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NFL Draft

Which Titans WRs Will Step Up If AJ Brown & Julio Jones Are Out?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 29, 2021
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According to multiple reports, the Tennessee Titans could be without A.J. Brown and Julio Jones when they travel to East Rutherford to take on the New York Jets in Week 4. Brown is dealing with a hamstring issue that labels him "week-to-week," whereas Jones is currently receiving treatment for a leg injury, also putting his Sunday status in doubt.

Brown pulled up short on a Ryan Tannehill deep ball attempt in the first quarter of Tennessee's Week 3 win over Indianapolis. It was just Brown's eighth snap of the game, and it signified the end of his contest. It was a bit more complicated with Jones, who played a shade greater than 50% of the Titans' snaps against Indianapolis, but mysteriously watched the conclusion of the game from the sidelines despite remaining in uniform.

This leaves the Titans understandably thin at receiver and will likely push Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Josh Reynolds into starting roles on the outside against the Jets on Sunday with Chester Rogers manning his usual position in the slot. Westbrook-Ikhine is a second-year undrafted free agent out of Indiana who is best known for his ability on special teams. Injuries can often lead to more snaps for players like Westbrook-Ikhine, who took advantage of his opportunity by recording team-highs in receptions (4) and yards (53) in Week 3 while also finding the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. It's worth noting that it wasn't a perfect afternoon for Westbrook-Ikhine, who did lose a costly fumble on Indianapolis' 5-yard line.

If healthy and active, Tennessee's upcoming game against the Jets could represent a huge opportunity for Reynolds, who the team signed to a one-year deal back in March. It's been a peculiar few months for Reynolds, who originally signed with Tennessee due to what appeared to be a fantastic opportunity for snaps and production. The Titans went on to acquire Jones in a blockbuster trade just a little more than two months later, diminishing Reynolds' role in the offense in the process. Reynolds then battled an Achilles injury throughout training camp, further dropping him down the pecking order as players such as Westbrook-Ikhine, Rogers, and Marcus Johnson went on to put forth impressive displays in July and August.

Reynolds was seemingly a healthy scratch in Week 3, as Titans wide receiver coach Rob Moore said Reynolds' inactive status was due to his limited experience playing special teams. But with the exciting duo of Brown and Jones likely to sit this contest out, the Titans can’t afford to make decisions at wide receiver based on who can and can’t play special teams. Reynolds should be viewed as a welcome addition to their starting lineup as a player who offers more upside and playmaking ability than the options behind him.

Johnson could be viewed as a wild-card. Tennessee designated Johnson to return from injured reserve with an immediate return to practice in mind, giving the wide receiver a 21-day window to be added to their 53-man roster. Head coach Mike Vrabel refused to rule Johnson out of Sunday’s game by claiming it was a possibility. By all intents and purposes, the former Texas standout had a terrific camp and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Johnson replace Westbrook-Ikhine or Reynolds on the outside should he truly be healthy enough to take up a starring role. With that said, it would be a minor surprise to see Johnson suit up for his first game of the season against the Jets in Week 4 given his health status, but Johnson should be ready to take the field for Tennessee’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5.

Whichever combination of these receivers play the majority of the snaps for Tennessee in Week 4 shouldn't impact their confidence level as they prepare to take on a woeful Jets team that has scored 20 TOTAL points through three contests.

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