Training camp is now 32 days away for the Tennessee Titans, and as we continue our countdown we preview the tight ends today.
Other than quarterback, no other position is more dependent on the production of one player than Tennessee’s tight ends, and the Titans are lucky that Delanie Walker is that player.
At 32, the ageless wonder continues to produce at a high level for Tennessee’s offense. In fact, an argument can be made that he is getting better with time.
Walker has amassed more receptions and receiving yards in his last three years with the Titans than his previous nine seasons combined.
Already a favorite of quarterback Marcus Mariota, Walker will be given every opportunity for the rare Three-Peat after notching back to back Pro Bowl seasons in 2015 and 2016.
And this season he has more weapons around him than at any point since joining the Titans in 2013.
The acquisition of receivers Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Eric Decker should alleviate some of the pressure on Walker to be the sole threat in the passing game, and as a result his numbers could dip. But on the flip side his matchups should be more favorable this season as his supporting cast garners more attention from opposing defensive coordinators.
The question heading into camp is depth at the position.
Tennessee lost two solid role players in backups Craig Stevens (retired 2016) and Anthony Fasano (left via free agency 2017) the last two seasons. And while they offered little in terms of the passing game, both were willing and capable blockers in the run game.
Jonnu Smith was selected in the third round of this year’s draft to serve as Walker’s primary backup, and his development (or lack thereof) is critical to the position’s overall success this year.
While Smith is not as physical at the point of attack as his predecessors, he is faster and more athletic than Stevens and Fasano…making him another potential weapon in the passing game for Mariota.
It will be interesting to see how the Titans utilize their backups during training camp, especially in obvious run situations. Phillip Supernaw was re-signed this offseason and is built in the mode of Stevens and Fasano….a big physical straight line player that doesn’t mind mixing it up.
Few teams use multiple tight end sets more than the Titans, but Supernaw and Smith bring different skill sets to the table.
Will the Titans tip their hand with their personnel? It’s no secret that Supernaw caught just four balls last season, so seeing him in the lineup on first and ten almost screams run.
Hopefully that won’t be an issue for Tennessee this season if Smith shows that he can handle his own in that area.
And that’s worth following this summer when camp begins.