Back to back losses and a couple injuries have led to a flurry of roster moves for the Titans as they prepare to host the Bears at Nissan Stadium on Sunday. There are a lot of moving parts right now, but here are the highlights:
Titans sign former Patriots punter Ryan Allen
Brett Kern was injured late in the Titans loss to the Bengals after a poor snap from Beau Brinkley on a field goal attempt led to Kern trying to improvise, taking a hit, and injuring his wrist. The All-Pro punter will be out for at least three weeks after being moved to injured reserve today.
Replacing Kern will be Ryan Allen. Allen averaged over 45 yards per punt during six seasons with in New England, but was released after Bill Belichick spent a 5th round pick on Jake Bailey in the 2019 NFL Draft. After being released, Allen caught on with the Falcons after an injury to their punter around midseason, but lost his job to another drafted rookie in camp this year.
Two things stand out about Allen. First, he’s a left-footed punter, something the Titans haven’t had since lefty punter since Josh Miller made a one-game cameo filling in for an injured Craig Hentrich in 2007.
Bill Belichick famously loves lefty punters due to the difficulties that “reverse” spin can cause for opposing return men.
And it turns out that the statistics back Belichick’s beliefs. Returners muff punts from lefties 25% more frequently than they do punts from the more conventional right-footed punters (3.1% versus 2.5%).
The other interesting part of the Allen signing is that Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski is reunited with the holder that he called the “best in the NFL”, What makes Allen so good at holding? Gostkowski answered that question in great detail for NESN’s Zack Cox and it certainly stands to reason that having some familiarity there could help the Titans struggling kicker.
Desmond King will make his Titans debut against the Bears
Paul Kuharsky reported this morning that new slot corner Desmond King will make his debut on Sunday despite not hitting the Titans practice field this week as he progressed through COVID protocols.
The Titans traded one of their three 6th round picks for King on Monday and his skill set should be a big help to the struggling Tennessee secondary as I wrote about earlier in the week. Expectations should be tempered to some degree considering the lack of practice time, but the 2018 All-Pro is a talented, instinctive player.
Adoree’ Jackson will NOT make his 2020 debut
The good news on King is largely offset by the bad news on Jackson, who will miss his 8th straight game with a knee injury. He must be activated from IR by Wednesday as that is the end of the 21 day window the team opened when they designated him for return.
This whole situation has been strange. It seems as if the Titans either jumped the gun on designating him to return or he suffered a setback when he missed practice last Friday. Either way, it seems very likely that Jackson is activated on Wednesday. Whether or not he plays against the Colts in a critical Thursday Night Football matchup will remain to be seen.
With Johnathan Joseph getting released earlier this week, Jackson’s starting RCB spot could be filled by Chris Jackson or Breon Borders. I tend to think Borders is the most likely answer. He rotated in with Joseph during Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. Chris Jackson has almost exclusively played in the slot for the Titans so far this season.
Titans promote four players from practice squad to active roster
Wide receiver Cameron Batson, cornerback Breon Borders, defensive lineman Teair Tart, and running back D’Onta Foreman all received promotions to the 53-man roster today. Batson is a relatively known quantity among Titans fans, but the others are getting their first trip to the active roster in Tennessee.
Foreman performed very well in backup duty against the Bengals after getting called up from the practice squad, rushing for 37 yards on just 5 carries. The former Texans draft pick showed that he was certainly worthy of a longer look behind Derrick Henry as Darrynton Evans remains out with a hamstring injury.
Borders, another call up from the practice squad, got limited snaps against Cincinnati, but could be in line for a long look against the Bears. He’s got one career start (last season in Jacksonville) and has spent most of the last three seasons bouncing between various practice squads around the league.
I’m not sure what to expect from Borders if he plays significant snaps, but it can’t be much worse than what we’ve seen from that spot so far. Borders’ spot was created by Tye Smith moving to IR, joining Adoree’ Jackson and Kristian Fulton in the Titans cornerback triage unit.
Tart is an undrafted rookie out of Florida International. Standing at 6’-2” and 304 pounds, he appears to be taking the spot of Isaiah Mack, who the Titans waived earlier this week (Mack was later claimed by the Patriots).
Long snapper shuffle
Okay, this one is complicated. The Titans released longtime long snapper Beau Brinkley after his errant snaps had become a major issue the last couple weeks.
Then they signed snapper Matt Orzech off the Dolphins practice squad. However, because Orzech cannot get through COVID protocol prior to Sunday, practice squad snapper Matt Overton will be temporarily elevated to handle those duties on Sunday.
Afterwards, I would expect Overton to remain on the practice squad while Orzech takes over as the primary long snapper moving forward. The 35 year old Overton was with the Colts for five seasons, making the Pro Bowl in 2013 and then spent most of the last two seasons with Jacksonville.
Orzech took Overton’s job with the Jaguars last year and appears poised to do it again in Tennessee.
More special teams news
The Titans special teams maneuvering didn’t stop there though. They also added former Tennessee punter Trevor Daniel to the practice squad and moved practice squad kicker Tucker McCann to IR. We don’t know what McCann’s injury is and likely will not find out.
Jadeveon Clowney has a meniscus injury and may require surgery
If all the roster shuffling wasn’t enough, we also got word this morning that Titans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney is dealing with a meniscus injury and surgery is on the table, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
There are three ways this could play out.
- Clowney plays through the injury. That likely means that he won’t be 100% all season and that the Titans will have to work to manage his workload between games.
- Clowney gets his meniscus trimmed, costing him a few weeks, but potentially offering hope for something closer to a 100% player for the stretch run.
- Clowney has surgery to repair the meniscus, ending his 2020 season.
The Titans and Clowney appear to be willing to try Option #1 as the edge rusher hasn’t been ruled out for tomorrow’s game yet. If a trim was going to happen, you would have thought it would have occurred sooner than later.
However, this could be a situation where Clowney tries to push through, and eventually opts for an operation if the knee becomes further destabilized or proves to be too painful to allow him to compete at a high level.
It will be interesting to see if he’s active tomorrow, and if so, how effective he is.
Wyatt Ray will be called up from the practice squad against the Bears
I had expected Tuzar Skipper to get the nod here after he was among the four practice squad players protected by the team this week, but instead it’s Ray who will get his first career NFL action.
With Vic Beasley being released Wednesday and Clowney’s status in question, there is a chance that Ray sees a lot of snaps opposite his college teammate, Harold Landry, on Sunday. He impressed during training camp, nearly earning a spot on the 53-man roster before eventually landing on the practice squad.
Derick Roberson is also expected to get his first significant action of the 2020 season.
Okay, so that’s a lot going on. Here’s the TL;DR version of the Titans week:
- CB Johnathan Joseph, LS Beau Brinkley, OLB Vic Beasley, OL Daniel Munyer, and DL Isaiah Mack were released. Joseph was signed by the Cardinals and Mack was claimed by New England. Beasley, Munyer, and Brinkley are still without jobs.
- P Brett Kern, CB Tye Smith, and K Tucker McCann were moved to IR.
- CB Adoree’ Jackson, RB Darrynton Evans, RB Senorise Perry, and CB Kristian Fulton remain on IR, though all are expected to be available to return at some point.
- The Titans traded a 6th for CB Desmond King, who will play tomorrow right after he meets his teammates in person for the first time.
- The Titans signed P Ryan Allen and LS Matt Orzech. Allen will make his debut this weekend, but Orzech will not.
- CB Breon Borders, DL Teair Tart, RB D’Onta Foreman, and WR Cameron Batson were added to the 53-man roster while OLB Wyatt Ray and LS Matt Overton will be the two temporary practice squad promotions against the Bears Sunday.
- OLB Jadeveon Clowney might need surgery, but also might play tomorrow.
The most interesting spots to watch tomorrow will be outside linebacker and cornerback. As mentioned above, I’d expect to see Borders get the start at corner opposite Malcolm Butler with Desmond King in the slot, but we could see some Chris Jackson rotating in at either spot.
At outside linebacker, it wouldn’t shock me to see Ray get the start if Clowney sits out. At 6’-3” and 255 pounds, he’s a bit bigger and more physical than the speedy Roberson. I could see a rotation that sees Roberson taking the Vic Beasley role, coming in on more obvious passing downs while Ray handles the heavy lifting on early downs.
One other spot to watch is wide receiver. With Adam Humphries out with a concussion, expect to see a ton of Corey Davis and A.J. Brown as usual, but who takes the slot reps will be interesting. Kalif Raymond and Cameron Batson are both candidates for those snaps.