August 09, 2020

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Titans training camp battle: Wide receiver

Titans training camp battle: Wide receiver

For almost as long as they have been the Tennessee Titans, this franchise has been searching for help at the wide receiver position.

Few times in the franchise’s time in Tennessee has it been able to boast of having two solid starting receivers, much less any depth for sub-packages or in the event of injury.

Once again heading into training camp, the Titans have question marks at the receiver position. There is such a question that the two starting receivers from OTAs and mini-camp weren’t even on the roster last year. Rookie Tajae Sharpe has been the talk of camp with his precise route running and solid hands. Now the pressure ramps up a notch as camp an preseason approach. The other starting receiver thus far has been free agent import Rishard Matthews, who is cut from the same cloth as Sharpe, in that route-running and good hands are his trademarks as well.

Other than how the pecking order shakes out, the other biggest issue is how many receivers will Mike Mularkey keep on the roster. Last year, Ken Whisenhunt kept only four receivers and opted to open the year with five tight ends instead.

Among the holdovers at the receiver position, two of them are in make-or-break years entering the final years of their contracts. Kendall Wright, once a promising star with 94 catches in 2013, has fallen off due to a change in the offense and injuries, slumping to 57 catches in ’14 and just 36 last year in an injury-plagued season. The Titans have told Wright that he must be more precise in his routes, and his role now looks to be as a slot receiver, which should help him.

The other player in make-or-break mode is Justin Hunter, whose athleticism has never translated into consistent playmaking. Hunter has also been bothered by injuries and is coming off a broken leg from 2015. While Hunter’s productivity has been inconsistent, he has too much talent to be turned loose on the street.

The wild-card in the receiver corps is second-year pro Dorial Green-Beckham, who caught 32 passes for 549 yards and four touchdowns as a very raw rookie. Mularkey has emphasized that DGB must become more of a student of the game and get himself in top shape. If those things happen, he has the physical size (6-5, 230) and skills to be a No. 1 type receiver. But, by pushing Sharpe and Matthews ahead of him on the depth chart, the Titans are showing that the spot won’t just be handed to DGB on talent alone.

If the Titans keep a sixth receiver, it could come down to veteran Harry Douglas or return man Tre McBride. The Titans like Douglas’ veteran leadership and what he brings in that regard, but that alone won’t be enough for a roster spot. Last year, Tennessee dropped veteran Hakeem Nicks at the end of camp.

McBride likely would have to win the kickoff return job in order to beat the odds, while another holdover from last year, Andrew Turzilli, faces even longer odds, and would start the year on suspension from a PED violation, if he sticks on the roster.

The numbers at receiver are stronger than a year ago, which should make for more production. But camp will be interesting to see just how the pecking order shakes out at a position where stability has eluded the Titans over the years.

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