The Tennessee Titans head into this weekend’s bye with an impressive 8-4 record despite losing back-to-back contests. They’ve managed to compile a convincing winning record by overcoming several early season obstacles, particularly in the injury department.
Tennessee last took the field for a Week 13 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots without key players such as Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Bud Dupree, David Long Jr., Rashaan Evans, Chris Jackson, Nate Davis, Teair Tart, Jeremy McNichols and several others.
Bye weekends can be anti-climatic, as you rather watch your team in action. We don’t feel that way about the Titans. This bye week is much-deserved, and more importantly, much-needed.
The Titans won’t get every injured player back for their Week 14 contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but here are five Titans that could realistically return to the lineup.
Julio Jones, WR
The seven-time Pro Bowl receiver has been plagued by a hamstring injury throughout his first year as a Titan. It’s the same injury that hampered him in Atlanta last season. Jones was placed on injured reserve on November 13th, just one day before Tennessee’s Week 10 win over the New Orleans Saints. The 32-year-old Jones has now missed the required three games, and is eligible to return to the lineup for next weekend’s game against Jacksonville. Jones will actually have had four weeks to rest his hamstring, having missed the required three games in addition to this Sunday’s bye. Jones has appeared in just six of a possible 12 games. This passing game badly needs the injection of talent Jones is capable of providing.
David Long Jr., LB
The Titans badly missed David Long Jr. against the Patriots. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels routinely called plays that allowed rookie quarterback Mac Jones to take advantage of the short to intermediate areas of the field, particularly up the seam where Long typically plays great coverage. Long was never placed on injured reserve, but has already missed three consecutive contests, having last appeared in Tennessee’s win over the Los Angeles Rams. With Long still taking up a spot on the 53-man roster, he’s likely to return sooner rather than later.
Jeremy McNichols, RB
Tennessee’s main pass-catching back has been dealing with a confusing and scary concussion as of late. Head injuries are particularly dealt with extreme caution and care, and it’s difficult to truly place a timeline on the recovery. McNichols was also not placed on IR, which means he’s currently eligible to return whenever Tennessee’s medical staff sees fit. McNichols last appeared in Tennessee’s win over New Orleans, meaning he was absent from the back-to-back losses to the Texans and Patriots. This offense is hurting right now, and needs as many playmakers as they can get. We would welcome McNichols’ return with open arms.
Rashaan Evans, LB
Tennessee is badly hurting at the inside linebacker position right now. Evans marks the second player on this list from that very position, and they’re not the only two hurting. Monty Rice was recently placed on injured reserve, and will miss the next three games. That leaves Tennessee with three healthy players at the position — Jayon Brown, Dylan Cole and Nick Dzubnar. With all due respect, you typically hope two of them never see the field on defense, but Tennessee hasn’t had that luxury. Evans’ case is particularly curious. He too was never placed on IR, but has already missed five straight games. You’d like to think he’s due back any day now.
Dane Cruikshank, S
The fourth-year safety is eligible to be activated off injured reserve ahead of the game against Jacksonville. Cruikshank has already missed the required contests. He’s appeared in nine games this season with four starts. He’s been credited with making 32 tackles, and routinely serves as the team’s third safety behind Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker. He played his best game against the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this season while getting the start for the at-the-time injured Hooker. Cruikshank allows defensive coordinator Shane Bowen to play some three-safety looks. He’s also an incredible special teams player. We expect to see him in Week 14.