NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Mike Mularkey took some time Monday after team meetings at St. Thomas Sports Park to speak to the media. Here are the four topics of discussion that you need to know as the Tennessee Titans (8-4) begins preparations for their next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals (5-7).
- The Hopkins (Pro)File
- Reserve cornerback LeShaun Sims made the play of the game Sunday, intercepting quarterback Tom Savage’s end zone pass to Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Sims was asked to cover Hopkins often with the Houston Texans driving late in the fourth quarter and came up big with the pick to preserve his team’s lead.
- Mularkey complimented Sims again on Monday for his play when thrust into service for starter Logan Ryan. Ryan was evaluated and diagnosed for a concussion and would not return.
- “He played well. He played very well,” Mularkey said of Sims. “We did some things, defensively, that helped him. I’m sure you saw, we had Jayon (Brown) out there jamming (Hopkins), which he should have done the same thing on the interception. He was supposed to be out there jamming him again. We gave LeShaun some help just like we did with Logan before the injury. I thought we had a good game plan to try and take him away, which is not very easy to do.”
- Hopkins finished the contest with eight catches for 80 yards but was held without a catch on the Texans final two drives. He is second in the League in receiving yards (1,084) and tied for first in touchdown receptions (9).
- Running Game Gains
- The Titans running game looked revived against Houston with a 198-yard performance on 25 attempts from running backs DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and quarterback Marcus Mariota. Henry broke loose for a gain of 75 and a touchdown in the final minutes of the game to cement his team’s win. Mariota also ran for a score from nine yards out.
- “I thought we played better up front. That starts with those guys for sure,” Mularkey said. “Our double teams were better, our combination blocks were better our sustains were better, we had better blocks from the outside. We did things better.”
- Tennessee has the seventh-best rushing yards total (1,465) and rushing yards-per-game average in the NFL this season. The Titans are second in rushing touchdowns (16) behind the New Orleans Saints (19)
- Knock On Wood
- Tennessee has been able to sustain the health of almost all of their key contributors this season. Coming into Sunday, the Titans were tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Rams for the team with the fewest players on Injured Reserve (4).
Defensive lineman DaQuan Jones was lost in the third quarter of the Texans game after sustaining a bicep injury. He was escorted to the locker room and returned to the sideline in shorts and a t-shirt with his arm in a sling. Mularkey reported today that Jones will have surgery to repair torn biceps and will be placed on Injured Reserve, out for the season.
- Through 13 weeks this season, Jones had 3.5 sacks and one stuff for a loss of four yards. Austin Johnson and David King are expected to contribute more in Jones’s absence.
- New Additions
- The Titans filled Jones’s roster spot by signing tight end Luke Stocker to a two-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Stocker was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after seven seasons.
- Mularkey has said previously that a fair amount of this season’s struggles in the running game have been on both the offensive line and tight ends, while also being sure to praise the various fronts they have faced. Stocker is known to be an above-average run-blocker at the tight end position.
- “He can do that,” Mularkey replied when asked about Stocker as a run-blocker. “Versatility is what we like. He can block the point, he can move, he can line up in the backfield as a fullback. He does have some special teams value as well. There’s a lot of things he can do for you.”
- Stocker is listed at 6’5″ and 253 lbs with 52 catches, 400 yards and three touchdowns for his career.
- It is worth noting that fullback Jalston Fowler was a healthy scratch for a second-straight week; rookie tight end Jonnu Smith was listed as the starter at that position against the Texans. Mularkey said that Fowler “still has a role. It’s the fullback role; he can’t line up and block the point. Again, we have some options. That’s the good thing about it. We have a lot of guys, right now at that position, which is a tough position to find, that can play multiple roles. Jalston is still part of it. We’ll decide on him when we put the game plan together.”
INJURY REPORT: Wide receiver Rishard Matthews (hamstring) missed a second consecutive game Sunday when he was declared inactive before kickoff.
Mularkey, when asked about Matthews’s status post-game, said that the team felt it best to “hold him back and not do anything, not even work him out prior (to the game) was better for him to get him back for next week’s game.” When asked again Monday, Mularkey seemed to be cautiously optimistic about the receiver’s return.
“We’ll work him out (Tuesday),” Mularkey said of Matthews. “He’ll probably be day-to-day, but we’re anticipating him being back (for the Cardinals game), hopefully.”
Also on the injury report Monday were tight end Delanie Walker (ankle), corner Logan Ryan (concussion), linebacker Derrick Morgan (knee sprain) and nose tackle Sylvester Williams (ankle sprain). All are considered to be day-to-day.
“We had a few bumps and bruises (against the Texans),” Mularkey said. “It was a physical game; more (injuries) than the norm.”