The Titans draft and Kendall Wright’s replacement
Kendall Wright was an electric wide receiver his first couple of years. He would catch these 3-4 yard passes and scoot, slip, slide, wiggle, and burst to move the ball forward. He was a joy to watch. After most games, hindsight didn’t serve him so well. A team needs to move the ball more than a few yards with a wide receiver. He wasn’t a downfield deep threat and the Titans offense wound up quite congested and easy to defense. That offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains, left and has been replaced twice since. Wright didn’t play so well in either offense.
In Mularkey’s offense, there has been a huge gazelle with baseball mitts on one side and a regular sized wide receiver that can block and “do the dirty work” on the other. In the slot, he has had former quarterbacks, cat-quick guys, unusually tall players, and the stop on a dime precise route runner types. Over 20 years or so, he has had a type at each outside spot. In the slot, that’s where he had some variety. This is how he runs his offense. These are his types.
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Wright should have been a weapon in the slot in 2016. He should have been able to offer this variety. A defense dealt with Rishard Mathews, Tajae Sharpe, and Delanie Walker for a bit. Then it should have been “good luck covering him.” He’s a dynamic player. His presence should have forced defensive coordinators to sub and been fearful of their tired defenders keeping up with his quickness.
2016 didn’t go as planned in the slot, not at all. Wright was hurt for almost all of training camp. He got dinged up during the season also and missed some time. The year before, he got grief from Ken Whisenhunt for running the wrong routes. In 2016, Mularkey spoke of Wright’s route running.
Wright’s dynamic wiggle should have been used in the return game. He seemed to get that star’s treatment where he is exempt from playing special teams. He was in on returns about once a year, but that’s all. In my opinion, this was a mistake by all of his Titans coaches. He could have been quite a returner.
Mularkey’s slot will only get about 25 catches and 250 yards or so. It has almost never been a position that produced significant stats. Wright was one of the highest paid Titans last season. 25 catches does not warrant a seven million dollar per year contract.
Wright signed with the Chicago Bears. Many Titans fans seemed to appreciate Wright and hoped he’d return at a lesser salary. It’s really not that difficult for Titans GM Jon Robinson to replace Wright with someone quite similar.
There’s been a trend in football for as long as I can remember, where there were short quick guys. The last ten years or so, college coaches developed plays for them. These cat-quick short players were “extras” 20 years ago but, key cogs in today’s college game. There’s been Kendall and Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin and…last year’s exciting rookie, Tyreek Hill. These types have developed prominent roles in college football. In the NFL, their success has been limited. They all seem to have a game here and there that “wows” everyone, but they suffer being consistent week-in-week-out performers. The type is there though now and the game has developed this way.
Robinson can conceivably draft a new player, of this type, every year. While there is no need to draft as such, they are plentiful in this “meat market” that is the NFL draft.
The NFL salary system affords teams cheaper young players while the veterans rake in the money. If Robinson’s plan is to draft another Kendall, there’s an enormous savings in going with a draft choice rather than the veteran Wright.
Creative runner who makes tacklers miss. Determined and dogged competitor: Competes with anger, swagger and purpose. Mind-blowing burst and wiggle. Speed and quickness offset lack of elite size at 5’11”and 199 lbs. Big play wideout who also excels in the short and intermediate areas. Employs lethal double moves and drops hips to stop-and-start rapidly. Full-field vision: Seeks daylight and leaves defenders in wake. Electric tackle breaker with first-rate after-the-catch ability. Astounding acceleration and carries speed through tight breaks. Fights for football and steals it from opponents. Attacks corners and safeties and climbs over the top of the defense. Deadly on screen plays and superb on slant cuts with uber suddenness. Rarely gets caught from behind. Fights for additional yardage: Seldom brought down by one tackler. Can he separate from press coverage? Will bigger and stronger professional corners bully the former Bulldog? Smaller than ideal frame. Never competed against top-rated corners in C-USA. Needs to improve fundamentals. Projects as a slot receiver with potential to play on the outside.
Does that “sound” like a good replacement for Wright?
Here is another described by Laub:
Great athlete who is a quick-twitch homerun hitter. Explodes out of first step and gets immediate separation. Very good balance, vision, acceleration and feet. Stupendous cutting ability and dynamic in the open field. Loose hips and crisp feet: Shifty runner who easily changes direction and jukes and weaves through tacklers. Reaches a second gear in the open field. Works best on the edges and in space. Tremendous run-after-the-catch abilities. Thick build at 5’11” and 196 lbs. Best employed in the slot.
Watching Kendall Wright play, he couldn’t seem more special- that speed, those feet, wow. In reality though, a type has been developed. Those descriptions above are for Carlos Henderson and Curtis Samuel. I left the names out to prove a point. If us Titans fans could describe Wright, we probably would have used some of that very same wording; maybe even copied and pasted word for word.
Robinson hasn’t given any indication whether he will or won’t replace Wright. Many seem to adore Wright, so I’m addressing this topic. That’s all. We should expect Robinson to be quiet or coy over the next month. He’s not going to “show his hand” before the draft.