Titans beat writer: Close game on the horizon

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Tennessee Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt of The *Tennessean *spoke with Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com to preview Sunday's game between the Texans (0-1) and Titans (0-1) at LP Field in Nashville.

Wyatt has been covering the Titans for *The Tennessean *since 1999.

Nick Scurfield:How much have the Titans been affected by the loss of Albert Haynesworthfrom their front line?

Jim Wyatt:I think they've done a pretty good job of moving on without him. They have more of a rotation working where they've got five guys working and rotating into those two spots. I think they feel like they are keeping guys fresh. Jason Jones, the second-round pick from 2008, is kind of the guy who replaced him. They also signed Jovan Haye, a free agent who's been in the league for awhile. They kept (Kevin) Vickerson, another big body. Sen'Derrick Marksis a second-round draft pick from this year's draft class who kind of rounds out that group. Tony Brownis the other starter who started opposite Haynesworth last year who's still in the mix.

I think they feel like with those five, there ought to be some strength in numbers. Now, they don't have that dominant guy like Haynesworth, and I'm certainly not going to say they've answered all their questions and they're going to be better without him. I just think the dropoff is not going to be as big as some people think it might.

Nick Scurfield:Do you think they'll still be able to generate consistent pressure with their front four without bringing a lot of blitzers?

Jim Wyatt:That remains to be seen. But I think they've got a new coordinator in Chuck Cecilwho likes to do some of the same things that Jim Schwartzdid. They did not like to put their secondary on the spot by bringing extra blitzers all the time. They like to rely on their front four to get pressure. Against the Steelers in Week 1, they were able to sack (Ben) Roethlisbergerfour times, and on those sacks a lot of pressure came from the defensive line. Now, as the season goes on, we'll see if they can continue to do that. I have a hunch that they will have to send some extra players on occasion just to get an extra push. Otherwise, those guys are just going to be worn out at the end of games.

Nick Scurfield:The Titans have had 10 days to stew over the 13-10 loss to Pittsburgh. Do you think that will be a factor this week?

Jim Wyatt: They're not only upset about the way that game played out, because it was a game they felt like they could win, but they also have in the back of their minds a 13-12 loss to the Texans last December. They'd won seven in a row in the series and pretty much dominated the Texans in some of those games. To go down there and lose and to give up over 200 receiving yards to Andre Johnson and not play very well, I feel like they've got that in the back of their minds as well.

More than anything else, though, you've got to find a way to win. They can't afford to drop into an 0-2 hole. I know that's the same thing the Texans are thinking there, but it's a big game as far as getting back on track. Three of the next four games for this team are on the road, including what could be a tough game against the Jets, playing at New England and at Jacksonville, so they can't afford to slip to 0-2.

Nick Scurfield:Last year, Steve Slaton had 100 yards against the Titans twice. He was the only player in the league to do that even once. I'm sure that's not sitting too well with the Titans either.

{QUOTE}Jim Wyatt: They certainly don't want to let it happen three times in a row. Since the team's been in Nashville, only three other backs besides Steve Slaton put up that double dip against them where they've run for 100 yards in both games. One of them was Fred Taylor, one of them was Edgerrin Jamesand one of them was former Texan Domanick Davis. But none of them have done it against this Titans defense. He was the only back, including the playoffs last year, in 17 games that ran for over 100 yards.

They feel like they can do a lot better job against him this year. They need to tackle better. In the second game against the Texans, they did a pretty good job on him, but there was a run late in the game where he was able to squirt free and get about 30 yards and get over 100.They feel like if they can tackle him well, they can slow him down this time.

Nick Scurfield:You wrote on *The Tennessean *website that a top-10 finish for the Titans' offense isn't out of the question this year. What new additions have they made that lead you to have that opinion?

Jim Wyatt: They've got some weapons here who they have not had in several years. And I'm talking about guys like Nate Washingtonwho they signed from the Steelers, a speedster who can stretch the field. And Kenny Britt, their first-round pick out of Rutgers who got off to a good start against the Steelers in Week 1. Jared Cookis a tight end they drafted in the third round that looks more like a receiver; he's really athletic and can go up and get the ball. And then Justin Gageis a veteran who in his last three games has really been productive for them. And I didn't even mention Bo Scaife, their top receiver last year as far as catches.
With all those guys, Kerry Collinsthis time has some weapons that he can distribute the ball to. And I think when you're able to stretch the field with those receivers, the running game opens up. I think it works both ways; if the running game's going, these guys are going to make some plays downfield.

Nick Scurfield: What's your prediction how the game is going to play out and the final score?

Jim Wyatt: I'm certainly not of the opinion that the Texans are the team that everybody saw against the Jets. I think they'll be better. With that said, I think the Titans still have to have the edge playing at home. I think as a team, the Titans have got more talent on the roster right now than the Texans, and I think the Titans find a way to win. I think it's close. I'm picking 27-20 Titans over the Texans on Sunday.

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