Struggling But Winning
Vince Young has not played like a national championship winning quarterback or Heisman Trophy finalist recently. But just like he did at the University of Texas, the Tennessee Titans quarterback has been coming away a winner.
Young will try to help the Titans solidify their position as the AFC South's second-best team when they host the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Tennessee -4.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 35 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Tennessee -7.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Young hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since late September, he's averaging just 122.1 yards through the air and his completion percentage (61.6) is higher than his quarterback rating (61.5). But Young has his team tied for the third-best record in the AFC.
"That's the bottom line - we're winning games," said Titans coach Jeff Fisher. "He is contributing an awful lot to those wins. If people want 400 or 500 yards passing out of our offense, they're going to have to wait."
Young, who has won 13 of his last 16 starts, has helped Tennessee (6-2) get within one game of Indianapolis for the AFC South lead and move one game ahead of third-place Jacksonville (5-3).
The Titans rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards, but their running attack is third in the league. They ran all over the Jaguars in the team's first meeting during Week 1, piling up a season-high 282 yards in their 13-10 win.
"It's a team thing," Fisher said. "It's been a case over the last couple of weeks, where as I say, the short carries, the three-yard carries turn into five- and six-yard carries - even 10-yard carries at the end of the game."
Running back LenDale White has stepped up with three straight 100-yard games - all Tennessee wins - since taking over as the featured back. He had been splitting carries with Chris Brown, who ran for 175 yards in the Titans' win at Jacksonville but has missed the past three weeks with a sprained left ankle.
While it's possible Brown will return to the field Sunday, rookie running back Chris Henry is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, though he's considering an appeal.
"I think he certainly regrets what he did, even though I don't think he thought he was doing anything wrong," Fisher said. "That's about all I can say. It's a league matter."
The Jaguars' defense was the league's second-stingiest unit in 2006, led by run-stuffers Marcus Stroud and John Henderson and a hard-hitting secondary. But Jacksonville has slid to the middle of the pack this year, and now it will be without Stroud for the next four games due to an NFL suspension for violating the league's steroids and related substances policy.
The three-time Pro Bowl lineman admitted last week he had taken supplements following offseason micro-fracture surgery on his right ankle.
"Rules are rules, and I've got to abide by the rules like everybody else," Stroud said. "If it was something that the NFL says is an illegal supplement or something I took, it's on me to know exactly what I'm putting in my body."
The team signed veteran defensive tackle Grady Jackson last week to help fill Stroud's temporary absence.
Stroud isn't the only Jacksonville player who will sit out Sunday despite not being on the injury report.
Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio added another game's suspension to the punishment of linebacker Justin Durant and second-year offensive tackle Richard Collier. Both players were arrested Saturday, the day before the Jaguars' 41-24 loss to the Saints, and neither player made the trip to New Orleans.
Del Rio also fined left tackle Khalif Barnes, who showed up late to work Saturday. Barnes also was supposed to sit out the Saints' game as punishment, but had to play due to injuries.
"If you're going to be out late, if you're going to be into things that you shouldn't be into, making choices that totally fly in the face of what needs to be done to get ready for a football game, then you're going to pay a price," Del Rio said. "It's going to cost you money and it's going to cost you playing time."
The Jaguars have had eight players arrested since January 2006.
While Jacksonville's defense has given up more than 380 yards in four straight games, including a season-high 538 last week, the offense also has slowed considerably since quarterback David Garrard suffered a left ankle injury against Indianapolis in Week 7.
It's possible Garrard could play Sunday after returning to practice Wednesday in a limited capacity.
"I have to be smart. There's a lot of games left," Garrard said. "I want to make sure the ankle's right before I come back. I don't want to get out there and damage it more and then I'm out for the rest of the season."
Quinn Gray has started the past two games and come away with mixed results. He won in Tampa Bay despite only throwing for 100 yards, then had 354 yards passing with two touchdowns against New Orleans but threw three interceptions - one of which was returned for a touchdown.
"I had a couple of miscues, a couple of wrong routes, a bad throw that led to the pick that got returned to the house," Gray said.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Jaguars likely will try to rely on their fifth-ranked rushing game, but the Titans lead the league in run defense, allowing 66.0 yards per game.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth had three sacks in the Titans' 20-7 win over Carolina last week, but strained his hamstring during the game. He said Wednesday he expects to play against Jacksonville.
Tennessee will conclude a three-game homestand while the Jaguars play on the road for a third straight week - the only team in the league that must do so all season.
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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