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Titans Turn to Ground Game for TD

Posted by Craig Peters on December 22, 2013 – 2:19 pm

A short touchdown by Shonn Greene has brought the Titans within three points at 16-13 with 4:01 left in the third quarter.

After opening the possession with three straight throws, including a 15-yard completion from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Nate Washington on third-and-3, the Titans ran the ball eight straight plays.

Chris Johnson had runs of 4, 8 and 9 to move the ball to the Jacksonville 46-yard line. Tennessee then brought in Shonn Greene, who gained 3 before busting lose for a 29-yarder, the team’s longest run of the day. Greene took the next three carries for 2, 2 and the 1-yard score. Greene broke tackles by Paul Posluszny and Johnathan Cyprien.


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Justin Hunter Catches 41-yard TD

Posted by Craig Peters on December 8, 2013 – 5:50 pm

Justin Hunter went long and got one. Hunter pulled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

The touchdown brought Tennessee within six at 34-28 and gave Hunter 108 receiving yards on the day. It is the second game with more than 100 yards receiving in three weeks.

He also had a career-long 57-yarder to set up Tennessee’s first touchdown.

Denver answered with a 19-yard field goal by Matt Prater for a 37-28 lead with 13:15 left in the game.


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First Look: Titans at Broncos

Posted by Craig Peters on December 3, 2013 – 11:51 pm

The Titans (5-7) visit the Broncos (10-2) on Dec. 8 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Here’s a first glance at the matchup:

Recent action

Tennessee fell 22-14 at Indianapolis last week and lost ground in the running for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. At 6-6, Baltimore and Miami are currently ahead by one game. The Titans put together a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives but committed four turnovers against the Colts. Denver won at Kansas City 35-28 with a 28-7 rally that was fueled by three of the four touchdown passes on the day from Peyton Manning to Eric Decker, who had eight catches for 174 yards and became the first Bronco to have four TD catches in a game. Denver coach John Fox is expected to return to the sideline after missing the past four games because of an operation. The Broncos went 3-1 in that span with Jack Del Rio filling in for Fox.

Team stat comparisons

Kendall Wright has team highs of 71 catches for 840 yards this season.

Kendall Wright has team highs of 71 catches for 840 yards this season.

Tennessee’s Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 19th (334.9)
Rushing Yards/Game: 15th (116.6)
Passing Yards/Game: 21st (218.3)
Turnover Ratio: Plus-2 (tied for 13th in NFL)

Denver’s Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 27th (384.2)
Rushing Yards/Game: 7th (100.2)
Passing Yards/Game: 29th (284)
Points Allowed/Game: tied at 26th (26.4)

Tennessee’s Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 9th (326.6)
Rushing Yards/Game: 17th (114)
Passing Yards/Game: 7th (212.6)
Points Allowed/Game: tied at 11th (22.3)

Denver’s Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 1st (458.5)
Rushing Yards/Game: 13th (121.9)
Passing Yards/Game: 1st (336.6)
Turnover Ratio: Minus-4 (tied for 21st in NFL)

Series history

The Titans lead 22-16-1 in 39 meetings that include three postseason games. The original members of the American Football League have met just four times during the Titans’ era. Tennessee snapped a streak of three losses (2004, 2007, 2010) with a 17-14 comeback victory at LP Field on Sept. 25, 2011. Prior to that stretch, the last game between the teams was a 42-33 win by the Houston Oilers in 1995. The last road win by the Titans/Oilers in the series was in 1987.

The previous meeting

The Titans delivered a goal-line stand when Derrick Morgan stuffed Willis McGahee on fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter to erase a sack fumble that gave the Broncos the ball at the Tennessee 13-yard line and shift momentum away from Denver as it opted to go for a 21-10 lead instead of a 17-10 lead.

After the teams swapped punts, Tennessee got the ball back at its own 5 with 7:54 remaining in the game. Tennessee had lost receiver Kenny Britt to a knee injury in the second quarter, but Matt Hasselbeck distributed it to multiple players during the comeback drive. The veteran QB connected with Quinn Johnson for an 8-yard gain and converted third-and-2 with a short pass to Javon Ringer. Hasselbeck then hit Craig Stevens in stride for a 58-yard completion to the Denver 25. Chris Johnson rushed for eight yards, and Hasselbeck followed with a 13-yarder to Nate Washington and a 4-yard touchdown to Daniel Graham for a 17-14 lead.

The Broncos tried to answer but Will Witherspoon intercepted Kyle Orton with 1:39 remaining, and the Titans were able to run out the clock.

Outlook

The weather forecast is calling for a high of 20 degrees Fahrenheit with a low of 6 and a 30 percent chance of snow.

With four games remaining, any loss by the Titans or win by the Colts secures the AFC South title for Indianapolis. Tennessee’s solid pass defense will face its stiffest challenge of the season. Denver leads the NFL in yards per game, yards per play, passing yards per game, passing yards per play, first downs a game, third down (49), fourth down (100) and red zone (80) percentages and points per game (38.7).

The Titans have scored 38 points one time this season (against the New York Jets), so they will try to limit the amount of points on the board by keeping the ball away from Manning.

Tennessee brought back Quinn Johnson at fullback, signed veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and placed Collin Mooney (knee) on injured reserve on Tuesday.

The Titans are 3-3 on the road this season. Tennessee is 5-2 when it has an even or positive turnover ratio this season and 0-5 when it has a negative turnover ratio.


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First Look: Titans at Colts

Posted by Craig Peters on November 26, 2013 – 10:43 am

The Titans (5-6) visit the Colts (7-4) on Dec. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Here’s a first glance at the matchup:

Recent action

Tennessee defeated Oakland 23-19 on Nov. 24 by executing a 14-play, 80-yard drive that started with 6:10 left in the game and ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds left. Fitzpatrick celebrated his 31st birthday by completing 30 of 42 passes for 320 yards, Wright had six catches for 103 yards, and rookie Justin Hunter had six catches for 109 yards, including a 54-yard catch-and-run TD. Indianapolis is coming off a 40-11 loss at Arizona in which the Cardinals built a 27-3 lead with two TD catches by Larry Fitzgerald and a 22-yard interception return for a score by Karlos Dansby. This will be the second meeting between the Titans and Colts in a three-game span. Indianapolis claimed the first with a 30-27 comeback win on Nov. 14.

Team stat comparisons

In his past three outings, Ryan Fitzpatrick is 74-of-103 passing (71.8 percent) for 806 yards and five touchdowns.

In his past three outings, Ryan Fitzpatrick is 74-of-103 passing (71.8 percent) for 806 yards and five touchdowns.

Tennessee’s Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 17th (333.8)
Rushing Yards/Game: 16th (112.5)
Passing Yards/Game: 21st (221.4)
Turnover Ratio: Plus-5 (10th in NFL)

Indianapolis’ Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 23rd (369.1)
Rushing Yards/Game: 27th (125.5)
Passing Yards/Game: 19th (243.5)
Points Allowed/Game: tied at 15th (23.6)

Tennessee’s Defensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 11th (332.3)
Rushing Yards/Game: 17th (114.9)
Passing Yards/Game: 7th (217.4)
Points Allowed/Game: tied at 10th (22.3)

Indianapolis’ Offensive Rankings:
Yards/Game: 14th (339.8)
Rushing Yards/Game: 18th (109.9)
Passing Yards/Game: 18th (229.9)
Turnover Ratio: Plus-3 (tied for 13th in NFL)

Series history

The Titans trail 24-14 in 38 meetings (including the Divisional playoff game during Tennessee’s run to Super Bowl XXXIV). Tennessee has lost the past four in the series that began in 1970 when the American Football League merged into the NFL, and Indianapolis joined the AFC. The Colts won the last meeting they hosted 27-23 (Dec. 9, 2012).

The previous meeting

The Titans sprinted out of the gate to a 17-6 lead but stumbled during a critical stretch early in the third quarter and were unable to complete a rally.

Chris Johnson rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns (30 and 7 yards) on 13 carries in the first half, and Fitzpatrick locked in on crossing routes to Wright and Delanie Walker, but the Titans had to settle for a field goal on a drive that included 41 yards on three consecutive penalties by the Colts late in the second quarter.

Indianapolis put together a drive for a field goal before the half and an 11-play, 74-yard TD drive to open the third quarter. The Colts then capitalized on a fumbled kick return by Devon Wylie that gave them the ball at the Tennessee 20-yard line and scored two plays later to take a 20-17 lead. The Titans had just three offensive plays in the third quarter.

Fitzpatrick finished 22-of-28 passing for 222 yards with a late TD pass to Walker (10 catches, 91 yards) for a passer rating of 111.6.

Outlook

This game has implications for the AFC South standings and the final Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Tennessee has an opportunity to move within one game of Indianapolis for four games to follow.

The Titans are one of six AFC teams with a 5-6 record and currently hold an edge in the tiebreaker process. With road trips to Denver (9-2) and a home contest against Arizona (7-4) following this game, the Titans know the importance of settling a score against the Colts.

Tennessee is 3-2 on the road this season but is yet to win in five games at Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008.

Fitzpatrick has had a passer rating of 109 or higher in his past three games (two starts, one relief appearance for injured Jake Locker), and Johnson had a season-high 150 rushing yards the last time he played on artificial turf in St. Louis (Nov. 3).

The Titans want to do better against the run than they did the first time against the Colts (32 rushes for 137 yards and three TDs), as well as containing TE Coby Fleener, who had eight receptions for 107 yards.

Tennessee is 5-2 when it has an even or positive turnover ratio this season and 0-4 when it has a negative turnover ratio.


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Titans WR Coach Shawn Jefferson: Kendall Wright “Well on his Way”

Posted by Craig Peters on October 31, 2013 – 11:42 pm

Titans receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said Kendall Wright is “well on his way to becoming one of the top playmakers” in the slot and he’s “pleasantly surprised” with the way the second-year pro has handled playing outside in two-receiver formations.

Kendall Wright has team bests of 40 receptions and 237 yards after catches this season.

Kendall Wright has team bests of 40 receptions and 237 yards after catches this season.

“He’s blessed with a rare skillset of hands, hand-eye coordination. He has above average speed and for his size, he plays big,” Jefferson said. “The thing I love about him the most is when the ball is in his hands, that’s when he’s the most dangerous. He can make a person miss and create yards after the catch.”

Wright has a team-best 40 receptions for 433 yards (10.8 per catch) with one touchdown, and 237 of those receiving yards have come after the catch, ranking him 14th in the NFL in that category.

The Titans have moved Wright to the lead “X” position in the offense opposite Nate Washington in the “Z” position when they are in two-receiver sets, and he’s handled the challenge. Wright’s success early against Seattle prompted the Seahawks to shift their coverage. He tied a career-high with nine receptions the following week against the 49ers while working outside and in the slot.

“It’s gone good for me. I like it. As long as I’m out there on the field I’m capable of making plays so I don’t mind being on the inside or outside,” Wright said. “I like both and feel like most of my production has come from the inside this year, but it’s good that I can do both. We have a lot of receivers out here that can do both. I don’t prefer to slide more to the outside. I just want to be on the field.”

Wright has had at least five catches in six games this season and 21 of his catches have resulted in first downs.

Jefferson said an analogy for Wright is a basketball gym rat that would dive across the floor at the sight of a basketball and the player who would get to it first.

Wright’s first love was basketball, but now he just shoots hoops from time to time to clear his head.

Jefferson said Wright’s decision to focus on football is boding well for him wherever he is on the field.

“Kendall is blessed with lateral quickness and he’s very good in his short area quickness,” Jefferson said. “I’m not as worried anymore when he’s one that outside because of his quickness. He’s just a playmaker.”


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Titans Encouraged by Results of Jake Locker’s Second MRI

Posted by Craig Peters on October 1, 2013 – 3:07 pm

The Titans received an encouraging medical report Tuesday after Jake Locker underwent a second MRI. The first MRI that was taken Sunday after Locker was injured was inconclusive, so the Titans were in wait-and-see mode until the swelling Locker encountered subsided.

Jake Locker jogs onto the field before the Titans-Jets game. Locker and the Titans received encouraging news that the hip injury he suffered is a sprain.

Jake Locker jogs onto the field before the Titans-Jets game. Locker and the Titans received encouraging news that the hip injury he suffered is a sprain.

“We received reassuring reports from the second MRI (Tuesday) and they confirmed that there was no major damage to Jake Locker’s hip joint – it is classified as a sprained hip,” the team announced. “The area will need time to heal and strengthen, but he won’t require surgery and he has already begun a rehab routine for both his hip and knee. We certainly would expect him to miss a few weeks, but we are encouraged by the news (Tuesday).”

Locker suffered the sprained hip and knee (the knee is thought to be less major than the hip injury) early in the third quarter during a pass attempt. After firing the ball toward Nate Washington, Locker was hit from the front left by Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. The hit knocked Locker backward and he spun about 180 degrees. As Locker’s right foot planted, he took another hit from Jets linebacker Quinton Coples that pushed him away from the direction he was going and appeared to put extra stress on Locker’s right hip and knee. Locker reached for his hip after the hit by Coples and went to the ground.

Teammates came by to share words of encouragement and prayed for Locker, who left the field on a cart as the crowd at LP Field chanted, “Jake, Jake, Jake…”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he considered both hits “unnecessary” and the one by Coples as “totally unnecessary,” but neither drew a flag.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said “I think the hit (by Wilkerson) wasn’t too aggressive but it was a late hit. It wasn’t called for,” and tight end Delanie Walker said “there wasn’t a reason for the late hit he took.”

Locker will not be playing this week and began receiving treatment Monday. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will start for the Titans (3-1) this Sunday against Kansas City (4-0).

Prior to the injury, Locker recorded his first NFL game with three touchdown passes. It was his 15th career start. Munchak said the injury will halt the momentum Locker had been building, but he is confident in Locker’s ability to bounce back and in Fitzpatrick’s ability to fill in.

“You don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but everything was going right for him,” Munchak said. “He was playing well the last couple weeks doing exactly what we thought he would do, what he thought he was capable of. He was playing as good as he’s played against a top defense in that game, in that half, going into the third quarter. It’s a blow to the team, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, in sports this happens. Luckily, we have Fitz, who we think is a very good quarterback.”

Locker missed five starts last season (his first as a captain and starter) with an injury to his left shoulder. He vowed to do what he can to help the Titans while he is sidelined.

“I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers,” Locker said in a statement. “I am going to work as hard as I can to get back as soon as I can. I believe in this team and will do whatever I can to help us win in the meantime.”


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Titans Raise Preseason Offensive Production

Posted by Craig Peters on August 31, 2013 – 1:01 pm

The week of roster reductions is always difficult as teams transition from the preseason to the regular season, but here are three statistical comparisons between this preseason and 2012 that the Titans should find encouraging. The numbers essentially evaporate with no bearing on regular season results, but illustrate desired trends that the Titans would like to continue beginning Sept. 8 in the season opener at Pittsburgh.

Team Quarterback Rating: 2012 — 69.2 | 2013 — 104.6 | Difference: +35.4

Jake Locker improved his passer rating this preseason over last year's by 22.4 points.

Jake Locker improved his passer rating this preseason over last year’s by 22.4 points.

Diagnosis: Titans quarterbacks have completed 80 of 120 passes (66.7 percent) for 912 yards and thrown eight touchdowns against two interceptions, delivering double-digit increases in passes completed and completion percentage and accounting for 280 more net passing yards, five more touchdowns and one less interception.

The substantial gain in passer rating stems largely from the increase in the number of passing touchdowns thrown by Titans QBs this preseason. Jake Locker attempted 11 fewer passes and completed two more, driving his completion percentage from 51.7 to 67.3 percent and improved his QB rating from 71.3 to 93.7 this preseason with the benefit of a full offseason as Tennessee’s starter.

Outlook: A considerable effort was made this offseason to capitalize on Locker’s strengths, as well as take advantage of high-percentage underneath routes to tight ends and running backs. Tennessee believes there’s hidden yardage there that it left on the table in 2012.

Time of Possession: 2012 — 27:45 | 2013—31:33 | Difference: +3:48

Diagnosis: Some have said this is the most important statistical category in which the Titans can improve this season not only to help the offense but also the defense. Tennessee wants to be a more physical team that is capable of running the ball when it needs and wants to do so, then take advantage of play-action passes that create larger throwing windows.

Outlook: The Titans added veteran running backs Shonn Greene during free agency and Jackie Battle before training camp to add different styles of backs to complement Chris Johnson’s speed and big-play threats. Johnson’s ability to make long runs and score on them is quite rare, but such explosiveness can reduce time with the football.

In 2012, three of 51 Titans possessions (6.9 percent) in the preseason lasted 10 or more plays, but this preseason Tennessee had 11 of 41 possessions (26.8 percent) go 10 plays or more. Continuing to do so in the regular season will improve offensive rhythm and allow the defense to stay fresh to maximize its performance.

Third-down percentage: 2012 — 14-for-52 (26.9 percent) | 2013 — 27-for-58 (46.6 percent) | Difference: +19.7 percent

Diagnosis: Success on third down increases time of possession, so it’s not surprising to see such strong improvements overlap. The gains can be attributed to better results on first and second downs to avoid obvious passing situations created by third-and-longs. Reducing the distance needed to convert a pass on third down is also likely to help quarterback completion percentage and passer rating.

Outlook: Continuing to move the chains on early downs opens the playbook for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, and having third-and-short distances keeps faking the ball to running backs before throwing it a possibility. Tennessee also emphasizes the important role that running backs play in picking up the blitz, and Johnson, Greene and Battle have shown a willingness and ability to do that. Converting third downs early can be particularly helpful on the road because it reduces the fire in opposing fans and builds rhythm and confidence in offensive players while letting defensive players stay fresh.


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Titans Offensive Wish List vs. Falcons

Posted by Craig Peters on August 23, 2013 – 3:59 pm

A wish list of some things the Titans’ offense wants to do against the Falcons:

Andy Levitre (67) was brought in to help the interior of Tennessee's offensive line.

Andy Levitre (67) was brought in to help the interior of Tennessee’s offensive line.

1)      Finish possessions with points — The Titans successfully moved the ball last week at Cincinnati but reaped too few results on the scoreboard. Tennessee converted 10 of 19 third downs (53 percent) and netted 412 yards of offense but was 1-for-3 on trips to the red zone, thanks to a couple of dropped passes and three missed field goals. The Titans had the ball inside the Bengals’ 30-yard line six times but only had 12 points (two field goals and a short TD pass to show for it) on a frustrating night that was eerily reminiscent to Tennessee’s game at Jacksonville last November.

2)      Seize momentum when opportunity knocks — Like the game against the Jaguars last season, the defense forced a turnover on the opponent’s first possession and got the ball inside the 30-yard line. The Titans moved the ball seven yards before settling for a field goal last year, and eight yards before a field goal attempt that was wide left last week, missing an opportunity to build on an early 3-0 lead. Those are critical types of moments that can allow teams to seize momentum early and better dictate the flow of the game. They understandably are a point of emphasis this year at home or on the road.

3)       Continue to protect the football — One of the most encouraging aspects through two preseason games is Tennessee hasn’t given up the pigskin via fumble or interception. It’s likely that the Titans will need to average more than 20 points a game most weeks during the regular season, but protecting the football reduces stress on the defense. The Titans lost the ball via 16 interceptions and 12 of the 21 times they fumbled in 2012. The stronghold they’ve kept on the football so far has led to some long, run-intensive possessions and Tennessee keeping the ball for 30 minutes, 25 seconds per game this preseason. Last year, the Titans struggled in that category, holding it for a league-low 27:18.

4)      Identify starting center and “swing guy” — The Titans placed a major emphasis on improving the interior of their offensive line this offseason. Tennessee found its left guard by adding free agent Andy Levitre and its right guard with first-round pick Chance Warmack. The Titans have had the benefit of great competition at center between free agent additions Rob Turner and Chris Spencer, 2012 starter Fernando Velasco and rookie Brian Schwenke. Turner started against Washington, and Velasco started at Cincinnati while Turner played guard and Spencer relieved Velasco at center. Titans coach Mike Munchak said Turner will start against Atlanta and is expected to play into the third quarter with most of Tennessee’s starters before Schwenke, who has recovered from a hamstring, makes his NFL debut. Velasco and Spencer will play at guard this game. The Titans want to identify their starting center but also the “swing guy” who will be active on game days as a replacement in case there’s an injury at center or either guard position.


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Titans Offensive Wish List vs. Bengals

Posted by Craig Peters on August 16, 2013 – 4:25 pm

A wish list of some things the Titans’ offense wants to do against the Bengals:

Jake Locker talks with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in the preseason opener.

Jake Locker talks with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in the preseason opener.

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.”


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Titans Defensive Wish List vs. Redskins

Posted by Craig Peters on August 8, 2013 – 6:43 pm

A wish list of some things the Titans’ defense wants to do against the Redskins:

The Titans think Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan are poised for productive seasons on the defensive line.

The Titans think Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan are poised for productive seasons on the defensive line.

1)      Stop the run — The Titans made a substantiated effort to get larger on the defensive line to stop the run on early downs and force teams to face longer third downs. Tennessee added free agents Sammie Hill and Antonio Johnson at defensive tackle and Ropati Pitoitua at defensive end. The Titans want to see Hill work with Jurrell Casey, who’s had a strong training camp, to halt the run.

2)      Evaluate cornerback challenges — Tennessee has indicated it wants to play more press man coverage at cornerback this season. Jason McCourty is the starter at left cornerback, but the right cornerback spot is open with Alterraun Verner and Tommie Campbell alternating snaps with the first team during training camp. After that, the Titans also want to see third-round pick Blidi Wreh-Wilson and sixth-rounder Khalid Wooten match up against receivers in a game setting. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said this week that Coty Sensabaugh is likely to replace McCourty fairly early against the Redskins.

3)      Define new identity — The Titans also added experience in the secondary by signing free agents Bernard Pollard and George Wilson at safety. Wilson signed first and is capable of playing either safety position, and Pollard is likely to start at strong safety in partnership with free safety Michael Griffin, allowing Griffin to patrol the middle of the field for interceptions. Pollard, fresh off helping Baltimore win Super Bowl XLVII, has been incredibly vocal and a welcome voice in the locker room.

4)      See linebackers continue to grow—Akeem Ayers is entering his third season as a strongside linebacker and Zach Brown is preparing for his second at the weakside. Ayers and Brown had strong seasons in 2012, but injuries forced the Titans to start four different players at middle linebacker. The Titans brought in Moise Fokou, who has played outside and inside linebacker, to add versatility and depth, and Fokou will start in place of Colin McCarthy, who was scratched from the game with a leg injury.


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