Injuries at both tight end and fullback have forced the Tennessee Titans to do some serious shuffling of the roster this week, just to make certain they have enough healthy bodies to get through Sunday's game in Denver.
The Titans lost fullback Collin Mooney to a knee injury in Sunday's loss at Indianapolis, and signed a familiar face to replace him on the 53-man roster. Tennessee brought back fullback Quinn Johnson for a third tour of duty with the Titans. Johnson began the year as Tennessee's starting fullback with Mooney on the practice squad, but suffered a leg injury in the season opener and was placed on injured reserve. Once Johnson was healthy, he was given an injury settlement and released by the Titans.
Now with Mooney out, Johnson, who was first acquired by the Titans from Green Bay in 2011, and later claimed off waivers from Denver again that same year, has re-signed with Tennessee once again.
"It's not hard to figure out the offense. It's the same thing. It's just back to doing what I was doing before," Johnson said of his latest return to the Titans. "That is my plan to get back in there and do what I've got to do to help the team. I've just been working out and staying in shape and waiting for my opportunity, and it just happened to be back here."
Johnson became eligible to come back to the Titans after week 10.
While Johnson has plenty of familiarity with the Titans, another newcomer is pretty much starting from scratch. The Titans added tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on Tuesday after a cattle call of tight ends came through for auditions - a group that also included former Kansas City Chiefs standout Tony Moeaki.
Shiancoe comes to the Titans after both Craig Stevens and Delanie Walker went down with concussions. Stevens missed last week's game after being hurt in Oakland, and Walker was injured in the first quarter of Sunday's game in Indianapolis. That left Taylor Thompson as the Titans' only available tight end to finish the game, with tackle Mike Otto filling in in the two tight-end sets.
The Titans are holding out hope that Stevens and/or Walker can both practice and perhaps play this week against the Broncos, but there are no guarantees of that.
"They (Craig Stevens and Delanie Walker) would have to both be doing really well in our mind and not take a chance to lose both of them in the first quarter and be without someone we feel can help us in the passing game," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "If you see them both suit up, then we feel really confident about both of them, as good as you can. If we re not, then we would probably put one of them down and keep the other kid up."
SERIES HISTORY: 37th regular-season meeting. Titans lead series, 21-14-1. The Titans and Broncos have not met since 2011, with Tennessee winning, 17-14. That was not only before the Peyton Manning Era began in Denver, it was before the Tim Tebow Era as well, as Kyle Orton quarterbacked the Broncos that day.
--Safety Michael Griffin served his one-game suspension and returned to the Titans on Monday. On Wednesday, he spoke about being back from the one-game ban that came as a result of his hit on Oakland Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera.
"I had Thanksgiving with the family, and put the Christmas tree up," Griffin said.
Griffin said that since he couldn't have any contact with the team and had to make sure that when he reported to work on Monday morning that the suspension had indeed been lifted.
--As the Titans head into this week's game against Peyton Manning, their long-time divisional nemesis from his days with the Colts, they have to think what might have been regarding the quarterback's free-agent decision in 2011. Manning visited with the Titans, who were a finalist for his services before he ultimately signed with the Broncos.
Owner Bud Adams at the time was willing to offer Manning $25 million a year and perhaps a future stake in the team, but Manning ultimately decided to join John Elway in Denver.
"I m not really into going back to memory lane during the course of a game week. We're playing a tough opponent, but I really enjoyed my time with the Titans staff, getting to know coach Munchak and Ruston Webster. I had a couple conversations with Mr. Adams, and they were first class. I enjoyed my visit, enjoyed my time. Obviously, it was a very difficult decision for me," Manning said in his conference call with reporters in Nasvhille.
Munchak remembers the process well too.
"We were right in there. I think it was exciting. Mr. Adams, it meant a lot to him. We knew getting someone like Peyton (Manning) is a difference maker. I mean, look at what happened in Denver. He just makes the people around him better, they win," Munchak said. "That s exactly what Mr. Adams wanted. I got to know him very well. I knew Peyton. I played with his dad for a year when he was with the Oilers, Archie. I obviously knew him over the years. We coached in the Pro Bowl, and for that week it seemed like I was talking to him every day, all day because there was a couple teams that were in the loop doing all this and trying to do it in a private way. It was interesting. I really thought we had a great chance at getting him."
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 - Number of sacks for defensive tackle Jurrell Casey after a review by the Elias Sports Bureau gave a sack previously credited to Derrick Morgan to Casey.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Probably the worse the weather, the better for us. Hopefully there s a big snow storm to give us a great chance to win." - Titans coach Mike Munchak on the chance of weather playing a role in Sunday's game in Denver.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--KR Leon Washington seemingly has solved the Titans kick return problems judging from his performance on Sunday in Indianapolis. Washington even had a 33-yard punt return and fielded the ball flawlessly on both punts and kickoffs.
--WR Kendall Wright is the Titans' go-to player in the passing game. Wright already has 71 catches for the season for 845 yards, meaning he needs to average just over 39 yards a game receiving the final four games to reach 1,000 yards for the season.
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick reverted back to his turnover-prone ways with three interceptions and a lost fumble against the Colts. He will have to do better than that for the Titans to have any shot in Denver.
--S Michael Griffin is back on the roster after serving a week's suspension. The Titans waived S Shann Schillinger to make room.
--WR Damian Williams did scout-team work on Wednesday, practicing for the first time since suffering a hip injury against Jacksonville.
--TE Craig Stevens did not practice Wednesday due to a concussion suffered against the Raiders. He could be cleared by Thursday to begin some work.
--TE Delanie Walker missed practice Wednesday due to a concussion suffered Sunday. There is a chance he could return by Friday.
--P Brett Kern was held out of Wednesday's practice with a sore back.
--T David Stewart sat out Wednesday's practice with his sore shoulder. He has missed at least one day of practice every week this season.
GAME PLAN: The last thing the Titans need is to get into a shootout with Peyton Manning. They know Manning well from his days with the Colts, and know that they will have to pick their spots defensively against him, and not blitz too often and get burned. In the past, the Titans have tried to force Manning to take check downs and hope for a mistake on a long drive.
Offensively, the Titans' inconsistent running game needs to be on in order to win time of possession and keep Manning and Denver's offense off the field.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Titans CBs Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner vs. Broncos WRs Demaryious Thomas and Eric Decker -- Decker is fresh off a four-touchdown game against the Chiefs, meaning that the Titans secondary will have to pick their poison with so many weapons at Manning's disposal. McCourty usually draws the No. 1 receiver, meaning he could have Thomas for much of the day, leaving Verner for Decker.
--Titans T Michael Roos vs. Broncos DE Von Miller -- Miller, back from his suspension, is a difference-making pass rusher on the Broncos defense. Roos is usually a steady technician who will try to contend with Miller's speed off the edge.
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