Kenny Britt Injury: 5 Tennessee Titans Who Must Fill Production Gap
Everything was looking up for Kenny Britt's 2011 season as he was leading the AFC in receiving, but the injury bug has attacked Britt yet again.
On what looked like a bizarre play to begin with, Britt injured both his ACL and MCL after shaking a defender deep into Denver territory late in the second quarter.
Head coach Mike Munchak confirmed the injury early this afternoon.
Without Matt Hasselbeck, it would be fair to say that the Titans would probably be 0-3 right now. Even though Hasselbeck is one of the best veterans in the game, he'll now be challenged greatly to use a largely unproven group of young receivers to make up for lost production.
Here are five guys who have to step up their game if the Titans have any chance at keeping pace with the Texans in the AFC South.
You can almost say this is Marc Mariani's rookie year all over again.
Mariani saw no action last season as a wide receiver, and he's seen very little action this season.
His targets are almost certainly going to go up now that Britt is out of the lineup, and he'll most likely be used most in the slot.
This area is obviously where Mariani can be the most effective, because he can use his quickness to turn short gains into long ones.
Lavelle Hawkins has been with the organization since 2008, but he's never really gotten the opportunity to get a consistent amount of playing time because he's always been so far down the depth chart.
His best opportunity to become a star in the NFL is now, and he's shown glimpses of being a great player.
Hawkins isn't the best route runner and tends to drop a lot of routine balls, but his speed makes him dangerous for any defense.
If Hawkins becomes more reliable with his hands, then he could end up enjoying by far the best season of his career.
Outside of veteran Nate Washington, Damian Williams is probably the most talented wide receiver remaining on the Titans depth chart.
He'll probably be the new starter on the outside along with Washington, and he's going to have to step up big for the Titans passing game to continue to put up the same numbers they have been.
The Titans schedule may not be as easy as originally thought. The Bills just got done knocking off the Patriots, the Panthers will be no easy out with Cam Newton playing way ahead of his years and the Colts are steadily improving as well.
Williams has good hands, but he is still way too inexperienced to be a team's second option at receiver. Looks like the Titans won't have much of a choice unless they sign a free agent.
Nate Washington has embraced the No. 2 role at wide receiver greatly this season and he's an unsung hero to why the Titans are 2-1 and not 0-3.
Now he'll have to do what many experts have said he's not good enough to do, and that's be a team's go-to guy.
Washington has built great chemistry with Hasselbeck in very short time. There's no reason to think that chemistry isn't going to continue to grow.
In three games, Washington has 21 receptions and 258 yards.
Sure, Washington is no Britt, but he'll keep the Titans passing game from completely sinking.
The Titans will no longer be able to get away with Chris Johnson gaining less than two yards per carry. In fact, how the Titans are 2-1 with the way Johnson has played is a miracle on its own.
Defenses are going to continue to stack the box on Johnson and every yard is going to be tough. However, when you say you deserve top playmaker money, you find a way to gain yards.
If Johnson doesn't drastically improve, then this 2-1 start will end up being nothing but false hope much like last season's start was.
Johnson has a great opportunity here to prove to all the doubters that he's as valuable as he so arrogantly claimed he was.
He can't do it all on his own, but frankly he's contributing about as much to the running game as punter Brett Kern is contributing right now, and no, that's not sarcasm.
He's the franchise player and now he has to put his team on his back and help carry them to the playoffs.