Tennessee Titans positional analysis: WR

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We continue our preseason positional analysis with the much and often maligned wide receiver corps.
 
Although we know Fishball consists of running the football on offense and winning with defense and special teams, the Titans have been known to air it out on occasion. Will this year be one of those times? Kerry Collins will have two promising new wideouts to throw to, which may provide a reason to pass more this season. We’ll see.
 
Ten receivers are currently on the roster and I don’t see more than six of them making the 53-man roster, which Tom recently wrote about. If it was up to me, I’d only keep four. Barring injuries to the first four guys, nobody else is expected to be on the field much, so why keep more than four on the 53-man? The extra ones will just take up roster spots and then be inactive on Sundays. But injuries will happen, so if Fisher keeps a fifth guy, I won’t be too upset. Especially if the guy returns punts and/or kicks.
 
Actually, since two of the tight ends, Bo Scaife and Jared Cook, can line up in the slot or even split out, this lessens the need for another WR.

Three receivers are locks to make the team. One’s the only proven veteran, one is a high-priced free agent and the third is a first-round draft pick. The other WRs in camp will compete for the fourth, fifth and possibly sixth spots.
 
Justin Gage — He’s certainly found a home after being picked up off the proverbial scrap heap. Gage does present something of a deep threat with three seasons of a 17-yards or more per catch average but he’s not really the type to stretch the field. I’ll be happy if Nate Washington does that while Gage plays more like he did in 2008, when he was more of a possession receiver. 
 
Nate Washington — Don’t count me among those who will judge Washington on his stats. I know some people will say that unless he catches 80 balls for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns that his acquisition by the Titans was a mistake. Bull. I’ll be quite content if his numbers are more mediocre as long as his presence keeps defenses out of eight-man fronts. Wouldn’t you love to see just seven men in the box on the other side of the ball? I know Collins and Chris Johnson will and if that’s what happens then I’ll consider his addition to be very solid.
 
Kenny Britt — As a first-round draft pick in April, his roster spot is the third one at the position group guaranteed. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in preseason but at this time I’m just hoping Gage and Washington stay healthy so Britt can take his time developing, which is the norm for the ones who do develop.
 
Lavelle Hawkins — The Hawk has to be a slight favorite for the fourth roster spot, but that’s pretty much by default. Although he was a fourth-round draft pick who caught a lot of passes in college, he only had seven receptions last year. Still, he’s shown more upside than the guys behind him on the depth chart.
 
Chris Davis and Mark Jones each has a fairly good chance to make the team due to their punt return abilities. Jones did have a reputation in Carolina for not being much of a receiver. Same as Davis does here. I really don’t see both of them making the team. They’re essentially the same guy. If you have one you really don’t need the other.
 
Paul Williams is another returning veteran who hasn’t contributed yet. He and Davis supposedly improved this spring and summer but that’s not as important as what they do in preseason games. I’ll be surprised to see Williams make it.
 
Rookies Dominique Edison, Dudley Guice and Phillip Morris will all hope to latch on to the final spot, or more likely to be signed to the practice squad.
 
None of the returning veterans competing for roster spots – Hawkins, Davis or Williams – can block. I hope that Jones or one of the rooks isn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty and block someone. That ought to earn one of them a roster spot, in my opinion. And I’ll have a blocking WR to cheer for now that Justin McCareins is gone.
 
Finally, I won’t be surprised if the last receiver to make the team is someone who’s not in camp now. There will probably be some guys around the league who don’t survive the final cut who are better players than our fifth or sixth best WR.
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5 Responses to “Tennessee Titans positional analysis: WR”

  1. Bob Loblaw Says:

    I think that the intent has always been for Britt to be the #3, but I don’t see it panning out that way, at least not at first. He has missed most of OTAs, two practices and from what I heard, was unimpressive when he did participate in OTAs. On the other hand, Davis and Hawkins reportedly continue to look good, and Cook can be considered more of a slot receiver than TE at this point.
    I think you are right on the money about the value that Washington brings. With that said, I can foresee him dropping a deep pass or two that could be the difference in a game. Without Haynesworth, it will be more important that the Titans get a lead early and make the opponent one dimensional like they often did in ’03. Washington will be a key determinant of whether they are able to.

  2. BurheadTitans Says:

    I like what I’m hearing from Nate, he’s clearly standing out and actually showing he deserved that payday. From what I hear he is running good routes, has good technique, and understands the playbook and catching passes. He is also taking the younger guys aside and coaching them up which is what I like to see veterans do. Plus he seems like a nice guy, he stayed longer than anyone when his scheduled autograph session came up and was one of the few unscheduled guys to sign yesterday. #85 is really scoring points with me an a lot of other fans.
    I like hearing that Hawk is finally starting to get the light going in his head. I know he has the athletic capability to play receiver but last year the mental aspect wasn’t there. I do remember that sideline pass against Kansas City he caught stood out too me. I am hoping he gets some playing time this year.
    About Chris Davis, he had some good OTAs and training camp practices last year too if I’m not mistaken but it never materialized into game time play. So I wouldn’t count him to do anything yet.
    Aside from Britt the two other rookie receivers we have are who I am going to watch really close in preseason. Dominique Edison and Dudley Guice seem to me to be good receivers in waiting, they come from small schools and play against lesser talent but if you football skills I don’t care what level of opposition you play against you’ll be good. I am hoping that we score with these guys because both are big, tall, and fast receivers with what sounds to be good hands.
    Depending on how it shacks down I could actually see one of these two guys make the roster with the other going to the practice for a few years. I think Guice is reportedly the better of the two but who knows.
    Finally I wouldn’t rule out Mark Jones either. We all know he will be our primary kick and punt returner but from OTAs Dinger was impressed with his ability to catch the ball and make plays. He hasn’t done that a lot during his NFL career but we could throw off opposing defenses if we stuck Jones in there on some plays and allow him to make plays for us outside of the return game.
    For once in a long time I actually feel excited about our passing game. Feel free to offer your thoughts about this post.

  3. Scott Says:

    Andrew, I disagree with one of your observations and that is that Mark Jones and Chris Davis are essentially the same guy. While neither has shown much at receiver, Mark Jones has proven that he is a far superior returner than Davis. Jones doesn’t have the fumbling issues that Davis has had, and his return numbers last year were comparable to Chris Carr’s. If the competiton is between Jones and Davis for the fifth spot, Jones wins its hands down because of his return ability.
    I actually think there is a good chance they keep 6 receivers this year and that Davis could be that sixth guy. In some ways, I think the sixth receiver spot could be tied to the fourth running back spot. If Little proves that he can be an effective returner, and could take over if Jones were to go down with an injury, then the Titans might feel that they don’t need Davis. This also means Edison will probably end up on the practice squad, which is fine because even if he made the team as the sixth, he wouldn’t dress on most Sundays.

  4. Andrew Strickert Says:

    Guys, thanks for your thoughts and good words.
    Scott, you are absolutely right. You’re looking at the big picture and Jones’ track record indicates he has been the superior returner. I was guilty of just looking at the WR picture when I stated that Jones and Davis are the same.
    Actually, Davis has had a decent summer so far, for what that’s worth. I just don’t believe that’s too important — Mike Williams had good OTAs but didn’t do squat when they put the pads on.
    Speaking of which, they’re supposed to be fully padded for the first time tomorrow morning and will be wearing throwback helmets with the oil derricks too. I’ll be sure to get some photos of that. I’m stoked!

  5. Stemmer Says:

    The way I see it,Gage and Washington are the numero uno and duo receivers with Britt and Hawkins coming off the bench.Britt will in time be our number 1 receiver though. The 5th receiver spot will go to either Williams,or Davis and Jones takes the 6th spot because of superior return skills. Of Course Little and Ringer will also offer up some severe competition in the return game. Dominque Edison has the name to be a star and could be a diamond in the rough. He’ll spend time on the practice squad as might Dudley Guice…

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