|Tennessee Titans replacing suspended CB Pacman Jones by committee|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 06 September 2007 12:56|
Tennessee's best defensive player in 2006 was suspended in April for the 2007 season. The Titans knew they'd have to replace at least one starter, and now they're preparing for their opener Sunday at Jacksonville with a revamped secondary that could feature three new starters.
``We definitely miss Pac,'' safety Chris Hope said Thursday. ``We've taken it upon ourselves to practice that much harder and dedicate football back into our lives that much greater to pick up the slack.''
Veteran Nick Harper was signed away from Indianapolis to replace Jones at left cornerback. The Titans went with youth last weekend, releasing veteran free safety Lamont Thompson and giving the starting job to Calvin Lowry.
This will be the first start of Lowry's career, but Hope said he isn't worried.
``He's still a work in progress. He hasn't actually been in a real live game yet. But you know we played a lot together during the (minicamps) and training camp, so I kind of know what his strengths and weakneses are,'' Hope said.
The third new starter likely will be at right cornerback even though coach Jeff Fisher has declined to name who has earned the job. Incumbent Reynaldo Hill still is listed at the spot along with Cortland Finnegan and rookie Michael Griffin. The decision may not come until just before kickoff.
But Hill was hobbled this preseason by an injured groin, and Finnegan, a seventh-round draft pick out of Samford last year, could get the start. He played as the team's fifth defensive back last season and had a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown this preseason against New England.
``Anybody is capable of playing that position. I think everybody has worked hard, and we believe in one another. Whoever gets the nod on Sunday I believe is going to do their best,'' Finnegan said.
The Titans ranked 27th against the pass last season. Fisher feels much more comfortable at cornerback this season because of the depth.
``We feel like any one of the six can come in and play. We have no problem with them playing in the ballgame. It's as good a depth as we've had in a long time,'' he said.
The Titans beat Jacksonville last December in Nashville thanks mostly to the secondary.
Jones picked off the first pass and ran it back 83 yards for the first interception return for a touchdown in his career. Hope also scored on an interception, Finnegan returned a fumble for a TD and Hill sealed the victory with an interception.
``We have a great impact on whether we win or lose,'' Hope said. ``We take it upon ourselves to go out and try to be the best group on the field. The last game we played those guys, each defensive back had a big hand in making a play.''
With the way the secondary worked through the offseason and preseason, Fisher said he isn't worried about any chemistry problems if three new starters are on the field together.
``So there are no concerns about communication and things like that. They're all on the same page,'' he said.