Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
A star running back, a veteran wideout, and a talented return man headline this week's opponents to watch.
Are you out of the loop on the Tennessee Titans? Do you have no clue who's on their roster besides Jake Locker and Chris Johnson? If so, you're probably not alone among Packers fans. This week we'll preview five key Titans to keep an eye on as the Green Bay Packers get ready to play the Titans of the AFC South for the first time since 2008.
RB Chris Johnson
You know Johnson because he is the only true star on the Titans roster these days; therefore, he has to be a key player this week. He's a few years removed from his 2,000-yard rushing season in 2009. His 2011 season was a major disappointment, as he barely eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground, while averaging only 4.0 yards per carry. He's boosted that up to 4.8 this season, and is performing better despite having limited weapons around him. However, as he showed last week with a 94-yard touchdown against the Jets, he still has great speed and is a threat to go the distance on any play.
WR Nate Washington
Now in his fourth season with the Titans after playing his early years in Pittsburgh, Washington has developed into a steady contributor at the wide receiver position, and one that most teams would love to have as a third option in the passing game. The problem is that he has been called on to be more than that for the Titans the past few years with Kenny Britt's health and off-the-field issues preventing him from fully breaking out as a number one receiver. Rookie Kendall Wright has been targeted the most of any Titan this year, but he hasn't practiced this week and it looks unlikely that he'll play. Washington will likely see a lot of man coverage this week, with the Packers' defense likely focusing on stopping the run, and he won't make the kind of rookie mistakes that Alshon Jeffery did last week.
LB Akeem Ayers
Before the 2011 draft, Ayers was looked at as a possible Packers draft pick at the end of the first round if Ted Thompson was interested in shoring up the pass rush. Instead he was drafted seven picks later by the Titans at 39th overall, and has been a starter at the strong-side linebacker spot since he arrived in Tennessee. He hasn't shown much in the way of pass rush, recording only two sacks in his rookie year, but he's showing signs of improvement with five this season. He's also been very active in pass coverage, with eight pass breakups and an interception in 2012.
Jason is the less-heralded of the McCourty twins (his brother is Devin on the New England Patriots), but he is a solid corner in his own right. Devin started from the beginning in New England and his interception binge as a rookie made him stand out, while Jason has quietly gone about his business, working his way up from a 6th-round draft pick to a two-year starter in Tennessee. He has responded well, and is a strong tackler - he's fourth on the Titans in total tackles this year and second in solo stops. He has also recorded a career-high four interceptions this season.
KR/PR Darius Reynaud
This special teamer has bounced around for a few years, first playing in Minnesota in 2008 and 09 before going to the Giants for the next two seasons. He wasn't given much of a chance at consistent playing time with either former team, but the Titans have made Reynaud their primary return man and he has responded with some very good numbers. He currently ranks second in the NFL in kick return yardage with 1106 yards, and he took a kick 105 yards for a score against Detroit earlier this season. Reynaud has broken some big returns, but isn't overly consistent - he only ranks 19th in average kick return yardage and 20th in average punt return yardage, so he can be contained. The Packers' coverage teams will just need to remain disciplined in their lanes this week.