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Titans QB Ryan Tannehill confident in 'next man' approach to WR

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The acquisition of wide receiver Julio Jones was supposed to be the move that pushed the Tennessee Titans' passing game over the top. Pairing Jones with A.J. Brown gave Tennessee a dynamic duo that would make opposing defenses pay when they loaded the box in an attempt to slow down running back Derrick Henry.

As the Titans prepare to face the New York Jets (0-3) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), they're dealing with the strong possibility of not having Jones or Brown because of hamstring injuries that have caused them to miss practice time this week. That leaves them with a possible rotation that includes Chester Rogers, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Josh Reynolds and Cameron Batson.

Although that group isn't likely to keep Jets coach Robert Saleh or defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich up late at night, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has confidence in the group.

"That is something we believe in in this organization, is ‘Next man up’ mentality," Tannehill said. "Not sure who is going to end up trotting out there on Sunday, but confident in whoever it is. I got a ton of reps and confidence in those guys, and it has been something we have done since we have been here. Excited about the guys we have that can possibly step up for us."

Rogers was already the starting slot receiver, but he may see more targets with Brown and Jones possibly not being in the lineup. Rogers was targeted twice and scored a 6-yard touchdown in Sunday's 25-16 win over the Colts.

"He's really good against man coverage with his lateral quickness and his ability to get in and out of cuts," offensive coordinator Todd Downing said of Rogers. "He's seen a lot of football and can digest things on the move. He's a polished receiver that we are excited to have."

Westbrook-Ikhine had a direct impact on two of the Titans' three touchdowns last week. Tannehill targeted Westbrook-Ikhine four times resulting in four receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. Westbrook-Ikhine also drew a pass interference call that set up a 10-yard touchdown reception by Jeremy McNichols.

Westbrook-Ikhine stepped in once Brown was pulled because of the hamstring injury early in the first quarter.

"We practiced throughout camp, expecting to be in those situations," Westbrooke-Ikhine said. " It’s our ‘Next man’ mentality. We say in the locker room, ‘You might not wake up tomorrow and have the opportunity to go make plays, make the most of it.'"

Tannehill's connection to Westbrook-Ikhine started to kick into gear during joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in July. The second-year receiver made a series of contested catches during those practices that earned Tannehill's trust.

Westbrook-Ikhine entered camp with a more relaxed mindset because, unlike his rookie season, he knew what to expect. He said the comfort level allowed him to catch the ball more naturally than he did as a rookie when he had a series of drops in training camp.

But he made the roster because of his willingness to do all of the little things, reminiscent of former NBA player Dennis Rodman.

"He does the dirty work for us," Tannehill said. "He gets in there and blocks. He is physical. He is tough. He is a versatile guy who has size and strength, and who has made some big plays for us. I have a ton of confidence in Nick."

The Titans also have Reynolds as an option to help out this week. Reynolds is yet to record a catch as a Titan and has only been active for one of the Titans' three games this season.

Tight end Anthony Firkser missed last week's game with a knee injury, but he returned to the practice field as a full participant this week.

Since taking over as the starter in Week 6 in 2019, Tannehill has completed 79% (66 of 83) of his passes to Firkser. Getting Firkser back into the lineup will be a big boost for the passing game.

"It will be nice to have [Firsker] back, whenever that is," Tannehill said. "He is a playmaker for us, has made some huge plays over the last few years I have been here. He is a guy we have a lot of confidence in. Anytime you are missing a guy that you are used to having out there is tough, and you want to get him back out here as soon as you can."

Help could also be on the way with training camp standout Marcus Johnson being designated for return from injured reserve. Johnson was one of the most consistent pass-catchers, leading to him making the original 53-man roster before being placed on injured reserve last month.