Titans' Wright, Jaguars' Blackmon take their rivalry to the professional ranks

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 10:36pm

Given that they only have played 10 games apiece in the NFL, it seems safe to assume that the best is yet to come for Kendall Wright and Justin Blackmon as professionals.

In college, though, it seemed those two brought out the best in one another.

Their shared history creates a certain sense of anticipation for Sunday’s matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, a game that otherwise lacks any broad appeal. The Jaguars are tied for the league’s worst record at 1-9 and the Titans are not much better at 4-6, albeit coming off their best performance of the season.

“I respect his game,” Wright said. “I guess he’s just a bigger guy, physical.”

The contest (noon, CBS) will be the first meeting as professionals for Wright (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) and Blackmon (6-1, 210), two of the first three receivers drafted last April.

They are already well acquainted with one another, though, from their days in the Big 12, where Wright played for Baylor and Blackmon for Oklahoma State. Last fall, in fact, each was a unanimous choice for the All-Big 12 first team.

The last time they met was Oct. 29, 2011 in Stillwater, Okla. Blackmon had 13 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. The rest of his team had 11 for 101 yards and one touchdown. Wright caught 11 passes for 117 yards as Baylor lost 59-24.

On Nov. 6, 2010, Blackmon 13 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown and Wright had eight receptions for 78 yards. Baylor lost that one as well, 55-28.

“That was college,” Wright said. “That was the past. They killed us — they just killed us. That don’t really matter anymore. We’ll see Sunday what happens.”

The possibility for fireworks this time is enhanced by the fact that the Titans and Jaguars are two of seven NFL teams that allow an average of more than 260 passing yards per game.

Wright currently leads all rookie wide receivers with 43 catches, 10 more than Blackmon, whose 486 receiving yards are tops among rookies. Coincidentally, third among that group with 30 receptions is another AFC South rookie, Indianapolis. T.Y. Hilton.

Blackmon was the first wide receiver drafted in April (fifth overall). Wright was the third (20th).

“He’s starting to get it, he’s starting to feel comfortable, he’s starting to understand the offense,” Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey said of Blackmon. “You can tell by the way he’s practicing. He’s practicing much faster. There’s a lot of thinking going on early, and some adjustments that are different from college.

“Some guys need time. I’ve seen improvements for sure from him each and every week all the way up to this last game.”

It was apparent to pretty much anyone who saw Jacksonville’s 43-37 overtime loss to Houston last Sunday. Blackmon caught seven passes for 236 yards with a touchdown. It was the third-most receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history.

Through the first nine games he had 250 yards and one touchdown on 26 receptions.

After a fast start, Wright has just seven catches in his last three appearances but has scored half of his four touchdowns in that stretch. His only reception in the Titans’ last game, at Miami, went for just nine yards but was the contest’s first touchdown.

He’s had as many as nine receptions in a single contest, but has yet to have his first 100-yard receiving game in the NFL.

“[Blackmon] took some plays that should have been 10-yard gains and turned them into huge plays last week,” Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said. “… I’m sure that’s why they drafted the guy. I’m sure that’s why he was looked at as the best receiver in the draft. He finally had a game, I think they were hoping he’d have. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”