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VOL. 39 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 4, 2015

Even without wins, Mularkey offers refreshing attitude

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Mularkey

-- Ap Photo/Weston Kenney

Credit Mike Mularkey with one thing, if nothing else. He has approached his interim stint as the Tennessee Titans head coach with a high degree of honesty and a bit of a straightforward approach to the job.

His comment about wanting to win games for this team didn’t ring hollow as so much coach speak. It seemed entirely genuine for a guy who desperately would like to show Titans ownership enough to consider him as the man to lead this organization out of the lethargy that has plagued the franchise for several years now.

“This has been my third time at this job, and I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted to win more for a team than this one,” Mularkey says. “For the way they fight every game, the way they prepare every week. I want them to win badly, because then we’re rewarded for that.

“That’s why we do this business.”

That statement is enough to make most anyone hope Mularkey gets a fair shake when the final decision on a new coach is made.

But Mularkey’s honest approach seems to go much deeper than just stating his desire to help the Titans shake their funk.

When asked about why the Titans wide receivers have not been productive this season, Mularkey offered a fair and not so flattering assessment of the receiving corps.

Titans receivers – outside of Harry Douglas’ leaping 13-yard touchdown grab in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders – weren’t very productive on Sunday. And they haven’t, in Mularkey’s opinion, been as productive as the Titans need them to be this season.

Even Kendall Wright, thought to be a budding star a couple of years ago, has regressed to the point of being saddled with a portion of the blame for both of Marcus Mariota’s interceptions.

Mularkey points out the receivers have to do better, but also directed responsibility toward himself and the coaching staff, saying they have to find ways to put them in better positions to create mismatches and battles that can be won.

“You’d like to have better production, and I think obviously where our production was lacking the most, and everybody knows it, was third down,” Mularkey says. “We had some one-on-one situations where we had chances to win, and we have to.

“Every Sunday, that’s going to be the case in the NFL. Execution could be better. We’ve got to do a better job scheming to get these guys in better position, where it’s formation or personnel-wise or whatever it is.”

How bad has it been? Through 11 games this season, Titan wide receivers have 90 catches for 1,045 yards – as a group. The Falcons’ Julio Jones has 94 receptions for 1,245 yards all by himself.

“It’s the go routes outside that feel like we’re getting hit on and we’re not hitting them. We have to make a play on those plays, because he is giving us a chance to make them,” Mularkey explains.

“They’re getting called, and they’re getting called to the right guys. We’re giving DGB (Dorial Green-Beckham) a chance, and I’d like to see him with his size to go up and pluck that thing out of the air.”

Mularkey is right about one thing, not just with Green-Beckham or any other Titan receiver. It should not be asking too much for them to make a few more tough catches and be just a bit more relevant as a collective.

Or as Mularkey put it: “We’re not asking them to do anything more than their job. We’re not looking for Odell Beckham catches. We’re just looking for catches. Just the normal catch. Catches don’t have to be great, if we can just make some of the catches we’re seeing on the other sideline.

“It’s a matter of the quarterback’s trusting you to come down with it. Come down with it the way we would like you to, the way you’ve been coached to ever since you’ve been a receiver.”

That shouldn’t be too much to ask if the Titans are honest with themselves.

Four things to watch

1. Can the Jaguars be the elixir again?

The Titans haven’t won a home game since beating the Jaguars last year. Since that time, they have come up short 11 straight times at LP Field/Nissan Stadium. Will the Jaguars be the cure-all again for the Titans?

2. Get pressure on Blake Bortles

In the first meeting, the Titans found out that Bortles does have a penchant for mistakes at key times. The Titans have some leaky spots in their secondary, and need their pass rush to come through to help them out.

3. Winning vs. drafting high

Right now, the Titans have the No. 1 pick in the draft. Sunday represents perhaps their last best chance to win another game in 2015. So what’s it going to be, Titans fans? Root for the home team to finally end the home stadium losing streak, or wish for the top pick in the draft next spring?

4. Win it for Mularkey

This one was on the docket two weeks ago before the first meeting. But it would mean a lot to Mike Mularkey to be the Jaguars, since they dumped him after just one season as the Jaguars head coach in 2012.

Three matchups to watch

Titans receivers vs. Jaguars secondary

From the story above, the Titans receivers have been put on notice a little bit that they need to step it up. Going against the Jaguars might be their best remaining opportunity to do just that.

Brian Orakpo vs. Luke Joeckel

Orakpo’s streak of sacks in four games in a row has ended. But with seven sacks this season, he still has a chance to get to double digits, something that hasn’t been done since Jurrell Casey did it in 2013.

Titans offensive line vs. Jaguars defensive-line

The Titans continue to tinker with the offensive line and are getting younger it seems each time they do so. Quinton Spain, an undrafted rookie, is the latest to enter the starting lineup, taking over at left guard. They need to keep Marcus Mariota upright, and also begin to open up some holes in the running game as well.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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