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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  1. EO

    Will be interesting to see how Robinson addresses the position. He may see value in taking another Dolphin WR in Kenny Stills, who ran 4.38 coming out of college and good YPC in NO & MIA.

  2. Fred Friendly

    One of the things that I find interesting, yet it’s almost never mentioned in draft/free agency articles is team chemistry.
    Do you ever wonder why some blue chip prospects don’t work out? Every draft there are usually 3-4 first rounders who are out of the league at the end of their rookie contracts.
    Every offseason there are highly touted veterans who switch teams that don’t pan out.
    Of course there are a myriad of factors involved. (Injury, drugs, weapons charges, domestic violence charges, etc…the list of potential factors is enormous). I’m not saying there isn’t. But TALENT just doesn’t disappear. I’m just saying that team chemistry is rarely mentioned. For example, why did Rishard Matthews/DeMarco Murray/Ben Jones flourish in Tennessee? Why did Parish Cox bomb? They were all highly regarded, talented free agents.
    Why did Jack Conklin have an All Pro year as a rookie? Yet Chance Warmack (a 1st round draft pick out of Alabama) has yet to even scratch his potential?
    Talent doesn’t disappear like that.
    Circumstances take hold. And I think chemistry is a huge, yet unnamed factor.
    Here’s why I bring this up:
    The Titans are a very young team with a new culture of effort, accountability and winning. And they are a team that has bought into Coach Mularkey’s vision. So bringing in a soft spoken, future hall-of-famer like Andre Johnson was nothing but positive. Every young receiver on the team praised his professionalism and commented how much they learned from him. But when I read various articles talking about bringing someone like Alshon Jeffrey here to Tennessee, I just moan with despair. Alshon Jeffrey is a cancer. The same will another free agent wide receiver– DeSean Jackson.
    There’s some big name free agent receivers.
    And some big name free agent cornerbacks.
    But because the Titans are mostly building something from the ground up with a lot of young talent that is growing as a TEAM…Jon Robinson needs to be extra judicious in free agency.
    The last couple years have been outstanding in the draft. The Titans have found exceptional core players. Let’s keep that up!!!
    But when we hit the free agent market (which of course we will), let’s be aware of chemistry…and how that potential veteran acquisition will mesh.
    Very, very important.
    The Titans are going to the playoffs next season. And possibly the Super Bowl in 2-3 years. Can’t afford to bring on board anyone who doesn’t buy into the Titans new culture.
    That’s all.


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