Palmer Identifying Strengths of Players to Win Games

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is, in some ways, a matchmaker.

Palmer wants to unite players' skills with specific plays to maximize offensive production from each position in every situation. Tennessee's training camp is providing Palmer and Tennessee's staff ample opportunities to identify the combinations that will give the Titans the best chances to win.

"We'll have guys on the (active roster) this season that we'll have special plays to try and take advantage of their skills," Palmer said Wednesday.

Palmer said he's been pleased by the Titans' running backs, receivers and tight ends thus far. Tennessee won its preseason opener against Minnesota without its leading rusher and receiver from 2010, and used the absences of Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt to see how other players performed.

Johnson has not reported to camp because he wants a new contract, and Britt is recovering from a hamstring injury. Neither is expected to play when the Titans visit the St. Louis Rams at 7 p.m. Saturday, and Johnson's backup from 2010 Javon Ringer may also miss the game because of a hip pointer injury.

Eight Titans had at least one rush, and four Tennessee quarterbacks threw passes at a total of 14 receivers against Minnesota, offering Palmer a muddled array to evaluate.

"When you're playing a lot of guys, it's hard to get a true reading because they just don't get enough opportunities," Palmer said.

The practices and prior film footage, however, offer Palmer more to consider. He said receiver Justin Gage, who is entering his ninth season in the NFL, is having a good camp and taking advantage of a fresh opportunity.

Gage led the Titans with 651 receiving yards in 2008 but has 649 yards receiving in the past two seasons in which he has endured multiple injuries. He said staying healthy for 16 games is his No. 1 goal this season, followed by mental preparation and knowing the offensive keys each week.

Gage, at 6-foot-4 and 204 pounds, is more of a possession receiver and run blocker than some of the Titans' smaller and younger receivers that Palmer hopes will be deep threats. Gage said he likes Palmer's approach of matching attributes with plays and situations.

"I think it's something that definitely helps us out as receivers," Gage said. "That gives the coaches a chance to see what we do best, where we can specialize in our offense and what's going to make our offense go. We've got big guys; we've got fast guys, strong guys. When you can expose all those strengths and combine them with a back like Javon Ringer or Chris Johnson, it makes your offense extremely explosive."

The Titans had three pass plays gain 20 yards or more against the Vikings, which is one shy of the goal that the Titans have set for each game this season.  Last season Tennessee's offense ranked 18th out of 32 NFL teams in that category with 44 pass completions that gained 20 or more yards. Completing four of 20 yards or more each game would be 64 for the season. San Diego led the league with 66 such completions last season.

Palmer said he's also pleased with the running backs in the absence of Johnson, who finished fourth in the NFL with 1,364 rushing yards in 2010. Palmer said Ringer has exceeded his expectations and Jamie Harper "has done a very nice job for a rookie" and he anticipates some specific plays for Ringer and Harper even after Johnson returns to the team.

Ringer said he's disappointed that the hip pointer has caused him to miss some reps but he's glad that coaches have been pleased with what they've seen so far.

"My job is to make them happy, and I'm glad that I've been able to show them a little of what I can do," Ringer said. "You never want to get complacent, so I'm just trying to make sure I focus in and make sure I make the most of every opportunity."

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