The Titans (5-8) host the Cardinals (8-5) at 3:25 p.m. (CT) on Dec. 15 at LP Field. Here’s a first glance at the matchup:
Tennessee led Denver on the road last week by 11 points midway through the second quarter but lost 51-28 after committing two turnovers in the second half. The Titans scored three rushing touchdowns (two by Shonn Greene and one by Chris Johnson) and scored on a 41-yard touchdown pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick to Justin Hunter, who had his second 100-yard receiving game. The Broncos, however, railed with 10 points late in the second quarter and scored four touchdowns on their first five possessions of the second half, including twice after the turnovers gave them short fields. Arizona has won five of its past six after going 3-4 in its first seven games. Veteran Carson Palmer, who joined the Cardinals this season, has developed a chemistry with seven-time Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald (67 catches for 774 yards) and second-year pro Michael Floyd (56 catches for 886 yards).
Team stat comparisons
Tennessee’s Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 21st (328.7)
Rushing Yards/Game: 15th (115)
Passing Yards/Game: 23rd (213.7)
Turnover Ratio: Even (tied for 14th in NFL)
Arizona’s Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 5th (311.7)
Rushing Yards/Game: 3rd (84.5)
Passing Yards/Game: 11th (227.2)
Points Allowed/Game: 7th (19.8)
Tennessee’s Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 14th (343.8)
Rushing Yards/Game: 20th (117.1)
Passing Yards/Game: 10th (226.8)
Points Allowed/Game: 17th (24.5)
Arizona’s Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 18th (337.9)
Rushing Yards/Game: 25th (90.2)
Passing Yards/Game: 14th (247.7)
Turnover Ratio: Even (tied for 14th in NFL)
The Titans/Oilers and Cardinals franchises have only met nine previous times, which is the fewest number of encounters against any team that was part of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Arizona leads 5-4, with Tennessee claiming the most recent matchup 20-17 on Nov. 29, 2009. The Cardinals’ organization was founded in 1898 and is the oldest continuously existing professional football franchise in America, having operated as the Morgan Athletic Club, the Normals, Racine Cardinals, Chicago Cardinals, St. Louis Cardinals, Phoenix Cardinals and Arizona Cardinals.
The previous meeting
Kenny Britt caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Vince Young as time expired to convert a fourth-and-goal and cap a 99-yard drive with a 20-17 Titans victory. The possession began at the Tennessee 1-yard line with 2:37 remaining and was extended by two other fourth-down conversions (catches of 10 yards by Britt and 13 yards by Lavelle Hawkins) and a third-down conversion. Young was 9-of-16 passing for 94 yards on the drive.
A quiet first half that had two field goals (52 and 24 yards) by Rob Bironas and a 41-yarder by Arizona’s Neil Rackers, Chris Johnson busted loose for an 85-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but the Cardinals answered the score with a 98-yard return by LaRod Stephens-Howling on the ensuing kickoff to cut the Titans’ lead to 13-10. The Cardinals claimed their first lead early in the fourth quarter, but were unable to stop the late rally, despite forcing a turnover with less than five minutes left and then getting a 64-yard punt by Ben Graham.
Tennessee is aiming to win its final three games of the season to finish 8-8. The Titans are still mathematically alive in the playoff standings but are two games behind Baltimore and Miami (both 7-6) and one game behind San Diego and the New York Jets (both 6-7) for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC.
The Titans are hoping to have Delanie Walker back from a concussion suffered on Dec. 1 this week, and the Cardinals will be compensating for the loss of talented rookie Tyrann Matthieu to a knee injury.
Tennessee is returning to LP Field for the first time in more than a month after going 1-2 in three straight road games. The Titans are 2-4 at home, and the Cardinals are 2-4 on the road this season. Arizona is 8-1 this season when it scores 22 or more points. Tennessee has held opponents to 22 or fewer points seven times this season and is 5-2 in those games.
Tags: Justin Hunter, Kenny Britt, NFL, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans
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Titans quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone was a marked man Thursday. In celebration of Ragone’s birthday, assistant head coach and strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson decided that Ragone should be treated to several pies in the face.
Watterson, who has managed to work in multiple pranks and jokes over his years with the Titans and Oilers, decided to add what was called a Hunger Games twist to Thursday’s surprise.
After practice concluded, Ragone was told there would be four pies and four guys chasing him but he would go unscathed if he could find the only door out of five options and make it inside before he was caught.
Ragone, 34, sprinted from the farthest practice field as receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Damian Williams gave chase. Ragone ran the width of the other two fields, a little more than 100 yards, was unable to find an open door, and eventually gave in.
“He ran pretty well. I’m surprised he didn’t get hurt trying to make it over here,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He thought there was an open door and actually all of them were locked. He was given bad information and he thought (the door used by media) would be open but that was locked also, so he basically had no chance of winning. I don’t really think any of them were open so I don’t think he had a shot.”
Washington said he liked the new twist on the old favorite.
“(Watterson) told us this morning that he was going to try something with Ragone, so it’s a little different. I think he was really just trying to get us the extra conditioning,” Washington said. “That was definitely a long way chasing ‘Rags.’ He didn’t think it was bad. No big deal for him.”
After the assault, Ragone went back to the far field as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did extra work with tight ends.
Munchak said Ragone wasn’t the only victim of antics this week. Watterson was in on a plot Tuesday with offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio and assistant secondary coach Steve Brown to ambush offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains when he turned 33 on Tuesday.
“They called (Loggains) down and said they were having a meeting with Jake (Locker) with how he was doing and then Jake was down in Steve’s office and we had three coaches waiting for him.”
Munchak said Matthews and Watterson have gotten him over the years as well, but his offseason birthday makes him less of a target.
“That’s been going on for years and years and years, but it’s nice to get new guys that haven’t been around it as much,” Munchak said.
Tags: Bruce Matthews, D, Damian Williams, Dave Ragone, Dowell Loggains, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Mike Munchak, Nate Washington, Steve Watterson
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Tennessee once again found itself backed up against its own goal line, but opted to throw its way down the field a possession after suffering a safety.
Locker opened with a 6-yard pass to Kenny Britt and followed with a 31-yarder to Nate Washington. Going no-huddle, Locker quickly fired to Britt for a gain of nine. Locker went back to Britt for a short gain after a penalty, then found Kendall Wright for a gain of 14 on third-and-2 when the shifty receiver dodged Texans defenders for extra yardage.
Chris Johnson added a gain of 15 on the next play, picking up blocks by Chance Warmack and Michael Roos on the left side of the line, with Walker escorting him.
Locker went back to Wright for a short tough catch that included a helmet-to-helmet penalty against Kareem Jackson. Locker then found Walker, who broke a tackle attempt by Jackson just shy of the goal line.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Delanie Walker, Jake Locker, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington
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A wish list of some things the Titans’ offense wants to do against the Bengals:
1) Establish rhythm early — Although it’s the preseason and a sell-out crowd is not expected in Cincinnati, this will be Tennessee’s first opportunity to play on the road in 2013. The best way to quiet a hostile crowd is to sustain offensive possessions early, and the Titans would like to have a solid opening series that blends the run and pass, moves the sticks and maybe results in a score.
Tennessee lost five yards on its first possession (a three-and-punt) against Washington with a short run by Chris Johnson, an incompletion on a deep pass to Kenny Britt and a sack of Jake Locker. Johnson scored on a 58-yarder on the first play of the Titans’ next possession to answer a touchdown by the Redskins, but quick strikes aren’t the most conducive to building rhythm.
Playing well early doesn’t secure victories on the road, but it doesn’t hinder them.
2) Maximize efficiency — Titans coach Mike Munchak said the first team is likely to play roughly 30 snaps or about a half, depending on the flow of the game. That should provide more opportunities for Locker, who finished 7-of-11 passing for 58 yards and a passer rating of 77.1, to take a look down the field this week. Washington opted to sag off Titans receivers to take away deep opportunities, and Locker frequently checked down to take what was available. Some were concerned about the lack of vertical attempts, but the Titans believe they missed out on a lot of hidden yardage on shorter throws last season. At least two of Locker’s incompletions probably should have been caught by receivers.
Forcing deep throws into coverage can result in incompletions or interceptions, which would hinder efficiency. Consistently connecting underneath, however, could open opportunities in defenses.
3) Protect the pocket — The Titans’ rebuilt offensive line created ample space for Johnson (60 yards on two carries) and Shonn Greene (32 yards on five), but Washington was able to record two sacks of Locker. Munchak said part of that may have stemmed from preparing less for the Redskins than the team will study opponents in the regular season.
The Titans, however, don’t want Locker getting hit too much in the preseason. He’s shown no signs that he’s dealing with any lingering effects of the injuries he suffered in 2012 to his left, non-throwing shoulder, but the Titans want to keep him upright, especially in games that don’t affect standings.
4) Evaluate deeper part of roster — An increase in playing time for starters reduces the amount of playing time for younger players, but there will still be useful opportunities for evaluations. This is particularly helpful in looking at the running back behind Johnson and Greene (Darius Reynaud, Jackie Battle and Jalen Parmele have been in competition), as well as tight end, tackle and receiver spots where younger players are vying for roster or practice squad spots. Reps are also helpful in advancing the progress of second-round pick Justin Hunter and trying to conduct the most thorough evaluation of a deep pool of receivers that coach Shawn Jefferson said is “the most talented group of receivers that I’ve been around since I’ve been in the League.”
Tags: Chris Johnson, Jackie Battle, Jake Locker, Kenny Britt, Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans, Titans
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Kendall Wright said Tuesday that Titans receivers have displayed an intense focus on the field and in their meeting rooms during the offseason workout program.
Tennessee is in Week 5 of its nine-week program. The Titans have reached the part where they are allowed to meet with coaches inside Baptist Sports Park and receive on-field instruction during workouts and drills.
Wright, a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, said he’s enjoyed working with Nate Washington, Damian Williams, a healthy Marc Mariani, free agent Kevin Walter and 2013 second-round draft pick Justin Hunter.
The best part, however, may be the way 2009 first-rounder Kenny Britt has returned to action more than a year removed from tearing his ACL and MCL in the third game of 2011.
“Oh yeah, he looks way different,” Wright said. “If you’re out there watching him, you can tell. He’s a whole different Kenny. He took his offseason serious and went and got his knee better.”
Britt underwent multiple surgeries before the 2012 season but started 11 of 14 games in 2012. He recorded 45 catches for 589 yards and had moments where he showed the big-play potential that tormented defensive backs prior to his injury.
Wright thinks Britt and Hunter will provide the Titans with vertical threats in the passing game that will create space for other players.
“Justin is real good from what I’ve seen so far,” Wright said. “He’s only going to get better if he keeps listening to the older guys like Nate, Kenny, Damian, Marc and Kevin. If he keeps listening to those guys and pays attention to what they say, he’ll be even better.”
Tags: Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt
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Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains wants to shorten and simplify the verbiage for his players in 2013, enabling them to focus more on making plays than thinking about where they need to be on the football field.
“Let them get out of the huddle knowing what to do so they can figure out what they have to do to make the play successful,” Loggains said during an interview Tuesday morning on Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone. “They shouldn’t be breaking the huddle wondering what the play is and where they need to line up…once you break the huddle, now you can think about what you have to do and how you’re going to do it.”
As players become more confident in processing play calls, they will play faster and become more productive, Loggains said.
“I believe that once these guys know where everyone is supposed to be, they can play fast and there will be less reads in the offense than there have been in years past,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing — where their confidence can go to the next level.”
Loggains hit on several other topics Tuesday:
(on the development of Jake Locker)
“We wanted to grade Jake on how he really played and the thing that stood out was that once we started getting banged up around him, that’s when he was trying to do too much because he felt it was on him to make a play. I do believe the injury to his shoulder affected him as the season went on.”
(on Locker pressing late in the season)
“I think at the end of the season he was trying to do too much. In the Green Bay game when Mike Otto got sick and we were playing with all those new linemen, I think in his mind if he didn’t step up and have his best game, we didn’t have a chance. I think he put too much on himself. It really slowed him down. And as you know, when you try to do too much, it’s the worst thing you can do because you’re not going to play fast and you’re going to hurt your football team by doing that.”
(on Locker’s accuracy)
“I don’t consider it as big of an issue as people make it out to be. It’s a combination of Jake being on the same page with the receivers, the pass protection holding up and him making the throws that he needs to make. It falls somewhere in between all three of them. When you’re synced up with the receivers and getting protected, it’s your job to make the play and he needs to go do that.”
(on if Titans will incorporate the “pistol” offense like San Francisco used with Colin Kaepernick)
It’s something we’re definitely going to study. It’s not too far off from what we were doing as a coaching staff in 2006 and 2007 with Vince Young. The biggest thing is the quarterback’s ability to run the ball. When you make that kind of commitment that we have a running quarterback and we’re going to do some of that stuff, it can hide the formation a little bit — what side the back is going to and hide what side the zone read is going to be.
(on expectations for Kenny Britt in 2013)
My expectations are very high for Kenny because I know what type of player he can be. He needs to step up and take his game to the next level, both on and off the field because we are expecting a lot from him and he can be a really special football player. When he’s healthy, he’s as good as anyone in the league.
(on things Britt needs to work on)
He needs to work on getting off press (coverage). I think that showed up in the Monday night game against the Jets. He really struggled against Antonio Cromartie. You saw the wiggle that Kendall Wright has, and he separated against Cromartie. That’s the biggest thing that Kenny needs to improve on. Our new wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson is really going to be able to help him with that.
(on his assessment of Kendall Wright’s rookie season)
I thought Kendall played better than what most rookies play. He was a first-year player coming out of the spread offense and gave us a little taste of what he can do. He’s extremely quick and is a really good kid. Football is important to him and we expect him to have a better year than he did last year.
(on getting Chris Johnson back to his 2009 form)
I went back and watched all of our 2008 and 2009 games, and some from 2010 — and the biggest thing for Chris was he was our leading receiver. He had 50 receptions and averaged 10 yards a catch. Watching that film compared to this year, getting him back involved in the passing game will help open up the run game as much as anything. That’s a weapon that is hard to find.
(on potentially adding a bruising running back to compliment Johnson)
I think if you’re going to run to win and you get into the four minute offense where you’re up and you need to start pounding people, it’s really important for us to find that guy that can take a little burden off Chris and maybe play some third down stuff just from the simple fact that’s six or seven collisions that Chris isn’t going to take that will help prolong his career because he’s a smaller guy with speed. During the LenDale White/Chris Johnson “Smash and Dash” season (in 2008), LenDale had 15 touchdowns and took a lot of the burden off Chris. It brings a different element to your offense.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Dowell Loggains, Jake Locker, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt
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Wide receiver Kenny Britt was spotted running routes and catching passes following Wednesday’s practice at Baptist Sports Park.
Britt, rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL suffered last season, is currently on the physically unable to perform list as team doctors and trainers evaluate his progress.
“He’s doing routes now and catching balls,” head coach Mike Munchak told reporters Monday. “He obviously can’t be in with us on the offensive side of the ball until he’s off PUP, but he’s progressing. He’s doing more and more every day with us, and his knees have been holding up well.”
Britt appears to be feeling better, and was all smiles Wednesday when an NFL Network reporter asked him when he would return.
“Sooner than you think,” Britt responded.
Tags: Kenny Britt
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