NASHVILLE – Tennessee Titans wide receivers coach Rob Moore said he probably asked too much, too quickly from Julio Jones and A.J. Brown when the season began.
That admission Tuesday might provide another clue into why Jones sat out the entire fourth quarter of last Sunday’s win over Indianapolis, which was a one-possession game for much of that stretch.
Jones and Brown were considered healthy leading up to the opener against Arizona. Jones was not listed on the team’s injury report at all that week while Brown – after sitting out Wednesday’s practice – was a full practice participant on Thursday and Friday.
Still, both receivers had missed significant chunks of training camp – Brown battling a knee injury and Jones sitting out three weeks for an undisclosed injury.
Brown wound up playing 52 snaps against the Cardinals, posting four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Jones played 50 snaps, making three catches for 29 yards.
In retrospect, Moore, who is in charge of the wide receiver rotation, said he wishes he’d given each player fewer snaps.
“The first game, I probably played (Jones) too much, being that he hadn’t had any training camp and any of those other things,” Moore said. “I probably played him and A.J. both a little too much, wanting to get them progressively more snaps as we got through the season. So, I got a little overzealous and obviously the score of the game was a factor in that. So, I had to dial it back a little bit, thinking about the long haul for both of those guys.”
The dialing back process definitely did not occur in Week 2 at Seattle. Jones got 78 snaps, catching six passes for 128 yards. Brown got 74 snaps, catching three passes for 43 yards.
But it sounded as if rotation was more of a consideration against the Colts when Jones – who’d played 34 snaps by late in the third quarter – left the game for good. Coach Mike Vrabel said Monday that “guys get tight” as the game goes along, and that he made the decision Jones would only play in “an emergency situation” at the point when he left the contest.
“We don’t talk about injuries, but I think going into that game, Vrabel had talked to me about making sure I played all the (receivers) because it was going to be hot and the weather was going to be a factor,” Moore said. “Honestly, that’s just kind of the way it played out from that standpoint. So, I was a little bit surprised at some of the comments in regards to that. But that’s what it really came down to.”
Does that mean Titans fans should expect more of the same in the near future, with Jones – the seven-time Pro Bowler acquired via trade during the offseason – getting a limited amount of snaps?
“I honestly can’t say that,” Moore said. “It’s just a matter of (Jones) … from week to week, we’ve got to see where he is and we’ll take whatever we can get. But the expectation from Julio is to really be out there every week. That’s what I expect every week unless told otherwise.”
Brown left Sunday’s game early with a hamstring strain, and it’s unclear when he will return. When he does, he’ll likely have to build himself back up to a full workload as well.
“At the end of the day, I’m not really in charge of that,” Moore said when asked about Brown’s status. “The training staff, coach Vrabel, they do a pretty good job of trying to manage these guys’ loads and putting themselves in the best positions to perform for the long haul. I try to be a part of that conversation and do my part in terms of how I manage those guys, in terms of all the things I control as a coach.”
Here are some other comments Moore shared about Titans wide receivers:
• Chester Rogers. “Chet gives us that slot that plays with really good quickness. I think he does a great job of really understanding those soft spots and the voids to get into versus the zone coverage, and he has route-craft to beat man-to-man coverage. So we’re very pleased with where he’s at right now.
“Obviously we’ll still got some things we’ve got to continue to work on, like catching the ball away from our body and not letting it get into our pads. But I think he’s been a good addition for us.”
• Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. “I think Nick’s one of those guys that every week, he shows you one more thing he can do. He progressively gets better. He is a guy who has got some tremendous versatility for us. We can plug and play him anywhere and feel confident that he’ll do an excellent job.
“Anytime you have players like that, it just makes your job easier as a coach, so that when you do have injuries, you have some players you can depend on and guys you can trust to go in and do the right thing.”
• Josh Reynolds. “I think anytime you’re talking about those guys who are on the cusp of `Are they active or are they not active,’ a lot of times it really does come down to special teams and what their role will be from that aspect.
“I think he’s done some really good things in the wide receiver room in terms of showing the skillset that you can work with. But it’s not just going out there and playing wide receiver. It’s special teams and everything else that’s involved. So there’s a lot of factors that go into that week to week.”
• Marcus Johnson (eligible to come off IR this week). “I think that’s one of those deals where we’ll kind of see where he’s at this week and I think we’ll take it from there.
“It is a process. You can’t go from being off for three weeks or four weeks and not playing, to all of a sudden playing 60 or 70 snaps. So, he’ll be heavily monitored, and we’ll make that assessment daily leading up to the game to see if he can help us or not.”