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Turner & Verner to Start, Schwenke & Campbell to Play More in Titans-Vikings

Posted Aug 27, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans plan to start Rob Turner at center and Alterraun Verner at cornerback Thursday at Minnesota, coach Mike Munchak said Tuesday.

Both players and most starters, however, will be limited in how much they play in the preseason finale. The reason is three-fold: to give younger players more reps in a game setting, to provide coaches the most opportunities to evaluate players that are on the margin for making the 53-man roster, and to reduce the exposure that starters might have to injuries.

Rob Turner (58) is scheduled to make his third start at center for the Titans when Tennessee visits Minnesota in the preseason finale.

Munchak said Turner and Verner are likely to play a quarter before being replaced by rookie Brian Schwenke and Tommie Campbell, respectively, and said Schwenke and Campbell are likely to play the rest of the game. Munchak said the Titans are likely to substitute Fernando Velasco and Chris Spencer, who have also been competing for the starting job at center, at the guard positions like they did against Atlanta when Schwenke made his NFL debut after coming back from a hamstring injury.

“Schwenke needs to continue to get reps. He’ll play most of the game, probably three quarters of the game with the other two guys playing quite a bit at guard again,” Munchak said. “I’d imagine that’s the way we’d go similar to what we did last week. Then we’ll let this thing play out and see the best combinations. Again, we’re comfortable.”

Velasco started 13 games at center and three at guard in 2012, and Verner started every game last season at right cornerback opposite Jason McCourty.

“We know what Fernando can do at center just like I think we know what (Alterraun) Verner could do at corner,” Munchak said. “There’s only so much Verner can show us. He’s been a starter here. We know what he can do.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said he agreed with the plan to start Verner for a third time this preseason but play Campbell, who started at Cincinnati, more.

“Tommie needs reps, so we’re trying to get him more reps just to see what’s going to happen in the game,” Gray said.

It’s quite possible that the Titans might alternate between Verner and Campbell this season to match each player’s unique strengths to those of particular opponents and/or defensive schemes, Gray said.

“They’re both different football players,” Gray said. “The big thing is we may wind up using both of those guys during the season. We may use Tommie one time and then Vern another. Those guys are going to work to their strengths and make sure they fit the Titans’ defense that week. It may be we end up using both of them.”

Gray said he’s matched strengths of a defensive back in the past, citing when Tennessee had Dainon Sidney and Michael Booker in 2000 with Sidney playing mostly man-to-man and Booker handling zone coverage. Samari Rolle and Denard Walker, however, accounted for 30 of the starts at cornerback that season.

Gray said the defense also wants to get as many reps as possible for second-year pro Coty Sensabaugh and rookies Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Khalid Wooten.

SCHWENKE WELCOMES MORE SNAPS: Schwenke said playing most of the third and all of the fourth quarter against the Falcons provided good experience and said he’s ready for more snaps.

“You’ve got to get your feet under you, learn the speed and have things slow down,” Schwenke said. “I didn’t make any major mistakes, but need to fix some technique issues and things I can get right in practice.”

The fourth-round selection said he received some encouraging words from 2013 first-rounder Chance Warmack in the locker room where they are next to each other and on the sidelines.

“We were talking about it. He always said, ‘You’re going to be straight. Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it,’ ” Schwenke said. “I believed him. You have to know and go do it to really understand.

WRIGHT CONTINUES TO TARGET OPENER: Kendall Wright did not practice Tuesday and will not participate in Thursday’s game, but offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said he is encouraged by the way the second-year pro’s knee is recovering. Wright suffered the injury at Cincinnati after making a catch during the two-minute drill when he was tackled from behind.

“I’m very confident in Kendall getting healthy,” Loggains said. “He’s a competitor. I know he wants to be out here. He’s a guy that doesn’t like being in the training room, feels guilty about it, so at this point we’re doing everything we can to get him ready and I have to go on the understanding that he will be ready.”

BRITT SIDELINED BUT NOT SERIOUS: Munchak said the Titans opted to hold out Kenny Britt for a second consecutive day because of soreness in the receiver’s knee and Britt is unlikely to play at Minnesota, which has a field turf surface that is usually tougher on knees than grass.  

“He’d be able to play this game if it was a regular season game, no problem,” Munchak said. “If we’re already going to limit them with reps and he’s coming off a short week and it’s on a tougher surface, that’s always a reason to let it rest. Otherwise, there’s no doubt that he’d be able to play. We’re not concerned for that. He’d be able to play without any restriction.”

Game Rewind: Tennessee Titans

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