Tight end is a position that usually has been a rock for the Tennessee Titans.
Whether it was the early days of the team’s tenure with Frank Wycheck, or more recently with the accomplishments of Delanie Walker, the Titans’ tight ends have established themselves as go-to receivers.
Even in between those two Pro Bowl players, the Titans have managed to get decent contributions from tight ends like Jared Cook, Bo Scaife, Erron Kinney, Ben Troupe, Jackie Harris and Craig Stevens.
It’s a good thing too, because it has helped to offset the lack of consistency at wide receiver that has plagued the Titans for most of their existence in Tennessee.
Currently, Walker still looks to be at the top of his game, even as he turns 34 next month. Walker, who has made three straight Pro Bowls since turning 30, caught 74 passes for 807 yards last year with three touchdowns. The only questions with Walker are how long will he continue to perform at a Pro Bowl level, and how willing are the Titans to keep him around as he enters the twilight of his career. Walker is entering the final year of his current contract this season, meaning the team will have to make some sort of decision on his future this year.
Some of that might hinge on the man that was drafted to be his eventual replacement – Jonnu Smith. Smith caught 18 passes as a rookie, playing the second tight end role in the offense, which meant learning the ropes not only as a pass catcher, but also handling the blocking assignments as well. Smith probably has more of an acumen long-term as a pass-catching tight end in the mold of Walker, rather than serving as an end-line blocker trying to fill the void of Stevens or Anthony Fasano.
Speaking of blocking, the Titans addressed that issue late in the season when they signed Luke Stocker off the scrap heap after he had been let go by Tampa Bay. Stocker figures to continue in that role this year as primarily a blocking tight end.
The other tight end in the mix is Phillip Supernaw, who serves as a backup at both tight end spots and also is a core special teams player. Supernaw missed all of the OTA and mini-camp work this year due to an undisclosed injury.
Roster long shots in camp this year are rookie Ethan Wolf, who played at the University of Tennessee. Others vying for a chance are practice squad holdover Tim Semisch and street free agent Anthony Firkser.
In final analysis, basically, the Titans will be strong at tight end as long as Walker remains productive and healthy. The biggest things to watch for other than Walker’s play will be how much Smith can improve in year two and what type of role Supernaw might have as a fourth tight end, especially if the Titans go with more three-receiver sets this year rather than two tight ends.