It's December already? Yes, it is, even if it doesn't feel like it, and the Titans close the third quarter of the season with a rematch against the Houston Texans, this time at LP Field. The Texans are banged up this week, with starters or quasi-starters guard Antoine Caldwell, tackle Derek Newton, inside linebacker Bradie James, outside linebacker Brooks Reed, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, and Joseph's sometime-replacement cornerback Alan Ball all inactive along with backup guard Cody White. That means regular nickelback Brice McCain, who's struggled at times in that role after playing superlatively there last year, will play on the outside, likely, while second-year man Brandon Harris, who's struggled to find the field, will probably play nickel. Given how often the Texans play dime sets, given their lack of depth I hope the Titans to try to spread the field and play lots of 3-WR packages this time.
For the Titans, Colin McCarthy is out with his concussion; Mike Munchak indicated Tim Shaw would play in base packages and Will Witherspoon in nickel; apparently "no Akeem Ayers in the nickel except as a rusher" has become somewhat of an imperative, if they actually line up how Munchak indicated they'll line up. This makes a certain amount of sense, but only a certain amount. Ryan Mouton is a healthy inactive this week, thus completing his season-long transition from backup nickelback in preseason to starting nickelback the first half or so of the season to backup nickelback and now inactive. Jamie Harper, listed as questionable, is inactive, while Damian Williams, also questionable, is playing and Lavelle Hawkins is down again. Collin Mooney, brought up off the practice squad yesterday, is active, and it'll be interesting to see what role he plays with fellow fullback Quinn Johnson also active; judging by who's up, my desire to see more spread looks against a depleted secondary will not be met.
The big question for the Titans is of course what Dowell Loggains will do offensively; it's hard to change too many things in one week. Jake Locker indicated a desire to see fewer or no option routes; Loggains at his media session Thursday meanwhile stressed that every offense had option routes. Perhaps I read too much into things, but he stressed that at some point it's up to the players to go out and execute between the lines on Sunday. I think he saw the same thing I saw, that some of the Titans' flaws against the Jaguars were simple lack of execution not related to OMG Chris Palmer Loser Fired Browns Texans Old! One thing more likely to be changed in a single week is the use of heavier protections. As I've written before, Palmer believed in primarily 5+1-man protection schemes and getting more players out in routes. Given Locker's occasional issues with getting crushed by a guy that protection made him accountable for, I wouldn't be too surprised to see more 7-man protections, which may (or may not) also mean deeper routes.
Anyway, I'll be chiming in from time to time on Twitter with my thoughts on today's game, so feel free to follow and yap at me there.