The unexpected release of quarterback David Garrard by the Jacksonville Jaguars had the Tennessee Titans doing a bit of scrambling to prepare for Sunday's opener.
But it didn't affect the No. 1 priority the team has coming into Sunday's season opener – stopping Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars running game.
“Whether Garrard played or not, they were still going to run the ball. We've got to stop the run. That's a given,” defensive tackle Shaun Smith said.
That is the message espoused by defensive coordinator Jerry Gray this week.
“Their offense is going to go through Maurice Jones-Drew. They're going to run the football,” Gray said. “The last five or six years they've done it really well. To me, I think that's pretty much what they're going to do to try to take the pressure off the quarterback.”
Safety Chris Hope said the loss of Garrard will at least mean the Titans won't have to worry as much about the quarterback's mobility with Josh McCown under center.
“It changes our preparation a little it. It takes the running quarterback out of the situation, but we're still going to have to stop the run,” Hope said. “If we can't stop the run, they can put anybody back there at quarterback. If they come in and try to manhandle us like they did the last game last year when they played us, it doesn't matter who plays quarterback.”
Last year, Jones-Drew gashed the Titans in Nashville for 186 yards. The Titans are guarding against that happening again. Coach Mike Munchak said the Titans must stop that first and foremost.
“We know their philosophy and we know what they like to do, especially run the ball with play-action and knowing that when you make a change at quarterback it’s going to be a little bit different than it has been in the past. Maybe they will throw it a tad more, but I don’t think it changes our preparation at all,” he said.
Still, Titans players were surprised to see Garrrard cut loose so close to the opener.
“You get to see the business side of it. If they knew they were going to cut him, they should have cut him a long time ago,” Smith said. “If it was a money issue, it was a money issue. In this league, anything is possible.”
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