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With Uncertainty Around Him at WR, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill Touts 'Next Man Up' Mentality


NASHVILLE – The Injury Report for the Titans at the start of the week isn't pretty, especially at the receiver position.

Starting receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown didn't practice on Wednesday, both sidelined with hamstring injuries.

Just four days away from the team's next game against the New York Jets, there's plenty of uncertainly about their availability.

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill doesn't have time to fret – he's too busy getting ready to play, knowing there's a possibility his top two targets will be replaced by others on the field.

"Something we believe in in this organization, is 'Next man up' mentality," Tannehill said. "Not sure who is going to end up trotting out there on Sunday, but (I'm) confident in whoever it is. I got a ton of reps and confidence in those (other) guys, and it has been something we have done since we have been here. Excited about the guys we have that can possibly step up for us."

In Sunday's win over the Colts, the Titans lost Brown early, and Tannehill didn't have Jones on the field late.

So, Tannehill threw the ball to other guys. Against the Colts, Tannehill threw touchdown passes to receivers Chester Rogers and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and another to running back Jeremy McNichols. And, of course, the Titans leaned on running back Derrick Henry on the ground and catching passes as well. With 12 catches each, Henry and Jones are tied for the most receptions on the team after three games, followed by Brown and McNichols, with seven catches each.

The emergence of Westbook-Ikhine has been a plus, Tannehill said. In three games, Westbrook-Ikhine has six catches for 69 yards, and the score.

"He is a guy I have a lot of confidence in," Tannehill said. "He has been consistent, going back to last year, he does the dirty work for us, he gets in there and blocks, he is physical, he is tough, we have put him at a lot of different positions. He has played – in the last game he played all three receiver positions, so he is a versatile guy who has size and strength, and who has made some big plays for us. I have a ton of confidence in Nick and we are lucky to have him, a guy of his utility and can make plays all over."

Tannehill did see a pair of positive developments on Wednesday.

Tight end Anthony Firkser, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury, was a full participant in practice.

"It will be nice to have him back, whenever that is," Tannehill said of Firkser. "He is a playmaker for us, has made some huge plays over the last few years I have been here. He is a guy we have a lot of confidence in. Anytime you are missing a guy that you are used to having out there is tough, and you want to get him back out here as soon as you can."

Also on Wednesday, receiver Marcus Johnson practiced with the team for the first time since the start of the regular season.

The Titans moved Johnson to the team's "Designated for Return from Injured Reserve" list earlier in the day, which opened up a 21-day window for him to practice with the team, but he will not count against the team's 53-man roster until being activated from Injured Reserve.

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel didn't rule out the possibility of Johnson playing this Sunday.

"You look at a guy who came into camp and just consistently got better as camp went on and continued to make plays," Tannehill said of Johnson. "The guy (showed) up in some critical days during camp, the dog days of camp when we were low on numbers at receiver, and he was out here practicing his tail off, getting better and making plays. A guy that, like I said, I have a ton of reps with and a lot of confidence in."

The Titans, winners of back-to-back games after a season-opening loss to the Cardinals, would like to keep the momentum going against the Jets.

Tannehill knows the Titans will be challenged – the Jets are ranked 10th overall in total defense.

"I think you turn on the Jets tape and watch their defense, it is not that hard to get yourself ready to go for this game," Tannehill said. "They are talented, they are fast, they are physical, they are making plays, stopping the run, pushing the pocket in the pass, they are disruptive, their defensive backs are covering. Offensively I don't think it is going to take much cheerleading to get us ready to go. We are going to have to go out and play our best football because a ton of respect for the way these guys are playing."

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