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Notebook: Titans Defense Prepared for Jets' Deep Shots

Posted Sep 27, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s defense expects a versatile threat from New York Jets QB Geno Smith, but won’t be surprised if the rookie heaves several passes deep down the field in the vertical passing game.

Smith connected with Santonio Holmes for a 69-yard TD and a 40-yard completion and with Stephen Hill for a 51-yard score and a 45-yard gain last week against Buffalo. The four plays accounted for 205 of Smith’s 331 passing yards and helped the Jets (2-1) have a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher in the same game for the first time in the history of their franchise.

Michael Griffin and the Titans tackled well against the Chargers. Tennessee's defense is expecting the New York Jets to take more deep shots with the football than San Diego did.

“They take some deep shots and they’ve got some explosive players,” said Titans safety Michael Griffin, who had two interceptions of Mark Sanchez last season against the Jets. “If they see something, they may try to take an opportunity at it, but if they don’t we’ll see where it goes.”

The Titans (2-1) are allowing 206 passing yards per game, which ranks 10th in the NFL, after facing veterans Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub and Philip Rivers in the past three weeks. Rivers completed 20 of 24 passes (83 percent), but the Titans held the Chargers to 175 net yards passing.

“Rivers did a great job of throwing short and intermediate passes,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “As a secondary, we wanted to have tight coverage, and if a guy caught the ball, we wanted to tackle him where he caught it. One of the biggest things we talk about is yards after contact, and that’s in the passing game and the running game.”

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said Tennessee saw some elements of vertical passing in the season opener Pittsburgh and against Atlanta this preseason. Gray said he reviewed some of Smith’s career at West Virginia and said the Jets have supported him with their run game and defense.

“I think preseason has kind of helped us get ready for football games like this. They’ve got a great defense. They’re really good. They held New England down to 13 points, so those guys are playing good football,” Gray said. “I think he’s talented enough to win it, but if you’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to put the franchise on your back and you’ve got to do everything you can to win it,’ I think that’s unfair to him. They want to run the football and play great defense.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said the Jets “seem to be playing better offensively every week” and are willing to take chances with the ball because they are so confident in their defense.

“I think when you have a good defense — when your defense is playing well — you’re taking more risks to throw down the field with a young guy, assuming that if it’s not caught, if it’s intercepted, it’s almost like a punt,” Munchak said.

Smith will be the biggest run threat of a QB the Titans have faced this season. He has 78 rushing yards on 13 carries and should provide preparation for upcoming mobile quarterbacks Russell Wilson (in Week 6) and Colin Kaepernick (in Week 7).

EXTRA REPS FOR McCARTHY, GOODEN: Linebacker Moise Fokou (neck) was limited Wednesday, didn’t practice Thursday, fully practiced Friday and is probable for Sunday’s game, but Munchak said the missed time allowed for Colin McCarthy and rookie Zaviar Gooden to take more reps this week.

“I think that was good for them, and they’re ready to go. (McCarthy) can play all three spots if he’s called upon,” Munchak said. “Gooden may get a chance to suit up depending on what goes on with (Patrick) Bailey (questionable with a hamstring).”

McCarthy stepped in when Fokou briefly left the game, bringing the experience of having played middle “Mike” linebacker the past two seasons. McCarthy combined with Antonio Johnson to stop Ryan Mathews for no gain on third-and-1 on his first series, and the Titans forced another punt on San Diego’s next possession.

Fokou moved up the depth chart this offseason when McCarthy battled an injury and has kept a grip on the starting job, but Munchak said having McCarthy in the wings “puts us in a much better situation than we’ve ever been in at that linebacker position having him healthy and ready to play.”  

“It was good to see him out there. He had a hit on the quarterback, and I think he had some nice tackles,” Munchak said. “He’s been playing well on special teams. He had a couple tackles on special teams. He’s contributing. The nice thing is when someone does get hurt, he jumps right in there. I kept thinking there was going to be a ball going his way or a pick because things seem to happen for him like that.”

BRITT, WALKER QUESTIONABLE: Receiver Kenny Britt (neck and ribs) and tight end Delanie Walker (toe) were limited in practice are officially questionable for Sunday’s 3:05 p.m. game against the Jets.

Munchak said Britt is “not quite where he needs to be, so that’s why he didn’t practice quite as much” Friday. Munchak said Walker’s status seemed slightly clearer but pointed out that Britt has played in the past when he’s been limited.

Britt, who plays the “X” position in the Titans’ offense, suffered a jarring hit on his ribs and awkward landing against the Chargers.

Munchak said if Britt doesn’t play, the Titans would likely play Damian Williams and Kendall Wright, depending if it is a two or three receiver set. Tennessee also has Michael Preston and Justin Hunter, who have been active in each of the past two games. Hunter caught the 34-yard winning TD with 15 seconds left last week.

GREENE, HILL OUT: Munchak confirmed Friday that Shonn Greene (knee) and Sammie Hill (ankle) will be out this week. Greene suffered the knee injury in the season opener, and Hill suffered the ankle injury at Houston in Week 2. Click here for the full injury report for Week 4.

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