Opening loss exposes Titans' run game, defense

Associated Press Modified: September 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm •  Published: September 10, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have receiver Kenny Britt back from his one-game suspension. Unfortunately, he can't fix a run game that looks worse than a year ago, or a youthful defense that still can't get sacks or tackle very well.

Chris Johnson had his worst day yet with 4 yards on 11 carries in a 34-13 season opening loss to New England to start his personal rebound from the worst season of his career. Not that the Titans had many chances to run the ball after falling behind 21-3 by halftime before finishing with only 16 rushes for 20 yards.

"We all know that the running game has to get better," coach Mike Munchak said Monday. "We're not denying it. We're not trying to act like, 'Hey, we're OK.' We're not."

The Titans have a lot of work ahead before visiting San Diego on Sunday, though Munchak expects Jake Locker to be able to play. Locker had an MRI exam on Monday just to make sure he didn't suffer any structural damage to his left, non-throwing shoulder.

Locker was sore Monday and may have to split work Wednesday with Matt Hasselbeck in practice. He also likely will wear some form of brace. The eighth pick overall in 2011 threw for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception while completing 71.9 percent of his passes.

"If we still feel he can be productive, run around and do the things he needs to do to play the position, then we're going to be fine with him playing," Munchak said. "If for some reason he's not able to do those things, then we won't put him in a position that he shouldn't be in."

But it's not a good early sign that Locker, in his first career start, led the Titans in rushing. He had 11 yards on two carries, with a holding penalty wiping out a big gain on a quarterback draw.

Tennessee ranked 31st in rushing last season when Johnson had a career-low 1,047 yards after a holdout that kept him away all preseason. Johnson spent the offseason working in the team's program, and the Titans signed five-time All-Pro Steve Hutchinson to bring some veteran savvy to the interior at left guard.

The Titans benched right guard Leroy Harris in the fourth quarter, but Munchak said that was due to fatigue as Harris recovers from offseason surgery on his right knee. The Titans also agreed to terms on a one-year deal with veteran guard Deuce Lutui on Monday, according to his agent, Ken Harris.

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