The Tennessee Titans will be short-handed again this week as they travel to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots.
Most notable among the missing will be wide receiver A.J. Brown, one of six Titans to be declared out by Coach Mike Vrabel on Friday.
The others who are out include linebackers David Long and Rashaan Evans, who both continue to miss time, along with guard Nate Davis and running back Jeremy McNichols, both of whom remain in the concussion protocol for a second straight week. Nose tackle Teair Tart, who re-injured his ankle Sunday against Houston, is also out for Sunday's contest.
With Brown out, the Titans will be plenty short at wide receiver, with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers and Dez Fitzpatrick – the same three who finished Sunday's loss to Houston – likely receiving the bulk of the playing time Sunday. That threesome got reps with quarterback Ryan Tannehill during the week this week, which should make things go smoother than last week when Tannehill tossed four interceptions against the Texans with at least two of those looking to be the product of miscommunication.
“That is critical when you have some moving pieces. He has worked with these guys. Cody (Hollister) was with us during camp, Nick Westbrook (-Ikhine) has done a lot for us, (Chester Rogers) has done a lot for us, Dez (Fitzpatrick) is starting to get a larger role, so he has worked with him and the group of tight ends. That is kind of where you are at in this part of the season,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Those players' understanding of the offense and what to do is critical to the passing game and the offense in general.
“It all comes down to what they know. You can sit there and draw up a million plays, you got all the time in the world. It is what they understand. It is what they can go out there and do under the pressure of a football game. I think that is the thing,” Vrabel said. “Sometimes people just think, ‘Well, just put this play in.’ There is a million looks. Especially this week. A bunch of safeties in the game or the coverage changes so you have to be careful with the stuff you change and what you want to start adding. Make sure the players can run it in a manner that is going to be successful.”
As for backups, the Titans signed veteran Golden Tate to the practice squad, and he could either be signed to the active roster or made a practice squad elevation for the game. That decision will come on Saturday. The Titans also have Hollister and Mason Kinsey available on the practice squad.
Vrabel said Tate's experience can perhaps help him get up to speed quickly.
“I think his experience helps. I don’t know if it makes it easier. There is a lot of terminology and a lot of things that he would have to process through. The experience is critical having been out there and caught passes in this league for a long time,” Vrabel said.