TE Jonnu Smith Needs to Take a Step Forward in 2018

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 19: Jonnu Smith
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 19: Jonnu Smith /

The off-season is time to reflect on the past and look towards the future. The tight end position is of great concern for the Tennessee Titans when looking at the future beyond 2018.

The initial thought is that the Tennessee Titans do not need to care much about the tight end position at the moment. That is safe to say as long as Delanie Walker continues to perform at a high level. The problem with that thinking is that Walker is on the wrong side of 30 and had a bit of a down season in 2017.

When looking strictly at the numbers, it is hard to tell that Walker did not perform to the best of his abilities. Also, it is important to keep in mind that Walker was fighting injuries for most of 2017. His most alarming stat is that he only had three receiving touchdowns in 2017. That number was four lower than in 2016.

It is safe to say that the Titans may move on from Walker when his contract ends at the end of the 2018 season. It may even be possible he becomes a cap casualty before the start of this season. Either way, the Titans need to look towards the future at the position, at least to have an insurance policy for Walker when they eventually move on from him.

Jonnu Smith

The best place to start is by looking at the person that was tagged the heir to the position. Jonnu Smith’s draft profile from NFL.com even had his player comparison listed as Walker. How fitting is it that Smith is the player that can actually take over for Walker in Nashville? The problem is that Smith did not show the promise Titans fans were looking for in his first season. At the ripe age of 22 years old, there is still a lot to learn for the young tight end. He has speed and pass-catching ability that can be easily compared to his veteran counterpart. Smith just needs to refine his skills and step up going forward.

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans /

Tennessee Titans

Smith caught 18 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. Those numbers do not inspire fans to think he can be the number one guy going forward. 2018 will be a year with a lot to prove for the top two tight ends on the roster. Smith needs to show enough promise to give Mike Vrabel and the coaching staff the confidence to go forward with him as the main tight end in 2019. He did not look bad in 2017, but much was left to be desired. Smith also needs to work on his blocking ability going forward. Even though TEs in the modern NFL do not need to be expert blockers, it makes them more versatile.


Another important note is that Smith will be coming off a torn MCL. He suffered this during the Titans’ playoff game against the New England Patriots. In all likelihood, he will be ready to go for Week 1 of the 2018 season. There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries, but he is expected to be back in time for the opener. The problem is how he will react to this injury. Smith has speed that may be limited because of the injury. Hopefully, he will be back to normal, but injuries are difficult to predict.

Jonnu Smith will be given every opportunity to succeed as a Tennessee Titan. He needs to take advantage of these opportunities or he could be just another castoff with a lot of potential. TItans tight ends like Bo Scaife, Jared Cook, Ben Troupe, and even Erron Kinney all had a ton of potential, but were not able to realize it beyond a few years. Cook and Troupe were athletic specimens that never panned out. It is way too early to say that Smith will never be a quality tight end in this league. He needs to keep working hard and hopefully will realize his potential, beginning next season.

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