Raiders @ Titans: Three things to watch


Oct 25, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans receiver Kendall Wright (13) scores on a reception while defended by Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen (37) during the first half against at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With only six games left on the 2015 NFL schedule for the 2-8 Tennessee Titans, the remainder of the season becomes a double-edge sword for Interim head coach, Mike Mularkey when the Oakland Raiders come to town for week 12.

On one side of the coin, Mularkey needs to show the Adams Family that he has a plan to turn things around in Music City by putting a winning streak together that would go a long way in securing a shot at a second season with this promising young team.

On the other side of that same coin, the more “W’s” he puts on the board reduces his chances of a top five draft pick next spring and some offensive help for his franchise quarterback and top-ranked defense.

There is little chance that the Titans will be able to win enough games down the stretch to even think about making the playoffs, even in the lowly AFC South, but Mularkey will need to try.

As a fan, I would almost rather see more exciting football out of this young team than another 2-14 season, but hey!…It’s not my decision.

A month ago, and based on how the Titans have fared in the time since Ken Whisenhunt departed Nashville, coupled with how good the Oakland Raiders looked before they got into a three-game skid, you would have to have blown this game off to another win-less Sunday.

Now, it appears that Marcus Mariota and this team have a chance to get a third win this year, and break a home losing streak that has lasted far longer than fans want to admit.

Let’s take a look at some things that could be the difference it this week 12 matchup and end the home losing streak.

Kendall Wright

After missing the last three games with a sprained MCL obtained during the November 1st game with the Houston Texans, Kendall Wright is expected to play on Sunday.

Despite missing three games, Wright is still tied for touchdowns on the team, with three, and second on the team with catches(28) and yards(343).

As Titan Sized staff writer, Paul Colter pointed out in his Tuesday post: Kendall Wright gets fresh start, again, Wright and former head coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t see eye-to-eye on things like route running and quarterback progressions.

Wright told Tennessean reporter John Glennon on Monday that he likes what Mike Mularkey is bringing to this team, and is excited to get back to work.

"“Things have been real different,” Wright said of the coaching change. “Coach Mularkey has a different attitude of how he wants things ran around here. We’re all trying to take on that attitude, really. He has a tough mentality and he wants things done in a certain way, so that’s what we’ll do.”"

This could be a break-out game for Kendall Wright, and it couldn’t come at a better time!

Offensive Line

We all knew at the start of this season that the offensive line was going to be a problem for the 2015 season. It was a need that wasn’t addressed in either the draft or during free agency, even though several options became available before the season started and before the trade deadline.

Ken Whisenhunt was tinkering before he was fired, and one of the first things Mularkey addressed when he took the reigns after the blood-bath in Houston.

Even though he has limited the number of sacks since taking over, which was a mandate from Amy Adams Strunk, the running game and time for Mariota to find receivers is still a problem that he needs to work on.

Since the loss on Thursday night in Jacksonville, he has decided to give undrafed free agent Quinton Spain some time in the rota.

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Spain is out of West Virginia, and at 6’4″ and 330 pounds has been working at left guard and should see some time on Sunday with Joe Looney moving over to center.

It has been apparent that rookie center Andy Galik needs some help, and more time to develop.

Return Game

The punt and kick return game has been abysmal at best this year. Whisenhunt told us at the beginning of the season that like a lot of other things on this team was also a work in progress.

Now with Dexter McCluster out for a while and Bishop Sankey not performing up to par, Mularkey has decided to thry some new things.

Fumbling kickoffs became a problem for Sankey and McCluster has a bad habit of not trying to guarantee the 20 yard line. Too many times, he runs the ball out when he should take a knee and accept the 20 yard line.

This week, we are expecting to see more of Harry Douglass in the punt return game. He fielded two punts on Thursday night after McCluster was injured. Also expect Perrish Cox to get a couple of opportunities on Sunday.

Cox has 13 career returns for a 3.2 yard average.

Next: Titans Power rankings around the NFL Week 12

Mularkey said rookie Tre McBride, who was activated last week from the practice squad, could be the main man against the Raiders on Sunday for returning kickoffs. McBride returned 56 kicks at William & Mary, averaging 23.1 yards per return.