Time for Young Titans Receivers to Respond

Wednesday, October 19th 2005, 9:12 pm
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The Tennessee Titans are about to find out how much their young receivers have grown up.

Fifth-year veteran Drew Bennett is out for at least two games after having two pins inserted into his dislocated left thumb. That leaves Steve McNair depending on third-year veteran Tyrone Calico and a trio of draft picks: Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby and Roydell Williams.

Bennett, for one, thinks they'll be ready for the Arizona Cardinals (1-4) on Sunday.

``I think it's a good game for them,'' he said Wednesday. ``They play a lot of man coverage, a lot of eight men in the box. With their speed, they're going to stretch the field. I think it's a really good opportunity for them.''

The Titans have no choice because they released their best receiver, Derrick Mason, for salary cap reasons in February and drafted the three rookies in April. They've chosen not to add a veteran.

``That rookie thing is out the window,'' Roby said. ``We're just going out there and playing now.''

The problem for the Titans (2-4) is that aside from Bennett, the rest of the receivers have been almost nonexistent with a combined 30 catches. Their tight ends have a combined 62 catches.

There's no comparison at all with the Cardinals' top two receivers. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are the NFL's only teammates with more than 35 catches and 500 yards receiving. Boldin has 36 for 547 yards and Fitzgerald 36 for 504.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he's confident his receivers will pick up their production.

``We're going to play all of them and just rotate them and keep them fresh and keep them involved in the game,'' he said.

Jones now is a starter after being listed as a co-starter with Calico.

The 14th receiver drafted, 96th overall, now leads all NFL rookies with 19 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown, which is ahead of former Oklahoma teammates Mark Clayton and Mark Bradley, who were taken well before him.

Jones is coming off five catches for a season-high 85 yards in last week's 31-23 loss to Cincinnati, a total that could have been much higher. Seven other passes were thrown his direction.

The 6-foot-4 Calico, who will start opposite Jones, has struggled since his rookie season in 2003. He has played in only 21 games over the three seasons. Last year was wiped out by injuries to both knees. So far this year he has just seven receptions for 54 yards.

``I think coming off an injury is always tough. But he's a tremendous player,'' Arizona coach Dennis Green said. ``He has a good explosion, excellent hands, and (he's) very competitive.''

Calico will get more work, and he estimated he's physically nearly completely back. He knows he faces pressure to deliver.

``Now it is time just to show what I can do out there on the field, make plays and show everybody ... and step into the spotlight where Drew was at,'' Calico said.

That may be easier said than done.

McNair sat out practice with a sore back Wednesday and missed two sessions last week. He has worked hard to develop timing with all the receivers.

``In a perfect world, you want him on the field practicing as much as you can so there is a comfort level through the practice week with the younger players,'' Fisher said.