Big Tall Fast is on the agenda for 2017
First of all, let’s make some assumptions that aren’t necessarily true for the sake of discussion. Coach Mike Mularkey cuts all the players. General Manager Jon Robinson adds all the players. Salaries are irrelevant for depth players since the Titans maintain such a deficit underneath the salary cap.
The Titans had 12 wide receivers in camp and this number was maintained after roster moves. That’s an unusually high number. It’s assumed that some of the logic to this is to simply have enough bodies for drills. Amidst the twelve, it seemed they had a type at wide receiver.
Amidst the twelve, it seemed they had a type at wide receiver- big, tall, fast. Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham were technically depth. Hunter was a high draft pick with blazing speed and terrific “ups.” DGB was (complimentary) an athletic freak. Ben Roberts was a former baseball player. He didn’t particularly score well in 40 times, yet seemed to close on the ball very fast much like an outfielder would. Andrew Turzilli was the fastest wide receiver 6 foot 4 inches or taller in the 2015 draft. Jarrod West was a big wide receiver from Syracuse that was in the Titans camp each of the last two years. Reece Horn was the son of Joe Horn and had interned in Colts camp the year before.
The prior list amounts to half of the wide receivers-six of twelve. It seems evident they had a type.
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During the spring and summer, the discussion was about the deep ball. Quarterback Marcus Mariota needed to improve his deep ball. The team needed to capitalize on defenses “caught sleeping” or loading up to stop the run. Many fans that attended the offseason activities tweeted about the big plays the Titans wide receivers made with the deep pass.
Technically Ben Roberts made the Titans roster. One day later he was cut. Other sites display this, while the Titans website has an error showing him cut on “cutdown day” and a day later. Naturally, he wasn’t cut two days in a row.
Tre McBride was cut on cutdown day and signed to the Titans practice squad three days later. Again, there’s a discrepancy on the Titans site, but this can be verified with other sites.
Rishard Matthews was “cream of the crop” type of wide receiver. He was a #1, the elite. He was in his own type group.
Tajae Sharpe had beaten out Kendall Wright for the slot position in minicamp and then proceeded to take DGB’s spot on the outside. At this point, Wright moved back into the slot role. Wright was backed up by Harry Douglas. McBride would show significant improvement and there was some debate whether Douglas or McBride was third in the slot. There was also debate as to whether Sharpe, a fifth-round rookie, would remain as the outside starter. Wright was exceptionally quick, otherwise, these slot wide receivers were similar.
Andre Johnson was big but not fast, a future hall-of-famer. The team seemed to love the idea of having him around for a myriad of reasons. He too was his own type.
This can be summarized as Andre, Matthews, slot-type, and big-tall-fast.
Coach Mularkey decided to keep Andre, Matthews, and three slot types. He preached of consistency all offseason. The Titans had prior issues of wide receivers with too many drops and these three were likely thought of as reliable. None of these wide receivers played special teams
None of these wide receivers played special teams. Over the course of 2016, this wide receiver corps would total 10 snaps on special teams.
As mentioned earlier, McBride was cut and signed to the practice squad. He would be promoted to the active roster and also Andre would retire.
Now the Titans are up to four of the same slot wide receiver type and Matthews. They went all of the 2016 season without the big tall fast type.
For 2017, it seems safe to assume they will be adding a big tall fast type. For whatever reasons, Mularkey didn’t retain the ones he had.
Confirmation of sorts-
In the very first presser of the offseason, coach Mularkey discussed adding speed outside. Rishard Matthews was also quoted as discussing this on the Titans site.
Extra consideration- One or two wide receivers will probably be asked to play special teams in 2017. That’s very common in the NFL. Marc Mariani was not considered a wide receiver, but a return specialist for this blog post.