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Notebook: Morgan, Jones Get First Shot at Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Depth on the defensive line allows coaches to keep guys fresh through rotational play and allows for situational substitutions.

Tennessee played without Derrick Morgan and Jason Jones when it opened the season at Jacksonville. Both men are expected to play Saturday when the Titans (7-7) host the Jaguars (4-10) at LP Field.

It will be the first time that Morgan, a 2010 first-round draft pick, has played Jacksonville in his pro career. He missed both meetings last year after tearing his ACL and missed the opener with a setback from that injury.

Morgan and Jones said it was tough to watch the last meeting, a 16-14 win by Jacksonville, and they look forward to reversing the outcome this week.

"It was tough watching my teammates in battle," Jones said. "I couldn't go out there and help them out. It made it worse because we lost, too. You felt like you could have gone out there and helped them win the game."

The defensive plan is to get to NFL leading rusher Maurice Jones-Drew (1,334 yards) early during a play, take away the run options and force rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert to beat the Titans.

"He runs hard," Morgan said of Jones-Drew. "He's like a little bowling ball, so you've got to get your technique. I've never played against him, but looking on tape, he runs hard. We've played a lot of good running backs this year, but it seems like he's the one you've got to respect the most. It's going to be a team effort of stopping the run in this game, so whatever I can do to help, I'm glad I can."

Gabbert is 178-of-352 passing (50.6 percent) for 1,924 yards. He's thrown 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and been sacked 36 times in 13 games.

Jones said he enjoys getting into a rotation that keeps the defensive linemen fresher for tackling runners and pressuring quarterbacks.

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said he's glad to have Morgan and Jones in the mix for Saturday.

"You want to get your good football players out there," Gray said. "It's not going to be one of those games that's going to be glorified (with) sacks and all that. It's going to be won in the trenches:  offensive and defensive lines. We have to pick our stuff up as a defensive line and say we can't let them push us all over the field and let Maurice run in the secondary."

Jacksonville rushed 47 times in the first meeting and possessed the football nearly 40 of the game's 60 minutes. The Jaguars were able to position themselves in third-and-short yardage frequently and convert those situations.

Tennessee knows it must reduce third-and-short situations if it wants to win and keep alive its hopes of securing the final Wild Card berth in the AFC playoffs.

"We're pretty healthy there at the d-line," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "We're going to have to be. There's no secret what they're going to do in this game. We've just got to try and stop it. The fact that we've played them before, most of these guys have a feel for it. When you hit (Jones-Drew), it's going to take a small army to put him down. He's leading the league for a reason. That's why we're out here in pads (Wednesday). We've got to get used to what we're going to see Saturday."

MUNCHAK: JOHNSON 'CAREFUL':Titans running back Chris Johnson practiced Thursday and is expected to start Saturday. Johnson hurt his ankle near the end of last week's game and missed practice Tuesday.

"I think he'll be fine. I think he was being careful," Munchak said. "There's no doubt, but I don't think he was restricted in what he could do. I think it's more of just confidence, running again and not thinking about it. He did a lot more (Thursday) than he did (Wednesday). We would assume he's ready to go play on Saturday.

Johnson has 930 yards rushing this season and is 70 away from becoming the third player in Titans/Oilers history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in four consecutive seasons.

Munchak said the injury, combined with Javon Ringer (hand) being placed on injured reserve, could create more opportunities for rookie running back Jamie Harper or fullback Ahmard Hall.

"We've got a lot of confidence in how (Harper) played in the preseason," Munchak said. "He's been dressed (to play) for a while now, so he's getting more comfortable."

OTHER UPDATES: Defensive end William Hayes (groin) is "a lot better than he was last week," Munchak said. Linebacker Gerald McRath (ankle and knee) is improving through work with the team's training staff but did not practice Thursday and will be questionable.

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