Jeff Fisher was not willing to name names.
The Tennessee Titans’ coach said Friday that he and his staff have had discussions regarding whether or not to expand the roles of some younger players for the final three games of the season. Citing the need to speak first with veterans who likely will lose playing time, he deferred divulging exactly who might play more beginning this Sunday against Houston.
He did let slip – indirectly, at least – that such moves likely would be concentrated on offense when he said, “I’ve spoke with (offensive coordinator) Mike (Heimerdinger) and there is a chance we may play some younger players.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at some players who probably ought to have the chance to do a little more with what’s left of the season:
• Running back Javon Ringer: This has less to do with Ringer than it does running back Chris Johnson, who is on pace for more than 360 touches this season. Recall that Johnson had more than 400 combined rushes and receptions in 2009 and to approach that number again the following season is impressive, but it’s also bound to take a toll.
Johnson will be the Titans’ best offensive option again next season. It makes sense to see to it that he’s at his best and not beat down from two seasons of excessive use.
Ringer’s yards per carry this season actually is better than Johnson’s (4.7 and 4.4, respectively). It’s clear he can do the job, so let him at least split time equally with Johnson.
• Wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins: He was one of the team’s most talked about players during the offseason and training camp, yet roster limitations have led him to be inactive in eight of the 13 games.
Hawkins is in his third season with the Titans and by all accounts he’s gotten better every year. It’s time to find out whether or not he’s someone who should stick around for the long haul.
It’s interesting to note that in his five appearances he has caught five passes for 61 yards with a long gain of 24 yards. That’s almost identical to the production Randy Moss has mustered (five catches, 62 yards, long of 26) in his five appearances with Tennessee.
• Tight end Jared Cook: The Titans ought to know as well as anyone how much of an impact a speedy, athletic tight end can have. After all, opposing tight ends routinely have up big numbers against them throughout the second half of the season.
Bo Scaife is a favorite of the coaches and currently is tied for second on the team with 36 receptions. However, his average of 8.8 yards per catch pales in comparison to Cook’s 11.8 on 14 catches.
Not only that, but Scaife is in a contract year so it’s best the team understands just what options it has at that spot for the future.
• Wide receiver Damian Williams: He has been active for every game this season and even has started one of them. His presence has a lot to do with Hawkins’ struggles to get on the field.
If he’s that good, turn him loose as a starter and see what he can do on a down-by-down basis. He showed in earlier games that he and quarterback Kerry Collins have a good rapport, and now that Collins is clearly the starter the rest of the way they ought to work together as much as possible.
The Titans have had too many drops from their veterans in recent weeks. So until Williams lets one go through his hands keep him out there.
• Offensive lineman Mike Otto: If nothing else this ought to be a reward for loyalty. The guy spent one year on the practice squad and the last two, plus this one on the active roster. He has been active for just 23 of 45 games and his only start came as a tight end in a run situation on the first play of the game.
Pick a tackle or a guard who can use a rest and plus in Otto as a way to say thanks for all the hard work.