TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: WIDE RECEIVERS
In camp: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor, Harry Douglas, Eric Weems, Tre McBride, Jonathan Krause, Darius Jennings, KeVonn Mabon, Mekale McKay, Giovanni Pascascio
Offseason developments: The Titans used the fifth overall pick of the NFL Draft to select Davis, the big and talented receiver from Western Michigan. Davis was slowed early in the offseason while recovering from an ankle injury, but he looked good when the handcuffs came off. The Titans also drafted Taylor, who starred at Western Kentucky, in the third round. Taylor turned in an impressive offseason, and caught the attention of his veteran teammates. Following June’s minicamp, the Titans signed Decker, a seven-year veteran who’s played with the Jets and the Broncos. Matthews, the team’s top receiver a year ago, was steady during the offseason while working with the 1s. Not all was smooth here, though. After a nice start to the offseason, Sharpe suffered a foot injury that required surgery. Coaches hope he’ll be ready for the start of camp, but some uncertainty surrounds his status. Weems, a special teams ace from the Falcons a year ago, was added to the group in free agency and he’s looking to stick while competing with other returners in Douglas and McBride. The Titans opted not to re-sign Kendall Wright, and he signed with the Bears. Another big change here came when Frisman Jackson was hired as the team’s receivers coach. Jackson has been preaching a no-nonsense, no-excuses approach, and players have bought in.
In the spotlight: Davis. The Titans picked Davis early because they wanted to give Marcus Mariota a big-time weapon, and seeing Davis snatch footballs out of the air and run in June brought a smile to the quarterback’s face. Davis is capable of winning one-on-one battles by running past defenders, or by outmuscling them for jump-balls. He hasn’t put on the pads yet in the NFL or faced savvy cornerbacks, so he’ll have something to prove in his rookie season. At 6-3, 209 pounds he looks the part, however, and the team thinks he’ll play it very well.Battle to watch: Decker vs. Taylor. Let me say this out of the gate: Decker wasn’t signed because Taylor was floundering. I’ve listed Taylor as one of the most pleasant developments of the offseason. But Decker’s presence could certainly have an impact on Taylor’s reps – and others – during camp
and beyond. Decker is a savvy route-runner who has excelled in the slot because he knows how to get to the open space in the defense. Taylor will benefit from being around Decker. Both receivers are capable of lining up at multiple positions, so I think both will play plenty of snaps, sometimes at the same time. Count me among those curious to see how playing time plays out for a lot of guys, not just these two.Keep an eye on: Sharpe. The Titans are counting on Matthews and Davis to play. Decker and Taylor figure to be in the rotation as well. In many ways, that leaves Sharpe as a forgotten man. I suspect the fifth-round pick out of Massachusetts is using that as even more motivation. But Sharpe has plenty to prove himself. He’s coming off foot injury, and a rookie year when he was quiet down the stretch. Sharpe needs to first prove he’s healthy. After that, can he make enough plays to keep himself in the mix in his second NFL season?
Next up: Tight ends.