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Notebook: Titans Plan for Akeem Ayers to Call Defensive Plays

Posted Nov 8, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans gave Akeem Ayers a try at wearing the defensive headset and calling the plays the last time Tennessee played Jacksonville and will likely do the same Sunday when the teams revisit their longest-standing divisional rivalry.

Ayers handled the duties last week at St. Louis for the first time since the Titans-Jaguars ended the 2012 season with a 38-20 win by Tennessee last December.

“When we go to our nickel package, I’m running the “Mike” linebacker and Zach Brown is at the “Will,” Ayers said. “We had a lot of success at that toward the end of the season. I think it caused more confusion for the offense because we were both able to get to the quarterback, as opposed to a lot of times when I’m out there by myself, they’re always pointing me out in their protections, so I think it causes a little more confusion and we had a lot of success with it, as far as our sack numbers went up a lot and we were more successful on defense.”

Moise Fokou started the first six games of the season, playing the middle in Tennessee’s base 4-3 and stayed on the field in the nickel. Fokou will be out against Jacksonville, Titans coach Mike Munchak said Friday, because of the knee injury he suffered at Seattle.

Colin McCarthy replaced Fokou in the lineup against San Francisco and manned the middle against St. Louis in base defense.

The Titans are pleased with the way McCarthy has played but were looking for a way to get Ayers more reps after using the bye week to self-scout their first seven games.

“After the bye week and self-scout, the coaches looked at that and wanted to get a little more back to that,” Ayers said. “Last week was really the first week of me playing Mike since the end of the season, so it was really me getting back comfortable with it. I feel a lot more comfortable with it.”

Ayers had eight tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits and forced a fumble, and Zach Brown returned two interceptions for touchdowns in their last meeting against the Jaguars.

FOKOU HOPING TO PLAY COLTS GAME: Munchak said Fokou is hoping to return to action next week against the Colts, for whom he played last season. Fokou participated in individual drills Thursday but did not Friday.

The Titans have been cautious with Fokou, who stretched legaments in his left knee Oct. 13 at Seattle, because of the demands of the position and how the linebacker plays.

“He’s doing well, and there’s no doubt he’s circling the calendar with playing against Indianapolis,” Munchak said. “That’s been his goal since the beginning that that would probably be the most realistic return, best chance return I should say.”

INJURY UPDATES:  Tommie Campbell (shoulder) and Ropati Pitoitua (calf) did not practice and are questionable for Sunday’s game. David Stewart (shoulder) and Michael Griffin (quadriceps) practiced fully and are questionable. Click here for the full injury report.

Munchak said the Titans wanted to give Pitoitua a day of rest to get past soreness and that Stewart had a good workout Friday.

If Stewart is unable to play, the Titans will most likely call on Mike Otto, who started at St. Louis.

“I think he’s a smart player, that’s number one,” Munchak said of Otto. “Every time he’s played he goes in there and just fits right in. I mean, he has done good over the years with whoever’s next to him at guard. He’s good with Chance (Warmack). They’ve been working together all year because of (David) Stewart’s situation, so that’s a good communicator who communicates well. He’s very rarely going to make a mistake that way, so that’s the biggest plus. He doesn’t get rattled, and that’s the other plus. The other thing is he’s going to be solid in what he does.”

STACHE OF HELP: Titans guard Andy Levitre has grown a Fu Manchu and will continue to sport it for the next several days to help a fundraising event in his home state of California. Levitre is friends with a firefighter who is committed to the cause of www.growyourstache.com, which uses the facial hair growth as an attention-getter and fundraiser for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation that helps burn victims.

Middle linebacker Moise Fokou will miss his third straight game after stretching ligaments in his left knee Oct. 13 against Seattle. The Titans have been cautious with Fokou because of the demands of the position and how the linebacker plays has . The Titans hope to ease Fokou back into the lineup Thursday night against Indianapolis, even if limited. Colin McCarthy will start for Fokou.

Right Tackle David Stewart (shoulder) practiced for the first time this week Friday. Cornerback Tommie Campbell (shoulder) missed a third straight practice, and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua (calf) did not practice. They are questionable.

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