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Notebook: Winning One-on-One Matchups Key for Titans Receivers Against Bills

Posted Oct 17, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matt Hasselbeck wants to see convincing victories by Titans receivers on every pass play.

The 14-year veteran is preparing to make his third consecutive start in place of second-year pro Jake Locker on Sunday at Buffalo and expects a significant amount of one-on-one coverage by Bills defenders.

Hasselbeck said he also anticipates pressure from Buffalo’s defensive line that includes Mario Williams, a former Texan who signed a large contract as a free agent this offseason, and Kyle Williams, who have 3.5 sacks each this season. Receivers can help Hasselbeck by winning their matchups quickly.

“They’re really talented on the defensive line,” Hasselbeck said. “They play an aggressive, bump-and-run, in-your-face coverage style. (Safety Jairus) Byrd does a nice job of intercepting the ball, and they’re aggressive in their bump-and-run technique. That’s something we’ve got to beat this week.”

Titans receiving options were well aware of the bump-and-run style and the challenges and opportunities it creates.

“Everybody has to win their one-on-one battles across the board so everybody can get a chance and get open for Matt, because the quicker we can get open, the faster his release time is and the quicker we can move those chains,” tight end Jared Cook said. “They’ve got good safeties and have some good corners. They like to play a lot of man. They’re a physical bunch and we’ve got to be prepared for that.”

Cook has the second-most receptions (23) by a Titan this season for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie Kendall Wright leads the team and all NFL rookies with 33 catches that have yielded 285 yards and two scores, and veteran Nate Washington has 17 receptions for 331 yards and two TDs.

“There’s going to be some opportunities, but they’re a good defense, have really good safeties,” Washington said. “Their defensive front, their front seven is pretty good. They are bringing intensity and being physical upfront, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re getting in and out of the things we do and make sure we’re getting better with them. 

“There’s going to be a lot of one-on-one battles so we’ll be ready for that type of situation,” Washington added. “I think in our (receivers meeting) room, we pride ourselves in making those types of plays.”

Tennessee (2-4) will try to claim its first road victory this season on Sunday at Buffalo (3-3) and continue building on momentum from a 26-23 victory over Pittsburgh on Oct. 11. The matchup is against a backdrop of congestion in the AFC standings. Houston and Baltimore are both 5-1, but 10 teams in the conference have two or three wins this season.

Hasselbeck said preventing turnovers will be critical in producing better results on the road.

The Titans have committed six turnovers in three road games this season, whereas they only committed nine in their eight road games in 2011 and went 4-4 in those contests a year ago.

Tennessee also must avoid sluggishness after a longer break between games. Teams that have played on Thursday night this season are 2-6 the following week.

“I think that’s probably a trap for us to think that because we got two days off and they had to play on Sunday we got some kind of advantage over them,” Hasselbeck said. “Probably the opposite. We can’t be sleepy coming out of it. We were pretty bad coming out of the bye week last year.”

BRITT CONTINUES PROGRESS: Receiver Kenny Britt caught his first touchdown in more than a year to tie the score with Pittsburgh and is returning to dynamic form after offseason knee surgery and an ankle injury he suffered in Week 3 this year.

Britt said Wednesday’s practice was his “best” since coming back from the ankle and that he’s “getting my confidence back, getting my mind back to where it needs to be at right now.”

Hasselbeck targeted Britt a team-high 11 times against the Steelers, resulting in four catches for 62 yards with a long of 37 and the late score. Britt frequently plays in isolation on one side of the Titans’ offensive formations, and his progress is expected to continue to create opportunities for teammates as defenders must decide how to handle multiple receiving options.

“We’ve got great receivers on the other side that can get the job done,” Britt said. “We’ve got a great receiving crop and a quarterback that can throw the ball, and I’m excited about this week.”

MARTIN BACK IN ACTION: Titans safety Markelle Martin, whom Tennessee selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft in spite of a knee injury, returned to the practice fields Wednesday.

Martin has dealt with the knee injury and a hamstring. He started the season on the physically unable to perform list, sidelining him the first six weeks. The Titans now have a three-week window to evaluate his progress.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he was excited for Martin.

“It’s been a long wait for him,” Munchak said. “We never thought it would be this long, but he had the hamstring and the knee. He’s working hard, and you’re happy when someone works that hard and sees daylight and is on the field.”

MCCARTHY RESTS ANKLE: Linebacker Colin McCarthy wore a walking boot and watched Wednesday’s practice as he continues to work through an ankle injury he suffered in Week 1, but Munchak said he anticipates that the second-year pro will be available on Sunday and play in his third straight game.

“He was out here in a boot, just for walking around and getting more support on your ankle rather than just your shoe if you’re not taped up and not practicing,” Munchak said. “He’s sore, which we thought he’d be sore. It’s going to take a while to get over this to where he can actually practice fully and play two games in a row. We still feel good about him (playing Sunday).”

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