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Notebook: Ryan Fitzpatrick Pumps Up Volume with Titans Receivers

Posted Oct 3, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans players and coaches said they’ve enjoyed hearing more from Ryan Fitzpatrick during practices and in meetings this week.

Fitzpatrick is scheduled to make his first start in a Titans uniform Sunday in place of Jake Locker (hip and knee sprains) when Tennessee (3-1) hosts Kansas City (4-0). The nine-year NFL veteran geared down some of his vocality when he agreed this offseason to become Locker’s backup after making 55 starts in the past four seasons in Buffalo.

“My role has definitely changed in terms of my voice with (offensive coordinator) Dowell (Loggains) and when we watch film with the receivers,” Fitzpatrick said. “Dowell probably thinks it was loud enough already behind the scenes to him, but with the receivers especially, I’ll be a little more outspoken with them because it’s my expectations rather than Jake’s.”

Titans players on offense and defense have seen what Fitzpatrick is capable off on the field since April during organized team activity practices and through the preseason, when he was 23-of-32 passing for 296 yards with five touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 127.1.

There are some scheme and concept preferences that Loggains designed for Locker’s strengths and preferences that will be adjusted for Fitzpatrick’s liking while he fills in for the third-year pro and second-year starter who is likely to miss “a few weeks.”

Fitzpatrick relieved Locker in the third quarter against the Jets and went 3-for-8 for 105 yards that was highlighted by a remarkable deep catch by Nate Washington. Fitzpatrick entered with the Titans up 24-6 and helped Tennessee prevail 38-13 while in somewhat of an improvise mode. Increased reps and interactions in the film room this week should help with chemistry.

“Ryan has a strong arm and he’s a wiley veteran,” Washington said. “It’s fortunate that we have a starter as a No. 2 quarterback.”

Loggains said Fitzpatrick did a good job of adjusting to the backup role and transitioning back to a starter.

“I know he had a lot of fun being the guy again and had great energy at practice, threw the ball really well,” Loggains said. “It was fun to watch him interact with the receivers and go back and forth and say, ‘I’m expecting you to do this and on that route, don’t give up because on this coverage the ball could come to you,’ so it was really good interaction and it was exciting.”

Guard Andy Levitre and safety George Wilson teamed with Fitzpatrick in Buffalo the previous four seasons. Both said Fitzpatrick does a good job of leading the huddle.

“He’s a real likeable guy on and off the field. He’s easy to get along with,” Levitre said. “He doesn’t get down on himself and he always stays positive in the huddle, so he’s a good guy to have in the huddle. I think he’ll be good. Most of the guys might not know how he is in game situations but I think they’ll find out quickly.”

Wilson said Fitzpatrick has displayed communication skills and comfort and not shown hesitation.

“He has a lot of NFL experience to be in this position without feeling the burden of having to carry the team by himself,” Wilson said. “Guys believe in him because we’ve had the opportunity to compete against him. Since OTAs, we’ve seen what he brings to the table.”

While the Titans have learned more about Fitzpatrick this week, the QB already knows about the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sunday will mark Fitzpatrick’s sixth start against the Chiefs since 2008. He’s 4-1 in previous contests, completing 81 of 142 passes (57 percent) for 824 yards and eight TDs against two interceptions for a passer rating of 86.7.

Fitzpatrick said Kansas City’s defenders are “fast, they fly around, wreak havoc on the quarterback,” and said the difference in the level of confidence they are playing with over what they did last season “jumps out on film.”

“I think, defensively, they’ve had the talent for a long time and know they’re really playing up to their potential,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a team I’m familiar with in terms of the guys they have over there. I’ve played the Chiefs a bunch. (Sean) Smith, the (former) corner at Miami, I played him a bunch, so I’m familiar with the personnel. The scheme is of the Jets family with some of the stuff they do, but a really fast, physical defense.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said familiarity with personnel can help a quarterback from time to time, but said the Chiefs are playing much different in Andy Reid’s first season in Kansas City than last season when they tied for the league’s worst record (2-14).

“I think it’s more he knows some of the defensive backs possibly and things like that, but they are a lot different. It’s nice to know some of the players you’ve gone against because you know how some of the corners play things, how they jump things,” Munchak said. “That definitely gives guys — especially quarterbacks — an advantage of what they may or may not do versus certain coverages or a certain corner or safety.

“Other than that, it’s a lot different of a football team as far as how they’re playing right now, the pressure they get on the quarterback, the sacks they get,” Munchak said. “They’ve been in great situations; they’ve been ahead in all their games, and they’ve had an advantage that way. That’s a big thing we have to keep them out of — we have to keep this game close so we’re not in those long-down situations where they’ve excelled this year.”

FAMILIAR VIBE: Fitzpatrick mentioned his familiarity with Chiefs players, and Titans said they’ve seen some similarities between Kansas City’s defense and that of the New York Jets, largely because Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton spent the previous 13 seasons as an assistant with the Jets.

“The pressures they bring on third down are pretty similar,” Levitre said. “There’s a couple of different things they run that the Jets didn’t run, but for the most part, there’s a lot of carryover because the coordinator came from there.”

It will be the second straight week that the Titans interior offensive line has gone against a nose tackle who weighs around 350 pounds (Memphis native Dontari Poe is listed at 346, and Damon “Snacks” Harrison of the Jets was listed at 350).

“It’s going to be another challenge for us. We saw it last week,” Levitre said. “This guy might be a little more athletic so it’s going to be a good challenge.”

The Chiefs are also the Titans’ fifth straight opponent that uses a base 3-4 defense. Washington said different elements of teams the Titans have faced wound up preparing them for the next foe and expects that to continue this week.

“I think everything builds for a reason. I think the games we’ve had thus far have built us for the next game,” Washington said. “That Chargers game kind of built us for the fight we had with the Jets, understanding they were going to be a tough team to face. The Jets are a tough-nosed, prideful team and they kind of built us to get ready for the Chiefs.”

NOTES: Munchak said Shonn Greene (knee) and Sammie Hill (ankle) did not practice Thursday and the length of time that they’ve been out makes them unlikely for Sunday’s game. Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring), Ropati Pitoitua (shoulder) and David Stewart (calf) also didn’t practice, but Pitoitua and Stewart are expected to go Friday and be OK for Sunday’s game.

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