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Notebook: Titans Defense Increases Focus on Stuffing Runs

Posted Nov 6, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans said they can see how the Jaguars’ coaching staff and roster has changed, but said it’s unlikely their offensive goals vary too far from what they’ve been in past seasons.

The Titans allowed 160 rushing yards to the Rams but want to limit the number of carries and yards by the Jaguars on Sunday at LP Field.

Jacksonville (0-8) visits Tennessee (4-4) noon Sunday (CT) at LP Field. Although much has changed, the Jaguars still have running back Maurice Jones-Drew (5-foot-7, 210 pounds). The densely packed running back can be hard to tackle and has 122 carries for 391 yards (3.2 average) and two touchdowns this season. 

He’s been hindered because Jacksonville has had a habit of falling behind and turning to a more pass oriented offense to try to get back in games.

“We know who they’re trying to give the ball to get their running game going. With the loss of (suspended receiver Justin) Blackmon, it’s going to force the other wide receivers to make plays in the passing game,” George Wilson said. “They’re going to try to control the clock, the time of possession by running the ball effectively, and allowing (Chad) Henne to make those passes to move the sticks. They’re not asking him to make the big throws. We have to do a great job on first and second down to put them in third-and-long so we can get some pressure and dictate their offense.”

Tennessee’s defense ranks fifth in the NFL in opponents’ third-down percentage (34.0), but 27th in rushing yards allowed/game (122.5).

“We’ve got to shut down the run. We’ve been giving up too much on the run,” Derrick Morgan said. “With the running back they have, they’re going to try to run the ball. We had a good practice (Wednesday) that emphasized stopping the run. If we want to be successful, we have to stop the run going forward.

“He has an attitude where he’s not going to be denied when he runs the ball,” Morgan added. “We know he’s a talented back. We’ve got to fit up our gaps and gang tackle.”

The Titans had seven sacks in both games against the Jaguars last season. Morgan said stopping the run first will create opportunities to rush Henne.

“We can’t keep talking about it, we’ve just got to do it,” Morgan said.

LOCKER, WRIGHT COMBO: Titans QB Jake Locker and WR Kendall Wright are performing well on third downs. Locker ranks third in the NFL with a 106.3 passer rating on those downs, and Wright ranks second in the NFL with 18 third-down receptions out of his team-best 43 catches.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said Wright’s quickness is enabling him to get open and assisting Locker.

“I think (when Wright’s in) the slot position, it’s hard to cover him,” Munchak said. “He’s a guy you can trust to get open real quickly. He’s a fun guy to watch.”

Locker and Wright also connected for the Titans’ longest pass play against the Rams when the QB fired a strike and hit the receiver in stride, allowing him to sprint for a 45-yard gain.

“It was the longest catch-and-run of my career, but I plan on doing more of that, whether it’s going deep or catching a pass and turning it into something deep like that,” Wright said. “I always want to turn a slant or a stop route into more. It’s kind of like the cornerback jumped the route. He thought he knew what was coming at first and I got behind him and saw the seam with Nate (Washington) out there blocking. I just tried to get to him.”

Locker said the Titans will try to continue to build on Wright’s capabilities.

“Kendall’s a guy that when we drafted him, we thought he had explosive ability and he’s shown that for us and done that for us,” Locker said. “We’re excited to get those types of plays out of him and hope to continue to.”

GRIFFIN MOVES TOWARD NEW STREAK: For the first time since his selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, Michael Griffin missed a game, halting a streak that included 103 regular season and two postseason contests. The safety practiced fully, said Munchak, who added “we’d assume if he has a good week, he’ll be ready to play.”

Wilson replaced Griffin in the starting lineup, and Tennessee used a little more zone defense against St. Louis.

“He did a good job and everything that I would have done,” Griffin said. “There were no deep balls over anybody’s head. George is a great player. He’s helped me this season in the same way that Bernard Pollard did. Having those two guys back there allows me to do what I do best.”

FOKOU MAKES PROGRESS: Moise Fokou (knee) did some rehabilitation drills on the field at the end of practice, but Munchak said “it’s going to be tough” for him to be available this week against Jacksonville.

“I think this would be another week where maybe by (Thursday, Friday) he’ll start doing some drills out here,” Munchak said. “He’s running and moving ahead, but it’s going to be a stretch to be ready this week.”

Munchak said Colin McCarthy will continue to start in Fokou’s place in base defense, but Akeem Ayers is likely to handle “Mike” linebacker duties in certain situations like he did in St. Louis.

INJURY REPORT: In addition to Fokou, David Stewart (shoulder) and Tommie Campbell (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday, but Munchak is hoping they’ll be available Thursday. Click here for the full injury report.

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