickerson. “They were recognized by the strength staff as guys that did a really great job. They started to take the technique and see it, translate that onto the field. All of that time they put in, everything that Terrell [Williams] is teaching them and Matt Pees.

“I try to work a little bit with that group, but they’ve taken those techniques and they’ve transferred them into the game and I think they’ve started to see some success and, hopefully, they can continue that.”

At the start of Training Camp, Vrabel honored Jones and Dickerson for the work that both of them put in during the offseason, allowing them to serve as team captains for the Titans’ intrasquad scrimmage at Nissan Stadium on August 3.

“Just like all of us,” Dickerson said, “we’re all just working in the weight room all week before practice, after practice. Taking care of our bodies, the d-line with Coach [Terrell Williams] as a group, we kind of took on the challenge of being the best defense we can be.”

“I would say, for me,” Jones said, “it was more mental preparation, really just trying to visualize the best image of myself, re-instilling confidence in myself when I go out there and play the game. I think last year, I got really caught up in the new scheme and being out wide, stuff like that. This year, I get to move back inside and play a position I’m more comfortable with, really get to show my strengths.”

Dickerson agreed with Jones that a second-year under Vrabel and defensive coordinator Dean Pees will help, mentally, during games.

“Definitely have more confidence being in this system,” he said, “being with the guys, closer with a lot of my teammates, closer with a lot of the coaching staff, just the schematics of things. Just being involved with having a year in, I feel like it helps a lot.”

With first-round draft pick Jeffery Simmons sidelined for the foreseeable future as he recovers from an ACL tear, the Titans need Jones and Dickerson to step up alongside Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey in 2019.

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