Titans off-season evaluation: Wide receiver

Titans off-season evaluation: Wide receiver

With the 2016 season in the books for the Tennessee Titans, it is time to begin analyzing the roster for the coming season. TitanInsider.com will go through each position group to look at where the team is sound and where there are likely to be roster moves.

Wide receiver

This was another unit that was vastly improved in 2016, namely because of the addition of free agent Rishard Matthews and the drafting of rookie Tajae Sharpe.

Matthews had a career year after coming over from the Miami Dolphins, catching 65 passes for 945 yards with nine touchdown receptions. Matthews isn’t a true No. 1 receiver, who can take the top off a defense with speed, and he doesn’t stand 6-5 with the ability to consistently go over defensive backs to take the ball away. But he certainly made his share of highlight reel catches, and made the Titans’ investment of $15 million over three years look like a serious bargain.

The Titans also hit on Sharpe, who dazzled in training camp, preseason and the first couple of games, before declining a bit. Still, he ended up with 41 catches in his rookie season, the most by a Titans rookie wide receiver since Kendall Wright had 64 in 2012.

Speaking of Wright, he is headed out the door in free agency after slumping to a career-low 29 receptions in 2016. It was a disappointing end for a player, who showed great promise, catching 158 passes over his first two NFL seasons, only to be unable to find a consistent role in the offensive systems of Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey over his final three years.

While Wright fared better than most of the receivers the Titans have drafted in recent years, he still joins the likes of Tyrone Calico, Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham as highly drafted receivers who were not the long-term answer at receiver.

As for the other receivers in the pecking order, Harry Douglas has one more year remaining on his contract. The Titans like his ability to block in the run game, but had caught just 15 passes in 11 games. An upgrade there is possible. Tre McBride began the year on the practice squad before being promoted to the roster after Andre Johnson’s retirement. Also, there is Marc Mariani, who came in on a one-year deal, and is not likely to be back as the return man as the Titans may look to get younger and faster there.

Overall, the Titans have gotten better at the receiver position, thanks largely to Matthews. But they still have room for improvement going forward. There are also changes forthcoming in the coaching staff as Bob Bratkowski and assistant Jason Tucker were not retained.

Starters: Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe.

Backups: Kendall Wright (free agent), Harry Douglas, Tre McBride, Marc Mariani (free agent), Jonathan Krause, K.J. Maye.

Likelihood position is addressed in free agency: Good possibility, as the Titans are in need of at least two players at the position.

Likelihood position is addressed in the draft: Same as in free agency. If the answer can’t be found there, look for Jon Robinson to find help here.

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