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Old 08-28-2009, 01:11 AM   #1
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Default Nate out for opener with a hammy

Four weeks later, the Titans have some answers, but not all of them. A training camp that ended with the annual dizzy bat race Wednesday left many heads spinning, trying to put things in focus.

Here are five unanswered questions with two weeks left before the regular-season opener at Pittsburgh:

1. Are the Titans good enough at receiver?

They looked good enough until Monday, when veteran Nate Washington went down with a hamstring injury.

Washington was having a great training camp, and while his injury isn't the season-ending variety, it's probably unrealistic to think he'll play against the Steelers. I won't be surprised if he misses several games to start the season.

The Titans have a proven commodity in Justin Gage, but there is no other experience at the position.

Sure, receiver Kenny Britt has looked good, but he's a rookie. So is Dominique Edison, who has proved to be roster-worthy but not exactly game-ready.

Second-year pro Lavelle Hawkins is next in line, but he's inconsistent. And I have Paul Williams on the practice squad, not the 53-man roster, to start the year.

So if I'm offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, I'm a little nervous. Make that a lot nervous.

2. Who's going to be the team's return man?

This was one of the team's strengths last year with Chris Carr. Now it's a big question mark.

The Titans signed veteran Mark Jones to do the job, but he hasn't even dressed out for a preseason game because of a hamstring injury. He returned to practice last week and is scheduled to play against the Browns on Saturday.

Considering the performances of the other candidates, if Jones makes a nice return and is careful with the football, he's probably the guy.

No one else has proved to be a contender, at least returning punts.

Chris Davis got first crack, but a hamstring injury slowed him down and a DUI arrest did him in he was released Monday. An ankle injury knocked rookie Ryan Mouton out of the equation, at least for now.

Javon Ringer had a nice 51-yard return against the Cowboys, and remains a possibility, but I can't see Coach Jeff Fisher turning the job over to a rookie at Heinz Field in his first real NFL game.

So it looks like it is Jones' job to win, but he would face a tough task in trying to match Carr's production.

3. Has quarterback Vince Young really improved?

One day the answer is a yes. The next day it's a resounding no.

Every player deals with ups and downs in training camp, and Young has been on the roller coaster from game to game, from practice to practice.

He was rusty against the Bills, looked great against the Buccaneers, then appeared out of sync again last week against the Cowboys. His practices have been pretty much the same way.

Young made strides in how he handles the media, and he's more visible in the locker room around his teammates.

The fact of the matter, however, is no one knows exactly what to expect out of Young on the field.

If starter Kerry Collins stays healthy and the Titans are winning, it won't matter much.

4. Is the secondary depth good enough?

I say no. And anyone who followed the Titans last season knows how valuable secondary depth can be.

Cornerbacks Eric King and Carr stepped in and played well last season, but if something happens to starters Cortland Finnegan or Nick Harper this fall, it probably won't be so pretty.

The good news for the Titans: rookie corners Mouton and Jason McCourty look like solid picks. Before suffering an ankle injury, Mouton was really looking the part. McCourty has shown promise and should help on special teams.

The depth overall is suspect, however.

Cary Williams received some time with the first team, but he's struggled. Veteran DeMarcus Faggins has been inconsistent. Tanard Davis flashed but lately has leveled off.

The Titans need to upgrade now or run the risk of being exposed later.

5. How good is the defensive line without Albert Haynesworth?

It's the question that won't go away. So far there have been few clues to the answer.

An injury to defensive tackle Jason Jones has kept coaches from knowing what they have at full strength. He hasn't practiced since the preseason opener.

While newcomer Jovan Haye has fit in well, and veteran Tony Brown has been solid, rookie Sen'Derrick Marks is still learning. Big Kevin Vickerson has had his moments, but needs to be more consistent.

There's no doubt the Titans will miss Haynesworth, it's just a matter of how much.

This much, however, is certain: if the interior guys struggle, it's also going to make life that much tougher on aging defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse.
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