Jurrell Casey's goal this season is for two people to try and stop him.
The third-year defensive tackle, who flashed moments of dominance in the preseason, wants to get to the point in his career that he can command a double team from opposing offenses.
“That's my goal. If they've got to double team me to stop me, then that's so much respect right there,” Casey said.
When the Tennessee Titans defense has worked best, there has always been a player who has commanded extra attention. When the Titans made their Super Bowl run, it was Jevon Kearse. And when the Titans last made the postseason in 2007 and 2008, it was Albert Haynesworth who kept offensive coordinators awake at night wondering how to stop him.
As the Titans get ready to open the season Sunday at the Pittsburgh Steelers, they don't have that player right now. Or if they do, it isn't readily evident as to who it is.
But Casey, who is now healthy after playing all of last season with an elbow injury, might be as good a candidate as anyone on the team.
“I feel like I'm 100 percent back and ready to show everybody and make a name for myself and make a name for our team. I feel like it's one of those years where we're pretty much healthy on the team, and we've got to go out there and play,” he said.
Coach Mike Munchak said he believes Casey and a few of his linemates have that potential.
“I’ve liked him since the day we drafted him and the way he’s come in. His attitude, his effort has always been there. Last year, he just never really got it going with the injuries early, but he’s a guy that I know is hard to block,” Munchak said. “I know from watching him playing guys at defensive tackle that he’s a guy that’s active. He’s a guy that gives a lot of guards trouble. So, we need him to play well.
“We need someone to rise up. If we’re going to be a good team this year, we need guys like the people I’m talking about to rise up and make plays that people don’t expect to have happen. There’s talent on this football team. We just got to show it on Sundays.”
Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray sees potential in Casey.
“This year, he's ready to go, and he's playing at a high level. That's what we expect out of Casey. There are a lot of young guys we expect to play at a high level and not wait till week three, four or five,” Gray said.
When asked if he had a player who needed to command a double team, Gray replied, “No, not yet, but hopefully by week 16, 17 or 18, we can look back and say, 'You know what? This guy grew up and now if they don't double team him, he's gonna win a one-on-one.'”
Casey believes he can be that guy and help give the Titans a defensive identity as well.
“We are young for the most part, and we have to make a name because nobody really knows who we are,” Casey said. “If we want to make sure we're around for a long time and make sure people know the Titans brand, then we've got to make sure our young guys are ready to go out there and dominate the field. Every day in practice, we work hard and now we've got to make sure that translates over to the game.”
And if he continues to progress, then maybe that double team will come.
“That's the ultimate respect for a defensive lineman is for the offensive line to double team you almost the whole game, because they don't trust their guys to handle you one-on-one,” Casey said.
Right tackle David Stewart took part in a walk-through, but did not practice on Thursday. Munchak said Stewart would likely practice on Friday and be able top lay on Sunday with his sore calf.
The status of fullback Quinn Johnson is up in the air after he missed Thursday's practice with a sore hamstring. Munchak said he wasn't certain if Johnson would practice Sunday.
Also, linebacker Akeem Ayers was limited but did more than he did the day before on his injured ankle.
Linebacker Zaviar Gooden is likely out with an ankle injury.
Munchak left open the possibility of having only four receivers up and active on Sunday against the Steelers.
If that is the case, the Titans would go with Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Damian Williams.
If the Titans have a fifth receiver active, it could be Michael Preston and not rookie Justin Hunter because of special teams duties.
“I think the debate’s more about what’s best for the team, possibly with the special teams angle. It’s not necessarily who’s the best player,” Munchak said. “It’ll be more about if we have to go five, why are we going five. Which receiver is nicked is the first thing and then what’s the status with the rest of the positions. We know that Mike P. (Michael Preston) can play a lot of special teams plays. That’s not necessarily something Justin’s going to do.”