With backup running back Javon Ringer ruled out of Sunday’s game with a hand injury, rookie Jamie Harper steps into the lead backup role behind Chris Johnson when the Titans take on Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Harper, the team’s fourth-round pick out of Clemson, has played primarily on special teams this season, rushing just seven times for 16 yards and catching one pass for 21 yards. Most remember the 5-foot-11, 233-pound running back from the preseason when he led the club in rushing with 168 yards and three touchdowns on 38 attempts (4.4 avg) with a long of 46 at St. Louis.
Now he’ll look to spell Ringer, who averaged around five to six touches per game prior to being injured.
“I’ve been sitting back learning and watching everything so I would be ready to go whenever my opportunity came up,” Harper said.
That opportunity will come Sunday, and head coach Mike Munchak has all the confidence in the world in his rookie running back.
“He is a good, hard, heavy runner,” Munchak said. “He is a nice change of pace from a CJ (Chris Johnson) kind of running back. We are lucky to have a third running back that we feel that good about.”
Harper realized he would have to wait his turn, especially sitting two spots back on the depth chart of a player that had rushed for more than 4,500 yards in his first three season.
“It really wasn’t difficult. It’s the process of growing up,” Harper said. “When you have a great running back like Chris Johnson in front of you, there’s not much you can really do with that being a rookie.”
Munchak said Harper has been receiving lots of reps in practice and believes the running back’s confidence is high based on what he accomplished in the preseason.
“Having that under my belt is good,” Harper admitted. “This organization drafted me for a reason so now it’s a matter of going out there and doing what I’m capable of.”
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Wide receiver Nate Washington set a single-game career high with 130 yards on six receptions last week against the Saints. He already has set career benchmarks with 59 receptions and 798 receiving yards in 2011, and with five touchdown catches, he is one shy of tying his career-best mark in that category (six in 2009 and 2010).
Washington, who surpassed 250 career receptions last week, spent his first NFL season as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005. He appeared in only one regular-season contest as a rookie and did not record a catch until the playoffs that season.
Washington became a regular in Pittsburgh’s receiver rotation in 2006. From 2006-11, Washington is among 51 players who have totaled at least 250 catches. Of those players, Washington’s 14.9-yard receiving average ranks seventh behind only Vincent Jackson (17.3), Greg Jennings (15.9), Braylon Edwards (15.6), Santonio Holmes (15.6), Calvin Johnson (15.5) and Lee Evans (15.5).
Additionally, Washington’s 3,759 receiving yards over that span rank third among all active NFL players who were undrafted and second among current undrafted wide receivers, trailing only Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (7,606) and Patriots receiver Wes Welker (6,996).
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Jake Locker’s 282 passing yards against New Orleans rank as the second-highest total in franchise history by a rookie quarterback and the highest since 1960. Jacky Lee passed for 331 yards at Boston on Nov. 25, 1960
Most single-game passing yards by a rookie, franchise history
1. 331 – Jacky Lee 11/25/60 at Boston
2. 282 – Jake Locker 12/11/11 vs. New Orleans
3. 281 – Jacky Lee 11/20/60 vs. Denver
4t 260 – Brent Pease 10/4/87 at Denver
4t 260 – Dan Pastorini 11/7/71 at New England
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Defensive tackle Karl Klug continued his impressive rookie season last Sunday when he notched a pair of sacks against New Orleans Saints perennial Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees, giving him a team-high six sacks in 2011.
Klug downplayed his accomplishments to reporters during Wednesday’s open locker room session, giving credit to his teammates for keeping plays alive. But Klug certainly has had something to do with his success.
The numbers don’t lie.
His six sacks are the most by a Titans/Oilers rookie defensive tackle since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982.
Klug’s performance on Sunday moved him into a tie for fifth place in sacks among all NFL rookies, while placing him atop the leader board of all rookie defensive tackles.
Here’s a look at the numbers:
NFL ROOKIE SACK LEADERS
1 – Von Miller (LB) Denver – 11.5
2 – Aldon Smith (LB) San Francisco – 10.5
3t – Adrian Clayborn (DE) Tampa Bay – 6.5
3t – Ryan Kerrigan (LB) Washington – 6.5
5t – Karl Klug (DT) Tennessee – 6.0
5t – Pernell McPhee (DE) Baltimore – 6.0
5t – Brooks Reed (LB) Houston – 6.0
8 – Jabaal Sheard (DE) Cleveland – 5.5
9t – Sam Acho (LB) Arizona – 5.0
9t – Robert Quinn (DE) St. Louis – 5.0
MOST SACKS AMONG ALL NFL DEFENSIVE TACKLES IN 2011
1t – Geno Atkins Cincinnati – 7.0
1t – Henry Melton Chicago – 7.0
3 – Tommy Kelly Oakland – 6.5
4t – Karl Klug (Rookie) Tennessee – 6.0
4t – Richard Seymour Oakland – 6.0
6 – Cullen Jenkins Philadelphia – 5.5
7t – Phil Taylor (Rookie) Cleveland – 4.0
7t – Amobi Okoye Chicago – 4.0
9t – Ahtyba Rubin Cleveland – 3.0
9t – Cam Thomas (NT) San Diego – 3.0
MOST SACKS BY A TITANS/OILERS ROOKIE DEFENSIVE TACKE (since 1982)
1 – Karl Klug – 6.0 (2011)
2 – John Thornton – 4.5 (1999)
3 – Ray Childress – 3.5 (1985)
4t – Pratt Lyons – 2.5 (1997)
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Matt Hasselbeck’s strained left calf is not considered to be serious, and the veteran quarterback will start if healthy when the Titans play at Indianapolis on Sunday, head coach Mike Munchak said during Monday’s news conference at Baptist Sports Park.
Munchak quickly squashed any notion of a quarterback controversy.
“We’re in the middle of a playoff run and we have to win these three games,” Munchak said. “If Matt’s healthy, then Matt will quarterback us. As far as Jake, he’ll have plenty of time to be our guy, so we wouldn’t put him in just to gain experience.”
Hasselbeck was hurt in the second quarter of yesterday’s game after Saints tackle Shaun Rogers tipped his pass into the air. Locker replaced him and threw for 282 yards before being sacked on the final play of the game to end the comeback bid.
Hasselbeck said he wasn’t in any pain after the game and MRI results were not back yet as of Monday afternoon.
“He’s walking around pretty good,” Munchak said. “He’s sore but like most things we’ll talk about, it’s more waiting to see how he is until tomorrow and Wednesday. We haven’t heard anything yet but we’re assuming it’s on the mild side.”
Hasselbeck wasn’t the only Titans player injured Sunday. Linebacker Gerald McRath was carted off the sideline after hurting his left knee and ankle on kickoff coverage. Running back Javon Ringer hurt a hand, and linebacker Akeem Ayers has an injured shoulder.
Munchak said Monday that all of the injured players are considered “questionable” until more information is available.
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If the playoffs were to start today, division leaders Houston (10-3), Baltimore (10-3), New England (10-3) and Denver (8-5) would all be in. The two wild card teams would be Pittsburgh (10-3) and the New York Jets (8-5).
Tennessee (7-6) is currently in the hunt for the final wild card spot, along with Cincinnati (7-6), Oakland (7-6) and San Diego (6-7).
If the Titans win their final three games at Indianapolis, at home vs. Jacksonville and at Houston — coupled with one loss by the Jets — they would make the playoffs in a three-way tie with Cincinnati, New York or Oakland based on a better conference record.
Tennessee would lose a two-way tie with Cincinnati since the Bengals won the head-to-head matchup in Nashville earlier this season.
So a definite playoff scenario for the Titans would include them winning out and the Jets and Bengals losing once.
Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for teams in the AFC playoff hunt:
NEW YORK JETS (8-5)
Sun, Dec 18 @ Philadelphia
Sat, Dec 24 New York
Sun, Jan 01 @ Miami
CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-6)
Sun, Dec 18 @ St. Louis
Sat, Dec 24 Arizona
Sun, Jan 01 Baltimore
TENNESSEE TITANS (7-6)
Sun, Dec 18 @ Indianapolis
Sat, Dec 24 Jacksonville
Sun, Jan 01 @ Houston
OAKLAND RAIDERS (7-6)
Sun, Dec 18 Detroit
Sat, Dec 24 @ Kansas City
Sun, Jan 01 San Diego
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (6-7)
Sun, Dec 18 Baltimore
Sat, Dec 24 @ Detroit
Sun, Jan 01 @ Oakland
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You can watch Tennessee’s final drive of the game right here.
The Titans trailed 22-10 with 7:01 remaining, but Locker connected with Nate Washington on a 40-yard TD and led the Titans down to the New Orleans 5-yard line before coming up short in the final seconds.
The Titans fell to 7-6 with three games remaining at Indianapolis, home vs. Jacksonville and at Houston.
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Jake Locker has answered quickly for the Titans. After running 17 yards to pick up a first down, Locker dropped back and fired a perfectly-thrown 40-yard strike to Nate Washington, who spun away from a defender and reached the end zone.
You can watch Washington’s touchdown catch right here.
The touchdown pulls Tennessee within 22-17 with 5:58 remaining in the fourth quarter at LP Field.
It was Locker’s third TD of the season. It marked Washington’s fifth TD of the season and 29th of his career.
Locker is now 8-of-18 passing for 180 yards with one rushing and one passing touchdown (99.3 passer rating).
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Marques Colston scored his second touchdown of the day, this one on a perfectly-thrown 28-yard pass from Drew Brees. The two-point try failed, but the Saints now lead Tennessee 22-10 with 7:01 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Brees led the 7-play, 50-yard drive, which saw the Saints convert a pair of third downs to keep their offense on the field.
After holding New Orleans out of the end zone for the first three quarters, the Saints have reached pay dirt on their last two possessions. The Titans need to score one of their own if they want to get back in this game.
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The last time Drew Brees did not throw a touchdown in a game came during the 2009 season. The Titans had him on the ropes for three full quarters, but the Pro Bowl QB and former Super Bowl MVP found Marques Colston over the middle for a 35-yard touchdown, giving the Saints a 16-10 lead with 12:39 remaining in the fourth quarter at LP Field.
The scoring drive covered 72 yards on nine plays and consumed 4:40 on the clock.
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