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Notebook: Titans LB Moise Fokou Closer to Returning in Some Capacity

Posted Nov 21, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The possible return of Moise Fokou in some capacity to the Titans’ defense this week has prompted consideration of which defender will wear the headset that is used to receive play calls from coaches.

Moise Fokou is hoping to return to action in some capacity for the first time since Oct. 13 when he suffered a knee injury at Seattle.

Fokou wore the headset when he started the first six games of the season. A knee injury he suffered at Seattle on Oct. 13 has sidelined him since. The Titans had Colin McCarthy wear the headset against San Francisco, and Akeem Ayers has worn it the past three games because he plays in multiple specialty packages.

“It makes it complicated going into the weekend because you’re looking at combinations of guys, how you’re going to play guys,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We’re waiting to decide on Moise (Friday) and how much he can play and how we use him versus how we would use McCarthy, how we’re going to move the guys around if he can play in certain packages.”

Fokou said he’s progressed with no major setbacks and is “feeling pretty good out there.” With more than a month since he’s played, it’s unlikely that Fokou would return to being an every-down player yet.

“The whole game is probably not ideal but I’d definitely like to be in there as much as I can if I do get the green light,” Fokou said. “Somewhere between 20 to 25 reps to kind of ease back in before I get to full-speed again.”

Fokou and Ayers said they’ll be prepared to help whoever has the headset Sunday when Tennessee (4-6) visits Oakland (4-6) and beyond.

“We’ve been working in practice, and Akeem seems to be the guy who is going to be the more constant linebacker on the field and if I am out there with him, I’ll just do my help in terms of communicating and making sure we’re on the same page and ready to go,” Fokou said.

Multiple defenders said they believe the Titans’ effort to get back to basics on defense will yield successes similar to what the team had at the beginning of the season. Tennessee opened 3-1 but has lost five of its past six. The Titans rank 10th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (330.2), seventh in passing yards allowed per game (213.1) and sixth in opponents’ third-down percentage (34.4 percent).

“We need to get back to what we were doing earlier in the season. We communicated well,” Ayers said. “As the season went on, we tried new things and put new plays in here and there, and coaches got a chance to sit back and see what worked for us.”

Jason McCourty said what happens in the huddle before every snap is “huge” but downplayed the significance of which player wears the headset.

“You’ve got to be able to line up and get everything communicated pre-snap because if you don’t you have no chance at winning on that down,” McCourty said. “For us, or any team on defense, you’ve got to be able to talk through things and be able to study during the week so come Sunday you anticipate things that may come.

“Each guy has a voice in that huddle and can say something if it needs to be said,” McCourty added. “The guy with the headpiece is just relaying the call from the coach so I think regardless of if Akeem still has the headset when Fokou is out there and he feels something needs to be said, he’s going to say it, and the same way if Fokou has the headset. We’ll be all right with whoever has the headset.”

OLD/NEW NO. 27: The Titans are familiar with Raiders RB Rashad Jennings, who wore 23 in Jacksonville the past four seasons as the backup to Maurice Jones-Drew, and switched to 27 when he joined Oakland this season. Jennings (6-foot-1, 231 pounds) has averaged 113.3 yards per game the past three weeks setting season highs in carries (15, 20, 22) on each subsequent outing.

The Titans noticed Jennings’ performance last week against Houston, which included an 80-yard touchdown run after Jennings took a snap from the wildcat formation, broke a tackle four yards beyond the line of scrimmage and out-ran Texans defenders.

“He looks like another 27 that used to play here,” Munchak said. “I didn’t know he had that kind of speed when he got loose, but he ran over the safety. He’s run well for them the last couple weeks with (Darren McFadden) hurt with the hamstring.”

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said it’s a case of Jennings taking advantage of his opportunity. Two of his four career 100-yard games have come in the past three weeks.

“I think when you look at Jennings at Jacksonville, him not being the man over there, he was always the second guy and now he has a chance to be the first guy,” Gray said. “That’s a big difference when a guy understands he’s got a chance to be the first guy. He’s going to be physical. You’re going to need more than one guy to get him down. He’s a big man. Let’s hope he doesn’t have the career of 27 against us. He’s a good running back though.”

RAISING FUNDS: The Titans & T-Bones dinner for Jake Locker’s newly created Pass It On Foundation raised more than $175,000 Monday. The foundation has a multi-pronged approach to positively impacting lives of critical and chronically ill children and their families. Munchak said Locker encountered “no surprises” during surgery on his right foot Wednesday.

SCHWENKE MAKING PROGRESS: Munchak said Brian Schwenke’s ability to practice fully Thursday is a positive sign, but the Titans are still determining if the rookie will return to the lineup from an ankle injury he suffered Nov. 10. Veteran Chris Spencer would be in line to start for the second straight week if Schwenke is unable to play.

“He’s a guy that we feel comfortable that if it’s soreness, I’m sure he’ll play through,” Munchak said. “It’s just a matter of if he’s limited in what he has to do to be functional. By no means is he going to be 100 percent but if we feel like he’s playing at a good level, then he’ll play.”

OTHER INJURY UPDATES: Derrick Morgan and David Stewart did not practice Thursday, but Munchak believes they’ll both be able to participate Friday. Damian Williams also did not practice and won’t be playing against Oakland because of a hip injury he suffered Nov. 10. Click here for the full injury report.

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