The Houston Texans can’t quite match the Tennessee Titans in terms of injury to their top wide receiver.
The Texans will have Andre Johnson back in their lineup eventually, unlike the Titans, who lost Kenny Britt for the season to a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery.
Factor in the absence of a Pro Bowl defensive end and an ailing quarterback, though, and Houston clearly has the worst of health issues as the teams prepare for a critical AFC South matchup. That does not mean Tennessee will get the best of things when they meet Sunday (noon, LP Field).
“I think we had the conversation about Pittsburgh a couple weekends back and that didn’t go so well,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think NFL players look at that. They realize whoever is on that roster can come in and beat you every Sunday. … We know we’re going to have to play our best to win the game.”
In their most recent outing, the Titans gave up five touchdown passes to a limping Ben Roethlisberger, whose status was undetermined until shortly before kickoff, and lost 38-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That fresh memory has players and coaches on full alert despite Houston’s significant health concerns. Ten players were listed on the Texans’ injury report Wednesday, although only two of them sat out the entire day’s workout.
A look at some of Houston’s more notable health issues:
• Mario Williams, defensive end. The first pick in the 2006 draft was placed on injured reserve last week because of a chest injury, which required surgery. He had a team-high five sacks in five games, which raised his career total to 53. He also had six hits on the quarterback and forced a fumble — all while learning the Texans’ new 3-4 scheme.
In Williams’ absence, defensive end Tim Jamison recorded the first multi-sack of his career last Sunday in a 29-14 loss to Baltimore. On the second, he also recorded the first forced fumble and fumble recovery of his career.
“They’re getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” Munchak said. “Last week [without Williams] they had three or four sacks and they hit [Baltimore’s] Joe Flacco 10-12 times in the first half. I think … you’re concerned more about the hits. You don’t want [your quarterback] to take those kinds of hits.”
• Andre Johnson, wide receiver. He has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and is not going to play this week either. Johnson still has a team-high 25 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns. He also is the only player in NFL history with at least 60 receptions in each of his first eight seasons.
Houston traded for former Titan Derrick Mason last week. Mason caught a pass on the Texans’ opening drive against the Ravens and finished with three catches for 27 yards. Jacoby Jones had a season-high 76 receiving yards and his first touchdown of the season against the Ravens, and Kevin Walter has caught 11 passes in the last two weeks.
“[Johnson] is a dynamic elite receiver, but don’t get away from anything they’re doing,” Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “They’re still explosive. [Quarterback] Matt Schaub is excellent, [Tight end] Owen Daniels is getting it done, [Jones] and Walter … they have an explosive offense with or without him.”
• Matt Schaub, quarterback. He has not missed any games but his practice time will be limited this week because of chest and hip injuries.
Schaub is one of seven quarterbacks in the league with 10 touchdown passes. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 14 straight games, a franchise record.
“Every team has to go through it and deal with [injuries] and you just have to have that next guy step up and fill in that void,” Schaub said. “It’s more than just that one guy. It’s the whole collective group that has to pick up the slack and find a way to pick up the production from that area and take control of things.”