Carolina Panthers

Titans look at former Panther as mentor

CHARLOTTE -- Perhaps, as a sports town, we've grown up.

After all, the Carolina Panthers will get a look at their first-ever draft pick, who became public enemy number one, and it's barely causing a ripple.

Kerry Collins, the Panthers' first-rounder in the inaugural 1995 draft who quit on them less than four years later, now serves as the Tennessee Titans' backup quarterback.

His teams have gone against the Panthers three times before, but he didn't play when New Orleans visited Charlotte in 1998 (though he did get arrested after the game), and he was injured and unable to make the 2003 game at the New York Giants, which the Panthers won en route to the Super Bowl.

The only time he played against them, he had a so-so game with the Oakland Raiders in 2004, but still sent the Panthers to their sixth straight loss of their 1-7 start that year.

He's long since given up the drinking that nearly ruined his career, has been through the starting phase, and has settled in comfortably as Vince Young's backup. He started the first three games of last season for the Titans (losing them all) before passing the torch to Young.

But he was called on two weeks ago, subbing for an injured Young and helping them hold onto a wild win at Houston.

And as amazing as it might be to those who watched him with his first team, he's being hailed as a soothing presence for the super-talented second-year quarterback.

"Kerry has been very professional," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said last week. "We put him in a tough position last year. He came in and played a little bit in the fourth and final pre-season game and then we started him in the season opener. He got better as time went on over a period of two or three weeks. I thought he had his best game despite the fact that we lost in Miami. At that time we felt Vince was in position to take over. Kerry knew when he came in here that at some point Vince was going to get the keys and he was going to be a backup. He has handled it very well, he is very good with Vince and they are close.

"They work well here. He is enjoying his role here; he is a competitor in that he would prefer to play but he understands the situation. It is good to have him if there is a problem. Kerry showed in Houston that he could still make the big play and win ball games for you."

• D GETTING STINGIER: Take away last week's snowball-rolling-downhill second half against Indianapolis, and the Panthers' defense has been pretty salty the last three games.

The Colts had been held to just six three-and-out possessions in the six games before coming to Charlotte (two others were interrupted by interceptions on the third play).

The Panthers appeared on their way to matching that, holding them to three such drives (and another where they forced a fumble on the second play) in the first half alone.

Tennessee's a much better matchup for them, but they need to play the way they did for the 10 quarters prior to last week's meltdown to be successful.

• MORE FOR DeANGELO: The Panthers are entrenched with starter DeShaun Foster, and they know they want to run the ball consistently today. But if they're smart, they'll make sure DeAngelo Williams gets a few more touches.

Last week against Oakland, the Titans surrendered 92 yards on 27 carries, just the second time all year they've allowed more than 90. But the division of labor was telling.

Their change-of-pace guy, the taller but quicker Justin Fargas, ran 12 times for 61 yards. Meanwhile, their starter, the shorter but more powerful Lamont Jordan, ran 12 times for 16.

It's not that Foster's without burst, but if they can get Williams to be decisive hitting the hole, they could find the relative weakness of the Titans' defense.

For the season, Foster's gotten 56.3 percent of the carries (116), while Williams has 28.2 percent of the totes (58).

• EXTRA POINTS: Interesting part of all this week's rancor about Dwayne Jarrett -- he's probably farther away from getting a uniform today than closer.

With Adam Seward back from his persistent calf injury, there's another healthy special teamer who'll go on the 45-man active roster. That's another spot Jarrett won't occupy. ...

With today's trip, the Panthers will have played in each NFL city. The last time they played at the franchise they're visiting today, they were the Houston Oilers, in their swan song 1996 season.

Denver's the only team in the league that hasn't played in Charlotte, and they're scheduled to come here next season.