When the Saints take the field this afternoon against the Tennessee Titans, they’ll be facing an opponent unlike any other they’ve faced this season. After only managing to win three out of twenty-three games in Nashville, the Titans decided to part ways with head coach Ken Whisenhunt this past Tuesday. To fill the void the front office turned to someone familiar to the Saints: former Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. While it’s unlikely that any major changes would be seen this Sunday with only a few days under their new leadership, Mularkey has promised changes are coming.
The one change that will definitely be taking place immediately involves the team’s play-calling on offense. Until now Whisenhunt handled all play-calling personally. With his departure from the team this will obviously change. However, Mularkey will not be taking over these duties like his predecessor. Instead he is entrusting them to offensive coordinator Jason Michael who has never before called a play. When asked about his decision to not handle the play-calling personally Mularkey replied that as a former head coach he already knew he would be busy enough overseeing all three phases of the game that he didn’t need the additional responsibility thrown into the mix.
Another area specifically mentioned as a target for change is the offensive line. Over the past several weeks a weak offensive line has proven even weaker following starting center Brian Schwenke’s season-ending leg injury. Backups Joe Looney and rookie Andy Gallik have performed rather poorly in their time filling in. As for the coming changes Mularkey was reluctant to get into specifics for competitive reasons but it’s believed that Tennessee could see lineup changes along their offensive line as early as this week. While any such changes would be aimed toward the long-term improvement of the team, they could also end up weakening the line as a whole for today’s game since offensive lines typically require time playing together in order to function well as a unit.
Behind their offensive line in flux is this year’s number two overall pick Marcus Mariota. While typically regarded as a running threat, Mariota is returning from two weeks away with a sprained MCL. When he takes the field today he’ll be wearing a brace to protect his injured knee indicating that it likely isn’t fully healthy and may well hinder his mobility. In addition to his knee problems, Mariota will also be hindered by the loss of his top wide receiver Kendall Wright.
On the opposite side of the ball, starting cornerback Jason McCourty and backup Blidi Wreh-Wilson will also be missing from the Tennessee lineup.
From turmoil on the sidelines to upheaval and injuries on the field, the Titans are in worse shape coming into today’s game than any other opponent the Saints have faced this season. Hopefully Drew Brees & Company can use this to their advantage and keep their current winning streak rolling. Saints Face Uniquely Challenged Opponent In Titans