The last two years show that nothing is permanent or guaranteed in the NFL, just look at the Tennessee Titans‘ wide receiver changes.
Heading into the 2020 season, the Titans had an emerging second-year talent in A.J. Brown and a giant question mark next to him in Corey Davis. Heading into the last game of the season, it was Corey Davis and not A.J. Brown that led the Titans in receiving yards and he was much more consistent than the second-year star out of Ole Miss due to injury concerns and some drop issues.
Fast-forward to the beginning of the 2021 season and the Titans let Corey Davis walk after the New York Jets made him a giant (at the time) offer, and basically used the money it would have cost them to keep Davis to trade for Julio Jones.
In his entire career, Jones had only had two seasons where he had played fewer than 750 snaps and both were seasons where he faced some uncharacteristic injuries. The idea behind the move was that Jones would have a higher floor and higher ceiling than Davis, and the trade-off was that he would help immediately but he wasn’t going to last forever.
Once again the NFL proved that you really can’t trust anything that you think you know and it turns out that the Titans were really doomed no matter which receiver combination they would have gone with. Davis finished the 2021 season with 450 snaps which was slightly ahead of Jones who finished with 434 snaps.
A.J. Brown wasn’t much better and he only managed to play 53% of the Titans’ snaps in 2021.
Fast-forward again through Brown forcing a trade to play with his best friend at quarterback, and now the Tennessee Titans again go into a season with questions at receiver and a recent history that says that it is foolish to assume that anyone knows the answer.
However, what we can safely assume is that we know the three receivers that are going to enter the season as the first three receivers on the depth chart: Robert Woods, Treylon Burks, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
The question is which receivers come next.
Tennessee Titans battle for receiver depth
After those three, there are nine receivers that the Titans are looking at. If I were ranking them by buzz coming out of mini-camp, I would say that this is where everyone stands right now:
1. Kyle Philips
2. Josh Malone
3. Dez Fitzpatrick
4. Reggie Roberson
5. Racey McMath
6. Mason Kinsey
7. Juwan Green
8. Cody Hollister
9. Brandon Lewis
Last year the Titans made it a habit of fielding around seven receivers, though it is hard to really gauge that because of how many receivers were in and out of the lineup with the team’s injury problems (11 receivers played at least one snap of offense last year).
If the Titans do try to keep seven receivers on the active roster, it is hard to imagine a world where any of the top four receivers don’t make the cut (including Philips). I also find it very hard to believe that the Tennessee Titans won’t add another receiver near the start of the season, specifically after cuts happen when it turns into a buyer’s market.
With five spots spoken for, that means that eight players from the above list are going to be competing for two spots.
Currently, Dez Fitzpatrick and Josh Malone have been the most impressive offense (specifically Malone), but their roles on special teams look like they will be limited to minor roles like blocking on returns or potentially a gunner (though I don’t think this has been brought up yet).
Kyle Philips, Reggie Roberson, Racey McMath, and Mason Kinsey are the receivers that have been brought up as players that are getting chances to return punts, kicks, or both.
With all of that said, here is that list again from earlier but now I am going to put an asterisk by the names of all the players who contribute on special teams and I am going to write the names of players who have stood out on offense in bold.
1. Kyle Philips*
2. Josh Malone
3. Dez Fitzpatrick
4. Reggie Roberson*
5. Racey McMath*
6. Mason Kinsey*
7. Cody Hollister
8. Brandon Lewis
9. Juwan Green
The lone player with a name in bold and an asterisk is Philips which is why he is going to be the first guy off the bench for the Titans at wide receiver. Remember though that the competition for those two spots does not include him or the player that I believe the Titans will sign before the season starts (whoever that may be).
Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that the Titans sign someone like Jalen Guyton who could be on the outs with the Los Angeles Chargers, but who could give you something on offense and on special teams.
If that is the case, then it is likely that one of the names in bold and one of the names with an asterisk will each compete for one spot.
While no one is going to argue that the Tennessee Titans are “strong” at wide receiver right now, competition is a great thing.
Teams always want to be in a position where guys are earning spots and not winning them by default. Who is the best option on offense, Malone or Fitzpatrick? Which player can wear the most hats for you on special teams, Roberson, McMath, or Kinsey? These are the questions that will shape the bottom of the depth chart at wide receiver, and it isn’t just a question for training camp.
In all likelihood, at least one of the players in each group that lose their “competition” for a roster spot will end up on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad. That means they will constantly be pushing for a spot throughout the season and Tennessee Titans fans know that those receivers have to be ready at the drop of a hat after last season.
One last note, the Titans had plenty of questions at the cornerback spot last year and no one knew exactly what to expect from an older veteran in Jackrabbit Jenkins, a young player who hadn’t made much of an impact the year before in Kristian Fulton, and two rookies in Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden.
This year, the questions are about how much an older veteran like Robert Woods can do, what to expect from a young player who hadn’t made much of an impact the year before in NWI, and two rookies in Treylon Burks and Kyle Philips.
It isn’t hard to draw parallels between the two positions and after cornerback proved to be one of the best positions on the roster last year for the Tennessee Titans, that should give fans a reason for a lot of optimism.