We continue our Tennessee Titans countdown to training camp today with a look at the wide receiver position.
Key 2015 Departures:
Shawn Jefferson (Wide Receivers Coach)
Key 2016 Additions:
Rishard Matthews (free agent)
Tajae Sharpe (rookie 5th round pick)
Tennessee’s wide receivers were a mirror image of their running backs in 2015…injured and inconsistent throughout the season.
The Titans were 21st in the league in receptions last year, and those numbers were skewed by Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker’s team leading 94 catches. The running backs chipped in with an additional 67 receptions of their own.
Tennessee’s top two draft picks at the position, Kendall Wright (1st round) and Justin Hunter (2nd round), bear the brunt of the blame for the unit’s woes last season, even if wasn’t entirely their fault.Embed from Getty Images
They missed a combined 13 games last year due to injury, and when they were healthy, they failed to live up to their lofty draft statuses.
Wright and Hunter are both in the last year of their rookie contracts, and both will enter training camp under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform at a high level.
Rookie second round pick Dorial Green-Beckham was the most productive receiver for the Titans last season, leading the unit in receiving yards (549), yards per catch (17.2), and touchdowns (4).Embed from Getty Images
He also led all receivers in frustrating the coaching staff, which is to be expected after missing an entire year of football while serving a season-long suspension at Oklahoma prior to declaring for the 2015 draft.
Tre McBride, Tennessee’s 7th round pick, failed to make an impression as a rookie receiver and return man in limited action late in the year.
Veteran free agent acquisition Harry Douglas was steady (36 rec, 411 yds, 2tds), but lacked the atleticism to turn the routine play into a big one.
Tennessee is now hoping that the new additions to their coaching staff can help this unit reach their full potential.
New offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie spent the last 8 years in Atlanta serving as the Falcons’ wide receivers coach, and Bob Bratkowski replaces Shawn Jefferson as the Titans’ wide receivers coach. He brings 21 years of NFL coaching experience to the staff.
In addition to the new coaches, the Titans also brought in free agent Rishard Matthews, and drafted Tajae Sharpe in the 5th round of this year’s draft.Embed from Getty Images
Matthews recorded 43 catches for 662 yards last season in Miami (which would have led all Titans receivers), but it was his physicality as a blocker in the run game that makes him a perfect fit for what the Titans are trying to accomplish on offense this year.Embed from Getty Images
Sharpe led the nation in receptions last season, and made an immediate name for himself during Tennessee’s rookie and mini-camps this spring. So much so that he was running with the first team when the Titans held their last camp with the veterans several weeks ago.
With a new run-first philosophy on offense, and a new position coach, the battle for the top two wide receiver spots should be one of the most entertaining of all the camp battles.
Wright and Matthews figure to start atop the depth chart, with Sharpe and DGB nipping at their heels.
With a history of production with Robiskie while in Atlanta, Douglas should be a safe bet to earn a roster spot, but the same can not be said for Hunter and McBride.
If Tennessee elects to only keep four receivers, as they did last year, then the latter two could be in serious trouble without a spectacular showing in training camp and preseason games.