The Tennessee offense may run through Chris Johnson, but the Titans don't mind at all the detours to Kenny Britt.
Britt isn't quite in the Randy Ratio that was used on his one-time teammate Randy Moss when Moss was guaranteed a certain number of touches in Minnesota, but it is clear that the Titans want and need him included in the offense much more than probably any receiver they have had since the team arrived in Tennessee.
“We threw to him nine or 10 times and he caught five balls. When you have a guy who can make plays, you find ways to get him the ball,” Coach Mike Munchak said of Britt.
Last week, the Titans threw to Britt 10 times in the loss to Jacksonville, and he caught five of the passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. It added to an even more remarkable stat about Britt. Sunday's loss to the Jaguars was Britt's 29th game as a Titan, and in those 29 games he now has 14 receiving touchdowns. It was also Britt's fifth 100-yard receiving game in that span, a feat made even more remarkable considering Hasselbeck is the third quarterback with which Britt has worked with in two-plus seasons.
“Eventually once he builds timing and chemistry with a quarterback. I think really what it speaks to is that he's probably just scratching the surface of what he's able to do potentially,” receivers coach Dave Ragone said.
Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is keenly aware of involving Britt as well, but knows that if he continues to produce, defenses will begin to game plan for him the way they now prepare to stop Johnson on a weekly basis.
“With a receiver it's more difficult, because they can take and double him, they can roll coverage to him. That becomes a more difficult task, and when you try to force touches to a receiver, that's where you have problems. We're hoping Kenny gets his touches, but we will never force that,” Palmer said.
Asked about being a go-to guy in the offense, and Britt just smiled, as he often does on the practice field and in the locker room.
“You see that smile on my face?” he asked. “There's a smile on my face about that, that he has a lot of confidence in me. I hope the rest of the team does, and I hope I do better than I did last week.”
Hasselbeck knows what he has in Britt, whom he said is one of the gifted receivers he has ever played with, but also challenged Britt to mature into a leader.
“He's a playmaker. We've got a few playmakers and he's one of them. He brings a lot of energy to our offense,” Hasselbeck said. “If we can get him to step up as a leader a little bit more, I think that's probably the next step. He's a great player, he's a wonderful talent, but I think we would love to see him step up as a leader of that group and really as a leader on our team and just take the next step.”
That next step involves more consistency, says Hasselbeck.
“I think just consistency and just being one of those guys you can count on and not a guy you have to worry about, but one you know you can count on,” Hasselbeck said. “I think there was a lot of evidence to that the last play of the game last week. You've just got to give him a chance sometimes and he does something awesome, but at the same time, there's a fine line and a balance to that.
"He's easily one of the most talented wide receivers I've played with and that's exciting. At the same time, you've got to stay confined and play within yourself and play within the system and be smart.”
One of the things that has been said of Britt since the lockout is that he is studying and working harder in the film room. That might seem like a bit of a surprise given Britt's happy go-lucky nature and the many off-field missteps he has had.
“Mentally, Kenny is on top of it, which helped I think with the transition of him not being out there physically,” Ragone said. “He's done a good job of that and physically out there, it's something to where every day something is going to develop between him and Matt. It's also getting Kenny conditioned to play four quarters as well, and that's a focus of ours.”
“It definitely takes more than talent. It takes more then just physical ability in this game. It's much more mental than I thought it was in my first two years,” Britt said. “There are things you learn like getting off the jam or going out there and helping the other receiver out to get open and just going out there to run the route.
“I definitely had to (improve my studying) because the rest of these 52 guys in the locker room are depending on me to be on same page at all times on Sunday. I really have to go back to the last two years and watching Nate Washington, Justin Gage and Randy Moss and seeing how they studied, and knowing that the classroom stuff really pays off when you're on the field.”
Both Palmer and Ragone compared Britt's skill set to Houston Texans star Andre Johnson, but for Britt to reach that level, it will take an added round of dedication and consistency.
“I made the observation when I took the job and watched on film that physically he was the closest thing I've seen to a former teammate of mine, Andre Johnson,” Ragone said. “Obviously, Andre is an accomplished Pro Bowl guy, year in and year out. I think Kenny holds a lot of the same attributes that Andre has. Now the question is can he improve on the consistency like Andre has so far.”