Diminishing Returns for the Tennessee Titans

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One of the unsung heroes of the Tennessee Titans’ 13-3 season in 2008 was former return specialist Chris Carr. His solid scampers often provided the team with adequate opening field position and his exploits paved the way for the Titans to emerge as the league’s best kick return unit last year.

My, how things have changed.

Fast-forwarding to 2009, Carr is wearing that ugly, purple-laden uniform while the Titans are having a tough time replacing his presence on special teams. Through two preseason games, no one has yet to step up as the guy who is going to fill Carr’s shoes on returns. 


Don’t get me wrong, Carr was no Devin Hester circa ’06 in 2008. Instead, I’ll refer to the Titans’ former return specialist as the “Marty Schottenheimer” of kick returners: He couldn’t take it the distance, but he was remarkably consistent.

In March, around the time of Carr’s departure to the hated Ravens, I authored a piece that pondered the question: How will the Titans replace Chris Carr? At the time, we considered the potential drafting of a guy such as Alphonso Smith or D.J. Moore as a possible solution. During that timeframe, return specialist Justin Miller had visited Baptist Sports Park for a workout, so he was also in the running.  

Shortly afterwards, the speculation regarding replacing Carr ended as the Titans signed return specialist Mark Jones. Formerly of the Carolina Panthers, Jones was a guy with a penchant for not dropping the football and judging by his stats, he appeared to have the potential to be a solid fill-in for Carr. 

Unfortunately for the Titans, Jones has been missing in action during training camp as a result of a hamstring injury. In his absence, rookies Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty, while showing some signs as being contributors at their natural cornerback position, have failed to distinguish themselves as returners.

Hopefully, Jones can get healthy real soon because he was the guy that was specifically targetted to serve as Carr’s replacement. Though I’ve been impressed with what Mouton and McCourty bring to the table at CB, color me not too enthused about the prospects of either one of them serving as the team’s primary return-man.

Chris Davis is also in the running, but I’m highly skeptical of his chances of being the guy. He fumbled away his opportunity a couple of years ago when given the opportunity to serve as the team’s primary punt returner. 

Though there’s been talk that Kenny Britt may get an opportunity or two to return a punt/kick or two, it’s a bit risky to trot him out there on special teams. Judging by his impressive debut, the Titans will be better served if he devotes the majority of his energy towards being a factor in the passing game.

So what do you guys think? Is it time to push the panic button or will Jones or someone else eventually emerge as an adequate Chris Carr replacement?

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5 Responses to “Diminishing Returns for the Tennessee Titans”

  1. Bob Loblaw Says:

    I was very disappointed to see Carr leave. He said that it was all about the chance to compete for a starting job. We’ll never know if it was that, or that the Titans didn’t want to pay him $2.5m/yr as a kick returner, but I think he would have been worth it.
    As long as Jones doesn’t have a Chris Brownesque proclivity to succumb to injury, I wouldn’t worry. And if all else fails, Pacman is still available.

  2. Scott Says:

    The Titans have little choice at this point. They can’t rely on a rookie (unless he is showing an exceptional talent) to be the returner for this team. Carr was excellent last year. He secured the ball well and ensured that the Titans consistently had good field position. To date, Davis has not shown any ability to be a good returner. The only guy on the roster that has return specialist credentials is Jones. Assuming he becomes healthy, he has to make the 53 man roster this year. It is vital for the success of this team for Jones to heal up.

  3. Andrew Strickert Says:

    Another guy in the mix is Ringer. As a matter of fact, I’m including him as a KR on my depth chart, which I’ll be posting tomorrow as part of another training camp update. You may be interested to know that it’s quite a bit different than the one the Titans have on their website.

  4. Drexel Perry Says:

    Thanks for commenting, guys.
    Andrew,
    Looking forward to reading your piece tomorrow. Ringer at KR is an interesting thought.

  5. Andrew Strickert Says:

    Mouton and Davis will both miss the Dallas game, giving others an opportunity. I think Fisher said Ringer (KR) and Harris (PR) would get a look. They’ve both been doing those in camp for a couple of weeks, as well as Britt lately.
    Drexel, I’m like you in thinking Britt is too valuable to be used as a returner but Fisher doesn’t have a history of thinking like that. If he used Pacman (a #6 overall draft pick) for that, I don’t see why he wouldn’t use a #30 pick. For years, he used a starting WR (Mason) as a PR, so he’ll probably use a backup WR for it too.

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