Behind enemy lines: Tennessee

The Tennessee Titans don't want to talk about the draft. They don't relish the idea that the coming weeks - much like it is with the 49ers - will include much debate about how high they'll pick and if they will finish in range to get USC quarterback Matt Leinart or USC running back Reggie Bush, presuming he forgoes his senior year. But it is a juicy story line, especially when you factor in the fact that the Titans' offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, coached both players with the Trojans.

"There is no doubt you are aware of the talk," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "You can hear it on sports radio, and so you are aware that people are thinking along those lines. The reality of it is that we are getting paid to win games and we are going to do everything we possibly can to win games and build for the future."

General manager Floyd Reese and his scouts have been evaluating college seniors. But the draft will have a heavy influx of juniors, and the Titans will have a whole new round of scouting to do once they learn which underclassmen are making themselves eligible for the draft.

"Over the last three years we've seen the same thing - the senior classes are not maybe as thick as senior classes were five or six years ago because of all the juniors who have come out," Reese said. "When the juniors decide and they come out, it'll be a good draft, but right now it's nothing special."

Of the nine NFL teams with three wins or less, the Titans have the third-hardest schedule. Their remaining six opponents have a combined winning percentage of .517. Only Green Bay and New Orleans have it tougher (both at .550).

Tennessee would appear to have reasonably good chances to win in the next three weeks. They host 2-8 San Francisco on Sunday, and 1-9 Houston visits Nashville on Dec. 11. The Titans beat the Texans in Houston on Oct. 9, 34-20.

--- Tennessee's defense came out hot against Jacksonville last week. But as in so many of the Titans' eight losses this year, the unit couldn't maintain any consistency.

After forcing three-and-outs on the Jaguars' first five possessions, the Titans allowed Byron Leftwich the first three-touchdown game of his career.

"We were just way too inconsistent," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "We had a series where we played well, and then we'd have a series where we'd give up a sustained drive for a touchdown. That's our biggest thing, we have to be more consistent."

Jacksonville converted 10 of 17 third downs, including seven of nine in the second half. Leftwich started 1-for-10 but finished 22-for-38 for 258 yards. Jacksonville couldn't run, but didn't need to.

"It is very frustrating, especially when it is mainly on the secondary, I'll say mainly on me," rookie cornerback Reynaldo Hill said. "I gave up a couple of catches to Jimmy Smith and then the touchdown to (Ernest) Wilford, and I have to make that play. I have to do that consistently."

Tennessee blitzed as much as it has all season and was effective rattling Leftwich a few times -- the Titans sacked him twice, and Kyle Vanden Bosch forced a fumble that Antwan Odom returned for a 27-yard TD.

"Everybody knows that we seem to play better in the second half," Leftwich said. "They did some things early, some things they haven't done all year. Some things I guess they worked on for two weeks. It was different stuff, stuff that might have caught us off guard on some plays. Fortunately for us, though, we found a way to win."

The Jaguars went after the Titans' shorter corners with their taller receivers, and it worked.

"They made a bunch of plays in the passing game," Schwartz said. "They are like a junior college basketball team -- they are 6-6, 6-5, 6-4 and the smallest one is 6-1. When you have that kind of matchup with size, there is not a whole lot you can do defensively with it. ... For the most part we were aggressive, we just didn't make the plays."

--- Defensive end Antwan Odom was nudged out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row, with Travis LaBoy starting at right end and Odom seeing time in the rotation.

Against the Jaguars, Odom made the defensive play of the game, following up Kyle Vanden Bosch's third-quarter strip of Byron Leftwich by scooping the fumble and returning it for a 27-yard touchdown.

He said he saw the loose ball, and sensed he had enough room to pick it up and run rather than falling on it. And while he enjoyed the big play, he said his focus is more on knocking down the quarterback.

"I need more sacks though," he said. "Sacks make the money."

Odom scored a 25-yard touchdown on a similar play in St. Louis in Week 3.

--- Titans rookie receiver Roydell Williams caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Steve McNair with 10 seconds left to cap a 72-yard TD drive.

"I am (happy), but I'm not," Williams said. "I'm disappointed with the loss and everything, but that was my first touchdown, so I am a little excited about that. But I wish we could have pulled out the win."

--- Running back Chris Brown made a nifty 15-yard run for a touchdown off a short pass from Steve McNair for the first TD reception of his career.

"Steve hit me right on the money, and I followed the big boys," Brown said. "You can't go wrong if you follow the big boys."

--- QB Steve McNair has never started a game against San Francisco. He relieved Chris Chandler in a 1996 loss at the Astrodome and missed the 1999 game while he was rehabilitating from back surgery. He strained a hip last Sunday against Jacksonville and, while Fisher downplayed the injury, McNair did not practice with the team Wednesday.

--- QB Billy Volek has never played against the 49ers and while he will get some practice time with the first team this week, he'll only play against San Francisco if Steve McNair gets hurt.

--- RB Chris Brown has scored four touchdowns in his last three games and has averaged 4.15 yards a carry in that span. The Titans keep talking about getting Travis Henry involved, but the backup has one carry in three games since his suspension, and dressed but didn't play against Jacksonville.

--- RB Travis Henry returned from his suspension three games ago and has one carry since. He dressed but never saw the field last week against Jacksonville, and it was Jarrett Payton who replaced Brown late on the team's final series. The Titans want to get a better look at Henry, but lip service during the week is far different that actually sacrificing Brown's carries during a game.

--- FB Troy Fleming has caught a pass in two games in a row but is pretty much a nonfactor as a pass-catcher or ball carrier.

--- WR Drew Bennett looked fine in his return after a three-game layoff because of a dislocated thumb. He caught a game-high six balls with a splint protecting his left thumb. He figures to be a prominent pass catcher against San Francisco.

--- WR Brandon Jones was a nonfactor against Jacksonville with one 21-yard catch, but he still offers the best combination of speed and reliability for McNair in the passing game.

--- WR Tyrone Calico could return from a two-game layoff caused by a strained calf. But he was contributing very little before the injury and it's hard to expect much from him.

--- WR Courtney Roby could be third or fourth in line at the position against San Francisco. He did solid work as the kick returner but has been replaced by Pacman Jones for the time being.

--- TE Ben Troupe was back from an ankle sprain against Jacksonville but was somewhat limited. He should be more himself against San Francisco.

--- TE Erron Kinney is on pace for 78 catches, which would be more than Frank Wycheck ever had in his five seasons leading the team in receptions, beginning in 1996.

' --- TE Bo Scaife is a reliable rookie, but in an effort to stretch the field the Titans may look more to Troupe by design in the coming weeks.

--- K Rob Bironas didn't attempt a field goal for the first time this season against Jacksonville. Sunday, he will be kicking against the man he replaced, San Francisco's Joe Nedney.

--- CB Reynaldo Hill stood up and took responsibility for the big plays he surrendered against Jacksonville, a good sign from a rookie who was picked on. He was isolated in coverage a lot because the Titans blitzed a good deal.

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