Returning to practice today and expected to play Sunday vs the Raiders is Titans Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker. His presence offers a big challenge to a Raiders defense that has been having significant issues covering the tight end of late.
Last season when facing the Raiders, Walker caught six passes for 91 yards. It was one of six times last season Walker surpassed 90 yards receiving en route to his team-leading 1088 receiving yards and thus earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Walker already leads the Titans in receiving over the first two games this season. He has 9 catches for 125 yards and one of just four Titans touchdowns. He is a great weapon for them and the Raiders will have their work cut out for them trying to stop him.
“That guy’s a good player, man,” said Jack Del Rio. “He’s one of these guys that can be a mismatch in the secondary. He’s big enough to cause problems for safeties, and he’s fast enough to cause problems for linebackers. It’s hard to put a corner on him all the time. He’s a good player. I have a lot of respect for his game. He’s been a good player for a number of years.”
Del Rio went on to say he and the Raiders defense will give Walker “the attention he deserves.”
If you go by what we saw early last season and the 10 catches for 181 yards they gave up to tight ends last week against the Falcons, the Raiders have a big problem on their hands. A frustrated Bruce Irvin was asked what the issue was last week with covering the tight end.
“I don’t know, communication?” said Irvin after the team’s loss to the Falcons Sunday. “We didn't play the defense we were taught. We’re not on the same page and it’s showing. We went from a bad performance to an even worse performance. It’s up to the guys in this locker room to turn this around. If not, this is what we’re going to get every week.”
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said this week that despite the Raiders’ obvious deficiencies covering the tight end, he and the Titans staff won’t be putting more emphasis on getting that part of the offense.
We’re always trying to get Delanie the ball,” said Mularkey. “There’s no big secret about it. Defenses know that’s the case. If they take him away, in some instances he’s been eliminated because of the coverage, then we have guys now that we can get the ball in their hands and make a difference.”
And therein lies the rub. If the Raiders sell out to stop Walker, that too may be playing right into the Titans’ hands as it will open up other areas. That’s what good weapons do. They either burn you personally, or they force you to overcommit which allows other players to bite you. Like the running backs, for instance.