Though Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis have lacked chemistry in preseason action, fans should not jump to conclusions just yet.
After a 2017 campaign marred by a nagging hamstring injury, WR Corey Davis only put up 375 yards with no touchdowns. The Western Michigan product did not play at anywhere near the level that the No. 5 overall selection would be expected to perform. However, making the jump from Western Michigan to the NFL is a tall task for any player; especially for a young receiver who missed an offseason of acclimation and received few opportunities to build chemistry with QB Marcus Mariota.
Davis left Titans fans with a view of his sky-high potential in the team’s playoff loss against the New England Patriots with a 63-yard, two-touchdown game. Now, in a sleek, new offense with an offseason not focused on injury recovery, expectations for Davis are through the roof.
Titans fans are hoping that Davis will make up for all the swings-and-misses at WR the team has taken over the last decade. From Kenny Britt to Kendall Wright to Justin Hunter to Dorial Green-Beckham, drafting wide receivers early has not been kind to Tennessee. After years of disappointment at the position, Davis can be the dominant outside receiver the Titans have been missing for years.
Davis recognizes the burden and expectations that come with being the team’s fifth overall selection, even going so far as to address the issue in a recent release from ESPN.
"“I want to be the leader. I feel the need to step up as one for the receivers. That’s the pressure I kind of take on and put on myself. I want to make sure I am on a certain level where I am in a position to lead them.”"
If the Titans receiving corps is to make waves in 2018, Davis must lead the charge. Rishard Matthews has been sidelined for all of camp and preseason following an offseason knee surgery, which could affect his level of play early in the season. Although other wide receivers on the roster such as Tajae Sharpe, Nick Williams, and Taywan Taylor all boast a diverse and useful set of skills, none of them seem nearly as well-equipped from a talent perspective to truly fill that No. 1 role as the 2017 fifth overall pick.
Glowing reports out of training camp have built up the hype surrounding Davis. Whether it be reports of one-handed grabs or deep connections in the middle of the field, Davis has excelled in practice and put up highlights that have fans and reporters alike buzzing about his potential to be a true X-factor in this offense.
That said, Davis’ exploits on the practice field thus far have not translated when the lights come on. Multiple times in the last two games Davis has gotten open downfield and Mariota failed to connect with the second-year pro. In the first preseason game, Mariota threw up a pass for Davis as he streaked up the sideline, only for the pass to fall incomplete in the middle of the field, 10-15 yards away from Davis.
In Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mariota continued to struggle to hit Davis on two important third down throws. The first one appeared to be another miscommunication where Mariota threw the ball into the dirt at Davis’ feet. On the very next drive, he let the ball sail over a wide-open Davis.
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Some fans have been quick to overreact to these miscues (and the offense as a whole) on Twitter. Although the team’s performance against the Steelers was certainly not their best, the Titans offense and Mariota, in particular, have shown tremendous promise in earlier preseason contests.
Clearly, Mariota and Davis still have work to do when it comes to their chemistry. But with this small of a sample size to judge the Davis-Mariota connection, it’s too early to condemn it to failure before the season has even started. Should this trend carry over into the regular season, then Titans fans should be worried. But for now, it’s best to reserve our judgment on the matter.