The Titans are beginning to get some of their walking wounded back. DT Tony Brown was activated off the PUP list after having a slow recovery from offseason knee surgery. Brown was given a three-year, $17 million extension in the off-season, but had not practiced at all after he needed surgery to repair a condition in the knee caused by blood and fluid from a thigh bruise that seeped into the knee.
Also, defensive end William Hayes, who has had a sprained MCL in his right knee, should be a go by the season opener.
Cortland Finnegan is back from his injured groin and is a go for the season.
The only major question mark is linebacker David Thornton, who remains on PUP with a shoulder injury. He will start the season on PUP.
--RB Chris Johnson is sticking by what seems to be an outlandish goal of rushing for 2,500 yards this season. In order to obliterate Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 yards rushing in a season by nearly 400 yards, Johnson would have to average 156.25 yards per game.
"I'll have me a little ticker counting down. 2,500 is the goal, so I'm sticking to that. I feel like it's very realistic," Johnson said. "People didn't think 2,000 yards was realistic with the goal I set last year. I made a lot of people believers, so I'm going to stick to my goal."
--While all the talk on Tuesday was about the possible return of DT Albert Haynesworth in a trade, the Titans are getting another key contributor back. DT Tony Brown, who signed a three-year, $17 million extension in the offseason, finally off the PUP list last week. He played about 10-15 snaps in the preseason finale vs. New Orleans and pronounced himself ready to go for the regular season.
--The Titans added former Western Illinois RB Herb Donaldson to their practice squad on Tuesday. Donaldson had been in camp with the Dallas Cowboys. He takes the spot that the Titans would have had for LeGarrette Blount had he not been claimed on waivers Monday by Tampa Bay.
--TE Carson Butler was also signed to the Titans practice squad. The former Michigan player has bounced around in training camps and on practice squads, most recently with the New York Giants and New England Patritos.
--QB Rusty Smith was happy the Titans kept him on the 53-man roster as a third quarterback. Smith had showed too much potential to risk losing on waivers at final cuts. He credited his having played in a pro-style offense at Florida Atlantic, as opposed to the popular spread option, with giving him a slight edge in adjusting to the NFL.
--DE William Hayes is hoping to play in the opener against the Oakland Raiders, after practicing Monday for the first time since spraining the MCL in his right knee on Aug. 11.
--LB Rennie Curran also practiced on Monday. He had missed the final preseason game with a hamstring injury.
--LB Tim Shaw was claimed off waivers by the Titans from the Chicago Bears. Shaw is expected to help out on special teams for the Titans, who were also concerned about linebacker depth. Shaw has also been with Carolina and Jacksonville.
--The Titans also claimed LB Patrick Bailey off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also is expected to have his primary responsibilities fall on special teams for Tennessee.
--After making it through final cuts again, backup S Donnie Nickey, who plays mostly just on special teams, is now the longest tenured Tennessee Titans in terms of continual service. Nickey was a fifth-round pick of the Titans in 2003 and has been here for all of that, except one week in his second season when he was dropped from the roster because the Titans needed an extra kicker because of an injury.
--RB Javon Ringer is the lone insurance policy for the time being at running back. When the Titans lost LeGarrette Blount on waivers, it left only second-year man Ringer as the backup to Chris Johnson.
DRAFT PICKS TO STICK
Rd. 1/16, DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech -- After being out for most of camp with a calf injury, Morgan made his preseason debut against Carolina and impressed with his rush skills. He should have a regular spot in the Titans' defensive end rotation.
Rd. 3/77, WR Damian Williams, Southern California -- The Titans are hopeful that Williams will solve their return game issues on both punts and kickoffs.
Rd. 3/97, LB Rennie Curran, Georgia -- Undersized linebacker will probably contribute on special teams as a rookie. The Titans hope he can contend for more in 2011.
Rd. 5/148, S Robert Johnson, Utah -- A ballhawk in college, that aspect of his game has yet to translate during his first training camp. Likely a special teams player for now.
Rd. 6/176, QB Rusty Smith, Florida Atlantic -- His strong arm has gotten him noticed in camp, enough that the Titans will keep him on the 53 instead of the practice squad.
Rd. 7/222, WR Marc Mariani, Montana -- This small-school receiver has played his way onto the roster by showing he belongs and being a playmaker when given the opportunity. He could even wrest the return job away from Damian Williams.
UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS
Young's re-emergence came last year and now he has to be more consistent in order to become a franchise QB. Collins is back for one more year as the backup, while Smith is the heir apparent to at least be No. 2 and perhaps No. 1 if Young falters down the line.
Starters -- Chris Johnson, FB Ahmard Hall. Backup -- Javon Ringer.
Johnson became the best running back in the league last year, and at age 24, there's no reason to believe he won't continue to be among the NFL's most productive. Hall is underrated as a fullback, while Ringer steps into the backup role.
Scaife has been one of Young's favorite targets over the years, but could lose playing time to Cook, who has a world of potential. Stevens will play a lot in two tight-end sets and has value as both a blocker and receiver.
Gage and Washington are both back from a year ago. The Titans would love for Britt to show the consistency necessary to move into the starting lineup. Hawkins has improved in this camp, but the Titans are high on the potential of rookies Williams and Mariani.
This group has been one of the NFL's best over the past two seasons, and the only change is Amano sliding over from left guard to center to replace departed veteran Kevin Mawae, with Harris moving in at left guard. The only question is among the backups where experience is lacking.
This unit has something to prove with younger players having to step forward. Jones can be an impact player inside if he can stay healthy (something he hasn't done his first two seasons), while Morgan can earn playing time quickly in the rotation. Keep an eye on journeyman Babin as d-line coach Jim Washburn has a good track with reclamation projects.
McRath is suspended for the season's first four games, leaving Allred likely to start and creating a potential dropoff. Tulloch has been playing well in camp after missing OTAs in protest over his contract. Witherspoon comes on board and has shown he still has solid skills.
LCB Cortland Finnegan, FS Michael Griffin, SS Chris Hope, RCB Jason McCourty. Backups -- NCB Vincent Fuller, CB Alterraun Verner, CB Ryan Mouton, S Robert Johnson, S Nick Schommer, S Donnie Nickey.
This group is looking for atonement after struggling in '09. Finnegan, Griffin and Hope were in the Pro Bowl in '08. Finnegan will roam more for favorable matchups, alternating sides. Don't underestimate the value of Fuller as the nickel back. Verner had an outstanding camp and preseason and might still beat out McCourty in the long-term. S Myron Rolle was added to the practice squad.
Bironas is one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL, and Kern has proven to be a nice addition taking over for Craig Hentrich, who retired. Williams and Mariani are in a battle to see who wins the return position.
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