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Notebook: Titans Expect Delanie Walker's Return to Help Offense Alter Defense

Posted Dec 12, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There are multiple ways to make a difference in a game, and the Titans believe Delanie Walker’s return to the lineup will in several areas.

Walker is set to be back in action when Tennessee (5-8) hosts Arizona (8-5) at 3:25 p.m. (CT) Sunday at LP Field.

Delanie Walker has 45 catches for 454 yards and five TDs for the Titans this season.

The tight end, who first earned playing time with San Francisco because of his blocking in the run game, has career highs of 45 catches, 454 yards and five touchdowns in his first season with the Titans.

Walker’s versatility should keep defenses from selling out against run plays, give Tennessee another option when drawing a one-on-one matchup and reduce the amount of attention defenses are able to devote to Kendall Wright, the second-year pro with team bests of 73 catches for 857 yards. Wright has received a significant about of double teams the past two weeks.

“It will help a great deal. It’s going to help the guys around him as well,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “It will help Kendall and take some of the pressure of him and take some of the attention off him as well. The last two weeks Kendall’s been doubled, especially on third down. People are very aware of the season he’s had and the success he’s had, so it definitely helps to get Delanie back.”

Running back Chris Johnson said Walker’s return will “do a lot because when he’s in the game, you don’t know if it’s a pass or a run. He can block well and catch well, so it’s a little different look.” Nate Washington said Walker’s knowledge of the “ins and outs” of the offense makes the team stronger.

Walker was asked if he considers himself a difference maker.

“I really don’t know, but when I am out there I think I am a key guy on this offense and when I’m out there I think teams look to try to stop me and when I’m not out there they can focus on Kendall and Nate and do other things to stop them,” Walker said. “We’ve got great receivers that can make plays when they’re matched up one-on-one. Even in double teams, they still make plays, but when they’re one-on-one, we get the big plays we’re looking for so if I can create a mismatch for any of our guys, that’s what I’m here for and I’m excited to get back out there.”

Since Walker suffered a concussion early at Indianapolis, 12 of 20 possessions (60 percent) have been five plays or less, which includes a one-play touchdown drive after a 95-yard kickoff return last week at Denver. That ratio isn’t too different from the 57 percent in Tennessee’s first 12 games (74 of 129, excluding possessions that ended quicker because of six touchdowns, two end of halves and three safeties), but third down conversions have dropped the past two weeks.

The Titans also were a season-low 22 percent on third-down conversions (2-for-9) against the Broncos after converting 6-for-15 (40 percent) at Indianapolis. In each of the four games prior to Walker’s injury, Tennessee converted at least 54.5 percent of the third downs it faced.

“I think that’s what the coaches see and other teams see that, when I’m out there, we establish third down. We get our third downs, and our run game was starting to move a little more and guys make big plays down the field,” Walker said. “If I can create mismatches for my guys to get open and eat, that’s what’s going to happen when I get out there.”

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said Walker “blocks his tail off” in the run game to go along with his talent in the pass game.

“He’s one of those special tight ends that can catch the short passes and really get the run after the catch, a guy that can really stretch the field with seams and corners and things he’s able to do. One of the big things for him is when we get down in the red zone, he’s been a guy that when we’ve called his number down there, he’s been successful too.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said the Titans are excited to have Walker back in the mix.

“We need him, and we definitely missed him both games, especially the Indianapolis game,” Munchak said. “Last week, he could have made a difference. It changes coverages, and I’m sure Kendall’s happy and some of the other guys to have him back because defenses now have to be concerned a little bit more about what he can do. It’s good to have him back.”

FAMILIAR LOOK: This may be the first full season as a head coach for Arizona’s Bruce Arians, but the Titans are quite familiar with him. Arians was the offensive coordinator (and interim coach for 12 games last season) at Indianapolis and spent the eight seasons before that with Pittsburgh (receivers coach from 2004-06 and offensive coordinator from 2007-11), a much more common opponent than Arizona.

Munchak said the offense the Cardinals are running has similarities to what Arians has done, especially in the formations used in the run game.

“For the offense, other than learning their personnel, their receivers (primarily Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) are obviously the big difference from what they have there right now in playing well,” Munchak said. “The running game for them hasn’t really been a strength yet. I hope we can keep it that way, but it’s been something where they run a lot of the same things. He has been successful. Heck, the guy has been (successful) everywhere he has been. It has worked for him, and their quarterback (Carson Palmer) is playing much better now for them and they’re very effective on offense right now feeding off their defense.

GRAY HONORED: Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray was able to attend a ceremony Tuesday night at which he was one of 12 former players inducted to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame. Gray said it was a great experience that he was able to share with his 8-year-old son.

“If I tried to explain it to you, you’d think I was lying. There’s so many great football players there, not just myself, but I’m talking about older guys that pretty much all came back,” Gray said. “I got a chance to see Ray Childress and Roger Staubach and all those guys. My son was probably more enamored by it than I was. He got a chance to see, I think one of his favorite players is the Mannings’ dad (Archie). He knows all the stats about him. It’s amazing when a young kid at 8 years old is getting a chance to see guys that he’s only read about.”

INJURY UPDATES: In addition to Walker, Karl Klug (back), Andy Levitre (hip), Brian Schwenke (ankle) and Leon Washington (ankle) practiced fully Thursday. Akeem Ayers (groin), David Stewart (shoulder) and Alterraun Verner (groin) did not practice, but are expected to be available Sunday, Munchak said. Click here for the full injury report.

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