Titans, Jaguars offer little outside of draft positioning
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — There are few, if any, reasons to watch Tennessee and Jacksonville on Thursday night.
Not even fantasy owners could have much interest in this prime-time matchup.
It’s two 2-12 teams from the AFC South that are playing out the string. The Titans have lost eight consecutive games and are down to third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who is making his eighth career start.
The Jaguars have dropped six of seven, have scored two offensive touchdowns in the past four games and are without their top rusher, top receiver and top tackler.
So expectations should be low.
“There’s not a lot to hang our hat on from this season, but it’s a Thursday night game,” said Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose team is looking to sweep Jacksonville for the just second time in 11 years.
“National games always seem to add a little more zest to it. I don’t know if it’s really sweeping a division opponent that makes that much as it is an opportunity to get a win.”
The Jaguars, meanwhile, are favorites for the first time since Sept. 30, 2012. Since losing 27-10 to Cincinnati as a 1 1/2-point favorite, Jacksonville had been underdogs for 42 consecutive games.
“We’ve had plenty of opportunities to win a lot of games,” Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said. “It’s like we have to learn how to finish. … Once we build that mindset and grow the guys, I really feel like it will be that much better. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to pull out a victory in all of these games and we just fell short. I think we have that ability to change that within no time.”
Getting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft should help either team, and the Thursday night’s loser would move closer to securing the top pick.
For Tennessee, it could mean having its pick between Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
Former first-round draft pick Jake Locker is a free agent, and Whisenhunt bristled earlier this week when asked whether he was committed to Zach Mettenberger.
“I don’t know where you heard that,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s something that we said we’d discuss. That’s not a question that we want to discuss in-season. That’s something we’d go through after the season is over and go back and look at all of the snaps and go from there.”
For Jacksonville, landing the top draft spot would leave the rebuilding franchise in position to possibly trade down and get more picks.
Neither team is thinking about that right now — at least not publicly. They focused on winning, regardless of how less-than-ideal the matchup might appear.
“A lot of people will turn the TV on Thursday night football and there’s nothing else to watch,” Titans receiver Kendall Wright said. “We’re going to try to give them a show either way.”
Here are some things to know about the Titans and Jaguars:
BORTLES READY? The Jaguars are “leaning” toward playing injured quarterback Blake Bortles. The rookie sprained his right foot Sunday at Baltimore and has been limited during light practices this week. He will go through pregame mobility tests before his status is determined.
MARKS’ MARK: Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks has extra incentive against his former team. Marks needs half a sack to trigger a $600,000 bonus in his contract. Marks has 7 1/2 sacks, an impressive number for an interior lineman playing on a team that rarely has a lead. “I won’t abandon the scheme just to be selfish and get something for me,” said Marks, who spent four seasons with the Titans.
STILL LOOKING FOR 100: The Titans have yet to have a 100-yard rusher this season, and only one receiver had topped the century mark in 2014. Kendall Wright had 132 yards receiving in a Nov. 30 loss at Houston, then he broke a bone in his right hand in practice. That has kept him out of the past two games. The Titans are hoping Wright can return against the Jaguars, with Whisenhunt saying it’s a matter of pain tolerance.
AT LEAST THERE’S WALKER: Titans tight end Delanie Walker has been the bright spot on offense, and he already has set the franchise record for yards receiving in a season (793). He also is the only player on the roster to top 100 yards receiving in two separate games, and he had 93 in last week’s loss to the Jets. That has made him a big target for defenses.
MULARKEY’S RETURN: Former Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey will return to EverBank Field for the first time since getting fired after the 2012 season. Mularkey sat out last year before joining the Titans as tight ends coach.