Tennessee Titans rookie Kyle Philips is poised for a historic season

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

You never want to overreact to training camp and the preseason, but you would have to be blind to ignore what Tennessee Titans’ rookie Kyle Philips has been doing.

Keep your powder dry if you want to, but if you look at this step-by-step you can see why Philips could be in store for a monster season.

We have to start with the fact that Philips has already accomplished one incredible feat. By all accounts, Philips will start for the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 which is something that rookies just don’t do with Mike Vrabel.

Full disclosure, it looks like his starting job will be as the Tennessee Titans punt returner, but it is a starting job nonetheless. In fact, his special teams skills are a big part of this story.

Vrabel wants rookies to prove themselves on special teams regardless of how good they look on offense or defense. Guys like Rashad Weaver, Monty Rice, and David Long Jr., all were better than players in front of them on the depth chart, but they had to wait their turn and pay their dues on special teams before getting reps.

Rookies like Treylon Burks, Roger McCreary, Hassan Haskins, and Chig Okonkwo are all going to go through the same process this season too.

Since Philips has already proven himself on special teams and seems to have solidified his job as the returner, that means that he is guaranteed to be on the gameday roster. That alone gives him a step up on whichever receiver earns the WR6 spot (behind Robert Woods, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Philips, and Racey McMath).

If Philips is going to be active every game, and with the Titans’ heavy rotation at wide receiver it is easy to see a path for him to get reps with the offense. On those plays where he is on offense, he will obviously play in the slot where he has been dominating in camp.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I think it is safe to say that Kyle Philips is going to start the season as the Titans punt returner, but that he should be expected to get a good bit of time on offense as the primary slot receiver. So, how can a slot receiver in a run-first offense end up with a historic year?

How this season can be historic for the Tennessee Titans’ rookie

Over the last decade, hitting on a Day 3 receiver is much harder than people realize.

According to Stathead, in the last 10 years, there have only been eight Day 3 receivers that have posted 600+ yard seasons in their rookie year.

Out of those 8, only 2 were players that played 50% or more of their snaps in the slot as Kyle Philips will. Jamison Crowder did it in 2015 and finished the season with 604 yards, and Hunter Renfrow did it in 2019, finishing with 605 yards.

For context, in a 17-game season, 36 yards per game would put Philips at 612 yards in his rookie season.

Here is where it gets interesting. Even in Arthur Smith’s run-centric offense that focused more on efficiency than volume, Adam Humphries averaged 32 yards per game. A big reason for that is because he ran crisp routes and found ways to get open for Ryan Tannehill on the rare occasion that they used three receivers.

Tennessee Titans “Passing Game Coordinator” (possibly the shadow OC) Tim Kelly, was the OC for the Houston Texans in 2020 and 2021 before joining the team.

In 2020, his primary slot receiver was 30-year-old Randall Cobb who averaged 44 yards per game, which translates to a 750-yard season.

Last season the Texans really didn’t have a dedicated slot receiver. If I wanted to manipulate this I could call Brandin Cooks the “leading slot receiver” because he played more snaps there than anyone else, but that would be disingenuous considering how many snaps he played on the outside.

To sum all of that up, Kyle Philips is going to be active for the Tennessee Titans because of what he can do on special teams.

Philips is going to be on the field because he has been phenomenal in training camp and he has developed a connection with Ryan Tannehill. That is important because we have seen Ryan Tannehill with a designated slot receiver in the past, and Philips is just a hair better than Adam Humphries he will be on pace to be the most productive rookie slot receiver in the last decade.

Even if he isn’t better than Humphries in his rookie year, that might not matter because the passing game will follow what Tim Kelly likes to do and that has meant good production for slot receivers in the past.

Putting all of that together, you can see why you should be excited about Kyle Philips. Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson desperately needed to find multiple pieces at wide receiver and it looks like they might have knocked it out of the park again in this draft class with Treylon Burks and Kyle Philips.