Young's return might limit production of Titans' rookie receiver

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 4:09pm

Kerry Collins’ value to the Tennessee Titans has been obvious the past two weeks. He came off the bench at Jacksonville on a Monday night and led the team to victory and then started last Sunday and directed a come-from-behind triumph over Philadelphia.

Arguably no single player has benefited more from his presence in the huddle, however, than Damian Williams.

The 16th-year quarterback and the rookie wide receiver have forged an on-field relationship that has been evident.

Only Kenny Britt, with nine, has more receptions in the last two games (nine) than Williams, who has had seven. The difference is that Britt was a preferred target of Vince Young as well, whereas Williams has caught nearly all of his passes from Collins.

“We kind of just have that rapport,” Williams said. “We work together all day every day. We do scout team together, and then we take our reps with the offense together so we definitely get a chance to throw to each other and get to see how each other works.”

Young played the opening series and most of the second at Jacksonville before he sustained the knee and ankle injuries that kept him out the remainder of that contest and the entire game against Philadelphia. Before he was injured, he threw five passes against the Jaguars – two of his three completions were to Britt.

In relief duty, Collins connected on 11 attempts – four of them to Williams, which was more than he found anyone else. Britt did not catch another pass the entire game.

Williams, who did not have a reception the first four weeks, suddenly is tied for fifth on the team in receptions.

“He has just come in and shown a real good feel for what we’re trying to do and a real good feel for getting open and being in the right spots,” Collins said. “It’s just a testament to him and his football smarts. His ability to pick up things here has been tremendous.

“He’s earned the right to be out there. He’s a good player.”

The third-round draft choice out of USC moved up the depth chart three weeks ago when veteran receiver Justin Gage was sidelined by a hamstring injury. He caught two passes from Young against Dallas and then really saw his role expand when Collins was thrust into action at quarterback.

Conversely, Nate Washington averaged 3.5 catches through the first four games but has caught just one in each of the last three weeks.

Young and Gage both practiced Wednesday, although the session was cut short and the second half was limited to a walk-through. Coach Jeff Fisher did not elaborate on the health of either other than to say both have a chance to play Sunday at San Diego.

Young classified his status as “day-by-day” but said he has yet to test his leg at full speed.

“I’m going to continue to get better and better and do more things,” Young said. “… I’m not trying to put a lot on myself right now.”

If Gage is healthy and can play, it seems obvious that Williams’ role will be reduced. Yet if Gage doesn’t play but Young does, it could be Williams’ productivity that drops.

“It’s really exciting,” Williams said. “That’s what you play for. You play to get opportunity and then you try to make the most of those opportunities. … It’s not early in the season but it’s early enough – the first half of the season – so it’s been a great progression.”