It’s no secret that the Tennessee Titans have spent countless hours in scouting and millions of dollars in guaranteed money in an attempt to upgrade their receiving weapons, dating back to their inaugural season in 1999.
In fact, the Titans drafted a wide receiver or tight end in 17 of their 20 seasons since relocating to Nashville. Three receivers were taken in the first round.
2018 was not one of those years, even though no receiver caught more than 55 balls, amassed at least 800 yards, or scored at least 5 touchdowns in 2017.
This may seem surprising given the competitive nature of general manager Jon Robinson, who is constantly looking for ways to upgrade the roster.
But this time he weighed extenuating circumstances over stats, and as a result, the much-maligned group has a chance at redemption in 2018.
Corey Davis, last year’s fifth overall pick, looks to redeem himself after an injury-plagued 2017 campaign. Davis missed the combine, rookie camp, OTAs, training camp, and the preseason with an assortment of nagging injuries.
His debut came in the regular season opener, a less than ideal way to start his pro career.Embed from Getty Images
Davis’ best performance came in the final game of the season when he hauled in two touchdowns in a blowout loss to New England in last year’s divisional playoff round. It was the healthiest Davis had been the entire year.
Now healthy and a full participant in the offseason program (along with quarterback Marcus Mariota), Davis gets his chance to prove that he is worthy of such a lofty pick and capable of being the number one option the Titans envisioned when they selected him.
Taywan Taylor (WR) and Jonnu Smith (TE) were both selected in the third round last year and showed flashes during training camp and the preseason as being ready to contribute right away.
Former head coach Mike Mularkey didn’t share that sentiment when the games counted, however.Embed from Getty Images
A healthy Taylor was relegated to the back of a milk carton for much of the season, a head-scratching development given his speed and ability to stretch a defense…a dynamic the Titans’ offense sorely missed last season.
Taylor was targeted just 27 times in 2017, even though he was second on the team in yards per catch (14.4) with 9 of his 16 catches resulting in a first down.
A healthy Smith, who was also brought in to stretch the seams of a defense with his speed and agility, was targeted just 30 times in 2017. Another head-scratching move by the former coaching staff.
Tennessee’s inability to replicate the smash mouth run game that made them so successful in 2016, coupled with the former coaching staff’s unwillingness to adapt, ultimately led to their departure a day after the 2017 season ended.
Robinson, who is as hands-on as any front office executive in the league, assessed the situation and determined that his 2017 receiver group was not used to their capability or put in situations to succeed.
Now the receivers have an opportunity to flourish under a new offensive coordinator in Matt LaFleur. He was responsible for turning an anemic Los Angeles Rams offense in 2016 into the highest scoring offense in the league last season.
And they accomplished that feat with no All Pro or Pro Bowl receivers on their roster.
Tennessee’s receivers know the pressure is on them now after receiving a vote of confidence from Robinson, and by all accounts they appear ready to embrace that challenge in 2018.