Tennessee Titans coaches seemingly have one less choice to make when it comes to the trimming the roster, a process that begins this weekend.
What was shaping up as an entertaining battle for the role of return man ended Thursday when Marc Mariani sustained a significant fracture to his left leg early in the Titans’ 32-27 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field. Coach Mike Munchak said Mariani fractured both his fibula and tibia and would miss the entire season.
“Very, very disappointed,” Munchak said. “We feel terrible for him. Just going out on the field and seeing the pain he was in … those things can happen but it’s just hard to see a guy like that who’s worked so hard to develop his skills this past offseason.”
Through the first two games, free agent Darius Reynaud pushed Mariani, a Pro Bowl return man as a rookie in 2010, for consideration in that role. Reynaud returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown at Seattle and had Tennessee’s longest kickoff return (42 yards) of the preseason to date.
Mariani returned the Cardinals’ first punt 14 yards and was injured on the tackle. Video replays showed the lower part of his lower leg completely out of alignment. He was taken from the field on a cart with an air cast on the limb.
Reynaud replaced him and returned two kickoffs for 31 yards and two punts for six yards. He mishandled one punt but recovered it.
“Obviously, he’s guy now who is the most obvious guy to help us in that situation,” Munchak said. “We’ll have to see this week how we want to handle that.”
The Titans must reduce their roster to 75 players by Monday afternoon.
• Catching on: Linebacker Colin McCarthy intercepted two passes, the second of which he returned 31 yards for a touchdown on the first snap of the second half.
At the start of the day, only three players around the league had two interceptions in the preseason. McCarthy’s pair gave him three — he also had one in the opener at Seattle.
“We were just playing good defense,” McCarthy said. “I think our D-line was getting a lot of pressure up front, causing them to make bad decisions with the football. It’s a whole defense. We were out there running around, making plays.”
His two picks (he also was credited with a team-high seven tackles) were part of five takeaways for the Titans, who were even in turnover ratio through the first two preseason games.
• New deal: The Titans announced prior to kickoff that cornerback Jason McCourty agreed to a contract extension through the 2017 season.
A sixth-round pick in 2009, he has emerged as a leader on the defense. He enters this season having played 42 games with 24 starts and four interceptions.
He finished second on the team last season with 107 tackles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
He was credited with two tackles in this game.
• Still streaking: This victory was the Titans’ 10th straight in preseason home games.
Their last defeat was 14-6 against Washington in the 2007 opener. The streak then started that same year with a 30-14 victory over Green Bay and included three one-point victories, including a pair of 14-13 triumphs last season.
• Injury update: In addition to Mariani, cornerback Ryan Mouton (concussion) and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (knee) failed to finish the contest.
Munchak said several players would be reevaluated Friday but he did not expect any hd significant injuries.
• Briefly: The Titans have scored 79 points in their three preseason games. They scored 76 in the entire 2011 preseason (four games). … Tennessee ran just 18 offensive plays and held the ball for 8:58 of the second half yet scored nine points. … The Titans did not allow a second-quarter point in their first two preseason games and nearly made it three straight. Arizona scored its first touchdown with four seconds to go before halftime.