Tennessee Titans rookie class continues to impress

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin) /

The Tennessee Titans are often described as a team that “isn’t the most talented team” by analysts, but that isn’t true.

This misconception comes from two places, and the first is incredibly obvious. It is hard to judge just how talented the Titans are when half of their starters are injured by midseason.

Over the last two years, the Tennessee Titans have been the most injured team in the NFL and it has gotten so bad now that only two players started every game in 2021 and 2022.

Unless you follow me on Twitter, I bet you don’t even know who those players are:

The other reason why people fail to understand how talented this roster is, is because the majority of analysts lean on stats to inform their opinions of players. Specifically, they focus on cumulative, volume stats instead of looking at stats on an efficiency basis.

This happens most frequently on offense where volume is king, but as long as the Tennessee Titans are coached by Mike Vrabel, it is going to be nearly impossible for anyone other than Derrick Henry to build up those kinds of stats.

Not only does Vrabel demand a run-heavy offense, but he also insists on players proving themselves on special teams and as players willing to do the dirty work before they get a significant role in the offense.

Between that and the heavy rotation that happens at the wide receiver and tight end positions, it is very hard for pass catchers to put up big numbers. When you keep that in mind, it is incredible what this rookie class has been able to do for the Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee Titans and explosive efficiency

Roger McCreary has been a starter for the Titans since day one and he looks very good. Nicholas Petit-Frere looks like a long-term starter at right tackle, Malik Willis showed some flashes, and Hassan Haskins looks like a great third running back who has a lot of special teams versatility.

However, the players that I really want to focus on are Treylon Burks, Chig Okonkwo, and Kyle Philips.

Burks had a coming-out party on Thursday with multiple 40+ yard catches, including a 50+ yard reception against All-Pro CB Jaire Alexander to ice the game.

That is incredible, and there is only one rookie in the NFL with more 40+ yard receptions than Burks, and that is Chris Olave. Since being drafted by the New Orleans Saints, he has been targetted 83 times which is the most among rookies.

Burks posted those two explosive catches despite only being targeted 30 times in the Tennessee Titans’ run-heavy offense, which means that Burks has a 40+ yard reception on 6.7% of his targets compared to 4.8% by Olave.

In Okonkwo’s case, he remains the most explosive tight end in the NFL. In just 15 targets he has 4 receptions for 20+ yards,  3 of which went for 30+ yards, and 2 of which went for 40+.

For comparison, Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in NFL history and he only has one 40+ yard reception this season despite 94 targets.

Finally, Kyle Philips has 2 20+ yard receptions despite just having 13 targets this season. The rookie slot receiver was explosive in camp and he tore the New York Giants secondary apart before the final play of the game where he hurt his shoulder.

Once he heals up from his hamstring injury, this is another player who has all the potential in the world to add another explosive element to this Tennessee Titans offense.

These rookies are fantastic, and if they played in Kansas City, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, or L.A., they would have a lot more volume than they do now. For better or worse, this is a team based around the running game and Derrick Henry, so fans need to appreciate how well they are doing in their role and be excited about the explosive element they add to this team.