Jason Jones doesn’t know if a repeat of last year is in the works for him against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jones showed the first real glimpse of his promise against the Steelers last December, when filling in for Albert Haynesworth, he recorded 3.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and had a pair of quarterback pressures against Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers haven’t forgotten Jones’ performance that day, especially Coach Mike Tomlin. Truth is, Jones was nearly a Steeler on draft day last year, but the Titans wound up taking him in the second round after the Steelers were one of the teams that visited with the former Eastern Michigan star.
“Well, we kind of knew it was coming. We interviewed Jason at the Combine,” Tomlin said. “We brought him in prior to the draft. We liked him, we saw him coming and we still couldn’t do anything about it. Hopefully we fare a little better this time.”
Despite his heroics in Haynesworth’s stead last year, Jones really doesn’t expect a lot of added attention from the Steelers, now that Haynesworth has departed to the Washington Redskins as a free agent.
Speaking of Haynesworth, Jones was one of the only Titans defensive tackles still willing to talk about life after Haynesworth. The normally congenial Tony Brown, who has jumped into Haynesworth’s right tackle spot with Jones on the left, didn’t even want to broach the subject this week.
Jones was talkative on the matter, but doesn’t expect the Steelers to prepare for him the same way they would Haynesworth.
“I’m ready to go, healthy and 100 percent. I’m ready to get out there,” said Jones, who missed much of preseason with a bone bruise in his right foot. “I had a visit to Pittsburgh before the draft, and they’re stuck in their ways. They’re going to do the same things they always do.
“I know Coach Tomlin is going to do the same things he always does. I’m not expecting any special plans for me. I’m not a special player like that yet. We’ll see what happens on game day.”
If there was a positive to the foot injury, perhaps it made it easier for Jones to regain the weight he had lost while being sick just prior to camp. He said he is back to around 280 pounds, about 5-10 pounds over what he played at most of last year.
Roethlisberger, who was on the receiving end of much of Jones’ breakout game, was highly complimentary of the second-year lineman.
“He is a great player. Obviously, when you don’t have Haynesworth in there you are missing a big guy and a Pro Bowler and an elite player, but Jones did a great job of filling in. That is just a credit to him and the kind of personnel they have at that defensive line position,” Roethlisberger.
And while Jones won’t necessarily be filling in at Haynesworth’s old right defensive tackle spot he knows fans are probably expecting quite a bit out of him, especially since he is facing the Steelers again.
“I expect probably fans will expect me to go out there and have a big game, since I did have three-and-a-half sacks the last time,” Jones said. “But one game doesn’t define an NFL player. I celebrated, but it’s time to move on.”
Ready to go
Kevin Mawae has reached his first goal. The 16-year veteran center will be in the lineup and playing in the season opener after rehabbing his way back from a torn triceps tendon that ended his season last December against the Steelers.
“The goal was always to get to this week, to be ready for the opener, and I’m there right now,” Mawae said. “The frustrating part was not being able to take part in OTAs, but in hindsight, I didn’t have the wear and tear over the off-season that tends to happen to some people. I’ve gotten enough work in over the last three or four weeks and I’m prepared.”
Despite wearing a protective brace on his right arm, Mawae said he isn’t thinking about the injury in the least.
“The elbow hasn’t been any problem. I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I haven’t given it two thoughts. I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and competing and getting this team to the next level.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher isn’t tipping his hand as to what he will do in the return game Thursday night.
Cornerback Ryan Mouton is back practicing after a high ankle sprain in preseason and has been mentioned as a potential candidate on kickoffs and punts, along with fellow rookies Javon Ringer and Jason McCourty.
As for punts, aside from Mouton, the Titans have several veterans who had returned punts at some point in their college or pro careers.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan has fielded punts in practice and preseason games before and did so in college.
“I don’t know if it’s like riding a bike or not. I’ve done it before,” Finnegan said. “You’ve got to catch it first, and that’s one thing in college that I looked forward to doing.”
Tuff Harris, who spent training camp with the Titans this year after dividing last year between the practice squad and the 53-man roster, was signed to the Steelers practice squad.
Asked if such a signing was to help tip the Steelers to what the Titans have been doing in preparation for them, Fisher didn’t think it was much of a factor.
“I’m sure there’ll be a discussion. The Steelers aren’t an organization that’s going to intentionally sign someone off your practice squad and then debrief them. I’m sure they saw things in Tuff that we saw,” Fisher said.
Practice squad addition
The Titans filled their final practice squad vacancy by grabbing linebacker Mike Rivera, who had been in training camp with the Chicago Bears. Rivera played college football at Kansas.