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Notebook: Titans Look to Fill Nickel Slot

Posted Dec 18, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans on Wednesday placed Coty Sensabaugh on injured reserve, ending his second pro season with two games remaining.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said Sensabaugh’s foot injury will not require surgery, but is expected to need four-to-six weeks for recovery.

George Wilson congratulates Coty Sensabaugh after he downed a punt in Sunday's game. Sensabaugh will miss the final two games with a foot injury.

Sensabaugh played nickel back for the defense and on special teams this season. The Titans promoted rookie Khalid Wooten, a sixth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, to the 53-man roster.

Munchak said options for replacing Sensabaugh include moving Alterran Verner to the inside position in that package, or mixing in rookie Blidi Wreh-Wilson, late-season signee Micah Pellerin, or possibly Wooten if he is active Sunday. Pellerin has been active one game (Dec. 1 at Indianapolis) and played special teams.

“Vern’s done both, Blidi can play corner or come inside,” Munchak said. “Micah can play corner, so we’ll look at those combinations and figure out what’s best for everybody.”

Wreh-Wilson played 21 defensive snaps last week against Arizona when Tennessee used two extra defensive backs against the Cardinals’ pass offense that mixed in four wide receivers and incorporated multiple routes for its running backs.

Wreh-Wilson said he didn’t encounter anything he hadn’t been prepped for by coaches in his most action on defense this season. The third-round pick played one defensive snap and 21 special teams snaps when Tennessee hosted Jacksonville in November.

“I kind of got to see it from the sidelines, and this time I’m trying to do a lot of film study and see what they’re doing with Ace Sanders and their receivers,” Wreh-Wilson said.

Given the toll on depth at receiver that Jacksonville is facing, the Jaguars may not frequently use three wide receivers and call on tight ends and running backs to help more in a pass game that supplements a preference of running the football. The Jaguars recently placed Cecil Shorts III on injured reserve and are without suspended 2012 first-round pick Justin Blackmon, which leaves Sanders as their leading receiver (41 catches for 414 yards and a TD). Lead running back Maurice Jones-Drew, however, is battling a hamstring injury that sidelined him last week against Buffalo.

“I think they’re going to try to smash-mouth us and run it down our throat so I don’t think we’ll see a lot of Jones-Drew, depending on how he’s doing, but they ran the ball well last week with (Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson),” Munchak said. “I would think we’ll see the combination of them, but I would think we’ll see more running than passing for sure.”

Even if the number of plays for a nickel back is reduced this week, cornerback Jason McCourty said the position is “heavily involved” and important in any NFL game.

“It’s always tough to see one of your guys go down. Coty’s had a good year,” McCourty said. “He’s been able to play well and play a lot in the nickel situation, but in this league if a guy goes down, it’s another guy’s opportunity so Blidi will get a huge opportunity to play more. Last week he played a lot more with us putting more DBs on the field. (It’s) definitely tough to lose Coty at this juncture of the season and you hate to see him go down, but I’m looking forward and excited for Blidi to get his opportunity to step up.”

Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains watches Tyler Wilson during a passing drill at Wednesday's practice.

NEW LOOK AT QB: The Titans on Tuesday signed rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson off Oakland’s practice squad. Wilson was a fourth-round pick of the Raiders and had alternated between their 53-man and practice squad rosters this season. The Titans waived veteran John Skelton, who joined Tennessee as its third-string QB after Jake Locker’s season ended because of an injury.

“I think we looked at (Wilson) throughout the quarterback situation. I think now that we are at this point in the year with two games left, we’re looking for a young quarterback to have here for the offseason that we thought would have a good chance of helping us going forward, of competing for one of the spots,” Munchak said. “Earlier in the year it didn’t make sense because if we had an injury, we needed more of a veteran guy. We needed to get someone in like John (Skelton). We brought John in for that reason to learn our system in case Fitzy (Ryan Fitzpatrick) got hurt so we’d have two quarterbacks ready to go.”

Munchak said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who played at Arkansas just as Wilson did, and the Titans’ personnel department had kept an eye on Wilson.

“I think it’s someone that as a young quarterback, we thought he would fit what we do here,” Munchak said. “We like the way he plays the game, his demeanor. It’s the first time I’ve had a chance to meet him. Again, I think it’s more of thinking for the future.”

GAME BALLS: After recognizing Delanie Walker as the 2013 Titans Walter Payton Man of the Year during a press conference Monday, Munchak saluted Walker and the finalists for the award (Rob Bironas, Moise Fokou, Michael Griffin and George Wilson) who were named Titans Community All-Stars to begin Wednesday’s team meeting.

INJURY UPDATES: The Titans rested Chris Johnson (knee) and David Stewart (shoulder); Brian Schwenke (ankle) and Casey (shoulder) were limited, and Verner (groin) fully participated on Wednesday. Munchak said all of those players should be available Sunday.

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