DeAndre Hopkins was a huge signing for the Tennessee Titans this offseason, and he is clearly Will Levis's favorite target. However, he didn't lead the Titans in receiving yards on Thursday.
It wasn't Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chris Moore, or Chig Okonkwo either. Nope, it was second-year man Kyle Philips who led the Tennessee Titans in receiving against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This performance came out of nowhere, but it is only surprising because it is the first time that the Tennessee Titans have used Kyle Philips correctly since he was drafted. What I mean by that is that the Titans used Philips as a full-time offensive player instead of having him return punts as well.
During the preseason of his rookie year, Philips looked like he was destined to be a Pro Bowl punt returner at some point in his career, but that just isn't going to happen. Injuries and fumbles on punt returns have shattered his confidence in that area and the Tennessee Titans were hurting themselves and him by putting him back there.
However, just because Philips isn't the answer at punt returner, it doesn't mean that he can't play receiver. In fact, in the two games where Kyle Philips has been featured on offense, he has been fantastic.
Kyle Philips is a big play machine for the Tennessee Titans
Going back to Week 1 of 2022, he had two receptions for 20+ yards against the New York Giants, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that he once again had two 20+ yard receptions against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If you go back to the final drive of the first half, the Tennessee Titans started the drive at the 25-yard line with 1:16 on the clock and three timeouts. In that drive, Will Levis hit Philips for back-to-back receptions of 20+ yards to set up a field goal.
Philips isn't going to stretch the field vertically and he isn't going to win 50-50 balls down the sideline, but he has constantly found ways to create space against man coverage and he gets yards after the catch.
Now that the Tennessee Titans have an aggressive quarterback in Will Levis, defenses have to play more two-deep or three-deep coverages. In that case, having someone like Philips who can win like that, is very valuable.
I don't expect Philips to lead the Titans in receiving many times this season because I expect some big connections to Hopkins, Burks, or Moore. However, just having a security blanket like that underneath can help Levis know that he doesn't always have to take the home run swing down the field.
In that way, Philips could be a force multiplier for the Tennessee Titans on offense and the threat of Philips, Derrick Henry, and Chig Okonkwo underneath should force defenses to play the Titans honestly.