Tennessee Titans: Who can help the most by getting healthy?

NASHVILLE — For injured players, this week’s opening date on the Tennessee Titans schedule didn’t make a big difference.

“They have a responsibility to the football team that when they can’t play and do their job, they stay here and get treatment,” coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. “I don’t think they’re going to have much vacation.”

The hope, however, is that next week’s return to work will close the book on many of these players. At the moment, there are 11 injured on reserve and – technically speaking – all of them are eligible to return at some point. The reality is guys like outside linebacker Harold Landry and left tackle Taylor Lewan are out for the season.

Vrabel declines to discuss player recovery timelines, but there’s an undeniable sense that the open date is an opportunity to get healthy and regroup for what’s to come. Those who have already run out of time have an extra week to regain their health without missing another contest.

Here’s a look at the five players currently on injured reserve whose return to the active roster could be most helpful as the Titans look to build on their three-game winning streak:

• Elijah Molden, BC: Roger McCreary was solid but unspectacular as a cornerback, where Molden specialized as a rookie last season. The problem is that McCreary starts on the outside and moves to the slot in most personnel packages that require additional defensive backs. When he does that, someone has to take his place on the outside, and so far Caleb Farley, Terrance Mitchell and Tre Avery have been – at best – inconsistent or – at worst – downright unreliable there.

Molden missed almost all of training camp and preseason. So it’s not like the coaches haven’t had time to adjust to his absence. At this point, it’s clear the defense just can’t get enough of him. When (if he does) it will keep McCreary on the outside in front of Kristian Fulton, and chances are Molden will be even better in the slot than McCreary has been. In other words, Molden’s return can’t come soon enough for a secondary that’s given up way too many big plays.

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Treylon Burks, WR: The first-round pick seemed to be gaining momentum when he was injured two weeks ago in Indianapolis. Even after missing Washington’s game, he’s still tied for third on the team (second among wide receivers) with 10 receptions. His 129 receiving yards are third on the team and his 12.9 yards per catch are second among all Titans with more than one reception.

His return is not imminent. He will have to sit out at least three more games with a turf toe problem. Without him, the offense will be different because there is no one in the wide receiver group with a comparable combination of size and ability to chase after the catch. So his return will be an important development for the attack, whenever it happens.

Jamarco Jones, OL: A free agent addition, Jones was expected to compete for a starting job at right tackle and/or left guard, but multiple injury issues kept him from becoming a factor in either location. Already in the first five weeks, Lewan lost a knee injury and right guard Nate Davis missed a game. Dennis Daley replaced Lewan, and the transition was hardly seamless. Potential tackle Dillon Radunz replaced Davis.

It’s still hard to say exactly what the Titans have in Jones, but if he can get healthy, there’s still an opportunity to make an impact. Either he can replace Daley, he can become the swing tackle, he can be a proven substitute on the inside or all of the above. The offensive line needs help, and Jones just might be the guy to provide it.

Racey McMath, WR: McMath was arguably the most enjoyable story of training camp, as he made catches fairly consistently deep in the court and showed he had improved – in many ways – during his rookie season. . Already outstanding on special teams, he even showed skill as a kick-off returner during pre-season.

It’s no secret that the offense needs a wide receiver with the speed to emphasize a defense, which is exactly how coaches used McMath during the preseason. Practice squad guys Josh Gordon and Dez Fitzpatrick had chances but delivered nothing. Also, kickoff returning man Trenton Cannon is out for the year with an injury. While rookie running back Hassan Haskins filled that role, coaches might still want to take a look at McMath there.

Chance Campbell, ILB: The sixth-round draft pick was one of the quickest of the preseason. He got a ton of playing time and even relayed calls from coordinator Shane Bowen at times. At no point did he seem overwhelmed, and it became clear that his rookie season would not be all he did on special teams.

The return of Monty Rice last week helped, but with Zach Cunningham’s recent issues (he missed two games with an elbow injury) the focus on inside linebacker depth continued. With or without Cunningham, Campbell’s return will provide a clear pecking order there and allow coaches to focus more on matchups as needed.