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McCourty ready to rejoin Titans

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NASHVILLE — It has been a long time since Jason McCourty played in a football game.

It was in the Tennessee Titans’ 2014 season finale, and a forgettable season it was.

McCourty, the Titans steadiest defensive back the past few seasons, did not play at all in this year’s preseason due to a groin injury sustained on Aug. 6. McCourty tried to rehab the injury, but 18 days later, he underwent surgery, and that procedure caused him to miss the season’s first three games.

McCourty now has been practicing for two weeks – the Titans had their bye last Sunday – and is poised to see his first action of the season this Sunday when Tennessee hosts the Buffalo Bills.

“It just feels good being back out there communicating with the guys and being on the field playing football again. It feels good,” McCourty said.

McCourty, who has been a fixture at cornerback since midway through his rookie season in 2009, admits that he might be a little out of so-called football shape, and figures that there is really only way to fix that – by playing.

“You can go out there and hit the pads, but there’s not a ton of tackling that goes on during practice. So until you actually go out there and do it, you don’t know. I look forward to the opportunity.

“I’ll be out there. That’s all that matters,” McCourty said.

The best news for the Titans is that McCourty’s return finally makes the secondary complete. Without him in the lineup, the Titans started Coty Sensabaugh and Perrish Cox with Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the nickel-back position.

Now, McCourty moves back into the starting lineup opposite Cox, a free-agent pickup in the offseason with Sensabaugh as the nickel and Wreh-Wilson back to the bench as depth and as the dime back.

The time that McCourty was out, though, did allow for the others to get some added experience, though there were several rough spots.

“We didn’t really have much choice with our other guys playing in there. But our guys battled, there were some good things. Obviously, the deep balls were one of the things that, regardless of who’s in there, we’ve got to stop,” Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

“Especially those third-and-20s were a difficult pill to swallow, but it always helps to get a good football player back. It makes us deeper at the positon. You feel like with Coty and Blidi getting a chance to get a lot of play time, it helps them. Certainly Perrish, we feel good about him, so getting J-Mac (Jason McCourty) in there, it makes the group stronger and that’s a good thing.”

SERIES HISTORY: 42nd regular-season meeting. Titans lead series, 27-14. This series will always be remembered for two postseason games, one the comeback by the Bills, who trailed the Houston Oilers 35-3 in the 1992 playoffs, and the other the Music City Miracle by the Titans in the 1999 playoffs.

GAME PLAN

–The Bills’ defense certainly presents a challenge for a Titans team that has had trouble protecting Marcus Mariota, who has been sacked 12 times. Buffalo’s defense will certainly want to pressure the rookie quarterback and the Titans’ offensive line has to protect him, and also block well enough to open holes in the running game, so as not to be one-dimensional.

Defensively, Tennessee may be catching a break with LeSean McCoy likely out for the Bills. But Tennessee must still stop the run and then not let surprising quarterback Tyrod Taylor break contain and gain yards with his legs.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Titans RT Jeremiah Poutasi vs. Bills DE Jerry Hughes.

Mario Williams vs. Taylor Lewan might be the more hyped matchup, but this one is crucial because Hughes is a quality pass rusher, and the Titans might wind up needing to give rookie right tackle Poutasi a bit of help if he is unable to wall off Hughes well enough to protect Marcus Mariota.

–Titans S Da’Norris Searcy vs. Bills TE Charles Clay.

Searcy is a former Bills safety who joined the Titans this offseason as a free agent. He won’t be the only Titans player assigned to Clay, but does have familiarity with the former Dolphins tight end who joined Buffalo as a free agent this offseason.

–Titans CB Perrish Cox vs. Bills WR Sammy Watkins.

Last year the Titans matched up Jason McCourty on the opponent’s top receiver regularly. But with McCourty coming off a groin injury and playing in his first game, if there are any matchups being done – the Titans likely will just play McCourty on the left and Cox on the right most of the time. It could be Cox getting the call against Bills playmaker Watkins if he plays.


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