NFL Browns' exhibition opener tonight in Tennessee
Quarterback Jeff Garcia makes his debut with Cleveland.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Running the ball in the preseason used to be easy for the Tennessee Titans. Hand the ball off to Eddie George for a series, and worry more about injury than results.
Now George is in Dallas thanks to a tight salary cap, and the Titans are taking a different approach in their quest to know if Chris Brown is up to the task of replacing the franchise's all-time leading rusher.
The coaches would like to see Brown get up to eight carries tonight in the exhibition opener for the Titans and the Cleveland Browns. Any carries in the exhibition will be more than he had as a rookie in 2003 when a strained hamstring kept him off the field until October.
"Chris needs to play ball," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He hasn't played an awful lot. He missed last preseason, and he came in and played a little bit. But he needs to get ready to carry the load for us."
Brown, the Titans' third-round draft pick in 2003 out of Colorado, is ready to show the Titans and fans that he is durable and can do well when carrying the ball.
"It's always a help to make people have more confidence in you. I'm not worried about that. I'm just going out there knowing I can get the job done," Brown said.
The Titans know replacing George on the team won't be easy. He meant as much in the locker room as he did on the field, where he never missed a start in 128 games while racking up 10,009 yards, including 1,031 yards last season.
Brown has given tantalizing glimpses of speed, especially last January when he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored his first two NFL touchdowns. His teammates will be keeping an eye on how Brown fares now that he's listed as the starting running back.
"Can he carry the ball 25, 30 times like Eddie did?" Titans receiver Derrick Mason said. "There's a question mark over his head. I think the coaches want to really evaluate that and see if he's going to be the guy. As long as he stays healthy, I have no doubt Chris can run the ball 20, 30 times."
Seven-year veteran Antowain Smith will follow Brown into the game in his first test of how much he has learned of the Titans' offense since signing last month. He said he wants to get a feel for the offense and see what he knows of pass blocking and picking up blitzes.
Battle at running back
The Browns also are looking at their running backs closely with Lee Suggs and William Green trying to win the starting job. This will be the first game featuring new quarterback Jeff Garcia and may include rookie tight end Kellen Winslow who ended his holdout Wednesday.
"Hopefully, I will get a couple of reps here and there, but, I am not looking to start," Winslow said. "I am not looking to score five touchdowns or catch 10 balls. I just want to go out and do what I have to do."
Garcia wants a couple plays with Winslow, the sixth pick overall in the draft.
"I know we're going to get plenty of opportunities in practice. We're going to continue to grow. We have four weeks before our first regular season game, so that is a lot of time to be able to work together and to be able to get on the same page," Garcia said.