Titans lose most productive weapon in Walker

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Tennessee Titans' Delanie Walker (R) is about to be tackled by Arizona Cardinals Bubba Backer after a reception in the second quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona December 10, 2017. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI
Tennessee Titans' Delanie Walker (R) is about to be tackled by Arizona Cardinals Bubba Backer after a reception in the second quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona December 10, 2017. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

As expected, the Tennessee Titans will be without star tight end Delanie Walker likely for the remainder of the season.

While Coach Mike Vrabel wasn't ready to say that Walker's season is over, the Titans placed the 13-year veteran on injured reserve on Monday, a day after his suffered a broken right ankle when Dolphins defender T.J. McDonald put his weight on Walker as he was going down following a catch. The force of McDonald's weight caused Walker's ankle to pin underneath him at an awkward angle late in Sunday's 27-20 season-opening loss in Miami.


"He's probably going to have surgery sometime in the next few days," Vrabel announced at his Monday press conference. "It's disappointing because he puts a lot into it and he plays hard. He's been a productive player for us and is somebody I was excited to coach and be with. We'll see where he's at after surgery and re-evaluate his potential to return."

The Titans are losing their most productive weapon in the passing game with Walker's injury. The 34-year-old tight end, who signed a two-year extension in training camp, had caught at least 60 passes every year since signing with Tennessee in 2013.

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"It means that the next guy gets more opportunities, and that is Jonnu. That's why you're drafted into this league. That's why you're on the roster," Vrabel said. "You wouldn't be on this roster if we didn't feel like you could help us in a game."

Smith, a third-round pick last year, caught 18 passes as a rookie with the Titans in 2017 and caught one ball in Sunday's loss to Miami after Walker went out.

"He's a great player, but I believe I'm also a great player," Smith said. "I have some things I have to continue to improve on. I'm my own biggest challenge, not the guy next to me. That's just the mindset I have. It's some big shoes to fill, because he's a hell of a player and he's left a hell of a mark here.

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"He's doing something right, because he's been in the league like 50 years. But you watch him day in and day out, and he's a professional. I'm still considered to be a young guy in this league, so I've been trying to be a sponge. I've been ready for this since I was six years old and started playing football."


While the Tennessee Titans know the situation with Walker, they are still in determination mode with a couple of their other offensive stars.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota left the game after two consecutive interceptions following a low hit that caused him to lose feeling in his throwing arm. And on the first of those interceptions, left tackle Taylor Lewan was knocked out with a concussion, courtesy of a crack back block from the Dolphins' Andre Branch.

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"He's still being evaluated. We're hopeful that we'll get a good report back on his arm, so we can move forward with having him as our quarterback. It's important that we have everybody that's healthy and available for these games," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.

Vrabel didn't sound as if the Titans would need to add another quarterback to the roster, but left open that possibility if they don't get good news on Mariota.

"I think that's what Jon (Robinson) and I are looking at," Vrabel said. "Right now, we would say that -- again, things are looking OK. But, if that situation arises, we'd have to have that conversation about getting another guy in here."


As for Lewan, he is in the concussion protocol and must follow that process before he can be cleared to return to playing.

--TE Delanie Walker, a staple of the offense for five seasons with the Titans, suffered what is probably a season-ending ankle injury late in Sunday's loss to the Dolphins. Walker broke his right ankle, which was dislocated. He was placed on injured reserve and will have surgery to correct the problem.

--LT Taylor Lewan is in the concussion protocol after being on the receiving end of a blind side hit from Andre Branch, following an interception by the Dolphins Reshad Jones. Lewan was knocked out on the play, and a fight erupted on the field as a result of the hit.

--QB Marcus Mariota's last two passes were intercepted by the Dolphins. The issue for Mariota was an elbow injury to his throwing arm that took place due to a low hit from Miami's William Hayes. Vrabel and the Titans took exception to the hit. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who replaced Mariota after the second interception, called the play by Hayes a "cheap hit" when defending Mariota's initial decision to stay in after the injury. Mariota was 9 of 16 for just 103 yards.


--QB Blaine Gabbert in finishing up for Mariota. Gabbert was 11 of 22 for 117 yards and one interception. He directed one Titans scoring drive.

--TE MyCole Pruitt was signed by the Titans off the Houston Texans practice squad after Delanie Walker was placed on IR. Pruitt, a fifth-round pick of the Vikings in 2015, has also spent time with the Bears organization.

--OLB Komalei Correa, just acquired by the Titans in a trade with the Ravens before the end of preseason, saw his first action as a Titan and recorded a sack of Ryan Tannehill.

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