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Notebook: Titans Prepare for New Texans in Familiar Offense

Posted Dec 26, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans expect a new backfield but not a whole new ballgame when they host the Texans Sunday at LP Field in the season finale for both teams.

Tennessee (6-9) is quite familiar with the offense that Houston (2-13) has used the past few years, and said they expect subtle differences under interim head coach Wade Phillips, who replaced Gary Kubiak on Dec. 6.

Other differences will be likely starts at quarterback by Case Keenum instead of veteran Matt Schaub and at running back by Jonathan Grimes. Other possibilities at running back include Dennis Johnson, who is questionable because of a hip injury, and rookies Ray Graham and Toben Opurum.

“We don’t have a lot of tape on those guys, so it’s more or less preparing for their schemes, not necessarily the running style. We’ll just prepare for what we’re used to seeing,” Munchak said. “They’ve changed a few things. They run a few more powers and do some things like that. Overall, it’s just stuff we’ve seen. It’s more or less preparing for the scheme and not necessarily getting caught up in who may be running. The quarterback is something during the game you have to do adjust to what they’re doing and how they’re attacking us.”

The Texans rushed for 172 yards in that game, which is more than any other Titans opponent this season, when the AFC South rivals met in Week 2 in Houston. Ben Tate had nine carries for 93 yards, and Arian Foster had 79 yards, but both are on injured reserve.

The Titans limited the Jaguars to 63 rushing yards.

The Titans are coming into this game on the heels of limiting Jacksonville to 63 rushing yards, the third-lowest net allowed by Tennessee this season. Defensive end Derrick Morgan said stopping the run again this week is “definitely an emphasis.”

“They like to run the ball, that’s a big part of their offense. They set a lot of things up off the run, so we’ve got to shut that down and do our best to make them as one-dimensional as we can,” Morgan said. “We’ve got to make sure we have really good gap integrity. They have a really dynamic running game as we know so we’ve got to be disciplined with our run fits and no matter who is back there, we’ve got to get them down and make sure we’re in our gaps.”

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said the Texans have run a “little bit more power” and “more conventional plays” since Phillips took the helm.

TEXAS TWOSOME: Gray said the Titans know if they stop the run that receivers Andre Johnson and rookie DeAndre Hopkins pose significant challenges.

Johnson, whom Gray called “one of the best wide receivers in the league,” has 103 catches for 1,358 yards and five TDs this season, boosting his career totals to 921 catches for 12,612 yards and 61 TDs. Hopkins has 48 catches for 767 yards with two TDs this season, including seven catches for 117 yards and the game-winner when the teams last met.

Titans cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty are looking forward to the challenge and have said Johnson is one of their favorite challenges from an opponent.

“Andre’s been putting up All-Pro numbers like he usually does,” Verner said. “DeAndre Hopkins is playing well, and you saw what he did to us. They’ve still got guys and they brought some people in at running back and those guys are all fighting for a spot, trying to stay in the league, so you’re going to have people working hard and get their best effort no matter what.”

INJURY UPDATES: Jurrell Casey (knee) and David Stewart (shoulder) didn’t practice for a second consecutive day, and Zach Brown missed Thursday’s practice because of an illness.

“I think (Casey is) feeling better. If he practices tomorrow, which we assume he will, if he doesn’t have any setbacks, I think he wants to finish,” Munchak said. “He’s got a great season going. I know it’s important for him to finish this season, get the last start here. I know he’s motivated to do that, so hopefully he will. We’ll know a lot more tomorrow, but he’s feeling better, which is a good sign.”

Casey said finishing the season on the field is “very big” for him, but was waiting to see if he’ll be able to.

“I’ve never missed a game in my career, so it’s something I want to do,” Casey said. “Most of all, I want to make sure I make the right decision for myself and make sure I stay healthy. We’ll find out how it goes later in the week and it will almost be a game-time decision.”

Munchak said the Titans are hoping Brown’s illness is “a 24-hour thing.”

“He came in and wasn’t feeling well. I guess he enjoyed Christmas a little too much,” Munchak said. “I think he had some kind of…he couldn’t practice, so the best thing was to let him rest and not get anyone else sick. He should be OK tomorrow.”


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