NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It was just a couple of years ago that there was little doubt about the Tennessee Titans‘ future at wide receiver, spearheaded by A.J. Brown who was seemingly on his way to putting his name all over the franchise’s all-time receiving record book.
That came to an end when Brown was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022 in exchange for the 18th and 101st overall picks in that year’s draft. In turn, the Titans used the 18th pick to select Treylon Burks, who is now the next receiver charged with leading the group.
Burks showed promise during a stellar two-game stretch last season as a rookie in which he produced three of the Titans’ 11 receptions of 40 yards or more. Burks caught seven passes for 111 yards in a 27-17 win over the Green Bay Packers, including a 51-yard reception against premiere cornerback Jaire Alexander. He also hauled in four receptions for 70 yards the following week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Burks checked into OTAs this offseason with a noticeably leaner build and intensified swagger. Burks said he is in great shape and feels better this season simply because he can breathe, suggesting that issues with asthma and struggles with conditioning from the start of the previous offseason were a thing of the past.
“Treylon’s grown a lot,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “He’s flying around and moving fast, playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
It shows in the plays that he made during OTAs and minicamp whether it was a jumping catch over a defensive back in the end zone or racing behind the defense for a deep pass.
Although Burks brings potential, Tennessee’s receiver group might best be described as unproven.
Tennessee’s only significant offseason additions to the receiver corps included drafting Colton Dowell in the seventh round and signing free-agent wideout Chris Moore. Moore’s seven NFL seasons immediately make him the elder statesman in the room.
Second-year receiver Kyle Philips showed promise during training camp as a rookie but only played four games because of shoulder and hamstring injuries. The Titans like his short-area quickness which helps him get open as a slot receiver.
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine will compete for one of the outside spots, but he only caught 25 of the 50 targets that came his way last season. Injuries have also hampered Racey McMath‘s quest to become the deep threat the team hopes he can become.
Help could be on the way if the Titans are able to land free agent DeAndre Hopkins whom they hosted on a visit earlier this month. The visit went well and Tennessee believes they have a legitimate chance at signing the five-time Pro Bowl receiver.
Hopkins’ career totals in receptions (853), receiving yards (11,298) and receiving touchdowns (71) are more than every player on the Titans roster combined, including running backs and tight ends. Adding Hopkins to the room would surely bolster the group and take pressure off Burks while providing him with a proven veteran to learn from.
However, Burks isn’t putting all of his eggs in the Hopkins basket yet.
“It would be fun to play with him,” Burks said. “So if we ended up getting him, we get him. If we don’t, we don’t. No offense to him. He’s a great player. But I like playing with who we have here.”
A look at various preseason publications and rankings present a bleak outlook on Tennessee’s receiver group. For example, ESPN’s Mike Clay has the Titans slotted as the worst receiver group in the league.
“I don’t listen to any of that,” Moore said during minicamp. “It’s just people’s opinions who aren’t in this building and don’t see what goes on every day.”
The group has already learned to hold each other accountable to perform at a high level. But they also emphasize the importance of not putting too much pressure on anyone while focusing on just having fun.
New Titans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will be tasked with finding a way to maximize the talent that is currently on the roster. Kelly’s confidence in the receiver group comes from how he’s seen them make plays in big games.
“You want to talk about Nick Westbrook-Ikhine? You can go watch the [Washington] Commanders film last year when he went up and made a huge play for us,” Kelly said during OTAs. “You want to talk about Kyle Philips? You can go watch the New York Giants film when he made a play to put us in position to win a game.
“Treylon Burks? You can go and watch the Cincinnati Bengals game when he went over the top on the deep ball. Turn on the Cowboys game and watch Racey [McMath]. There’s enough examples of all these guys making plays at this level.”
Despite the possibilities that the Titans may have, only three teams finished with less passing yards than the 3,227 they had last season, and Tennessee’s 16 passing touchdowns were tied for the third-lowest in the NFL.
However, the Titans know they aren’t defined by statistics. As Moore put it: “If we’re winning games, it doesn’t matter what the numbers are.”
Source : ESPN