Tennessee Titans WR Treylon Burks continues to show growth with experience

Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans
Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans / Silas Walker/GettyImages

Treylon Burks has been quite a polarizing topic since he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans, for several reasons ranging from rational to ridiculous.

Starting with the most ridiculous reason for criticism, because of how the Tennessee Titans ended up with Burks, he has always been viewed as the replacement for A.J. Brown. For obvious reasons, that has brought an immense amount of pressure on him since his career started last year.

A more fair criticism for people that had it out for Burks from nearly the beginning was because of his asthma-related conditioning issues. Everyone remembers how much trouble he had staying on the field during rookie minicamp and OTA's last offseason, which caused severe doubt about his ability to hold up through regular practices let alone actual games.

Luckily, the major conditioning issues very quickly proved to be nothing more than a minor growing pain that does seem like it was truly due in part to his asthma. Since those OTAs, he hasn't missed any time in training camp because of conditioning concerns.

In fact, since then he has still shown massive improvement, and where he is today is indicative of his gradual progression, which bodes well for any young player in the NFL.

Treylon Burks is on track for success with the Tennessee Titans

On the surface, Burks' rookie season was underwhelming, as his 444 yards and one touchdown all year are less than impressive. But as is the case in many situations, the box score is misleading in this one.

Despite the modest statline, the best way to describe his rookie year is as a series of promising performances broken up by stretches of bad luck.

The biggest theme around Burks' 2022 campaign was his injuries and not the ones you can blame on the Tennessee Titans' general injury problems. He got his foot rolled up on early in the year which resulted in a four-week absence on IR (really five weeks because of the bye week), and then he got a concussion after taking a dirty, late hit on the first touchdown catch of his career.

The second injury was particularly unfortunate because Burks was making several big plays in the games leading up to and quite literally while sustaining it. Unfortunately, when he returned from it, the Titans were playing with backup quarterbacks and a roster that was experiencing brand-new lows in terms of player health, so even his promising plays were drowned out by the depression in the fan base.

While his basic stats aren't eye-popping, there are numbers that support what I have been saying about Burks. Of all the wide receivers in the NFL in 2022, Burks ranked seventh in big play percentage relative to snaps played.

He also recorded 13.5 yards per reception, which is far from shabby especially in an offense that missed its starting quarterback for a third of the season.

Granted, these stats come with a bit of an asterisk given that Burks only got to play about 40% of the offensive snaps in 2022, but it shows you that he has legitimate talent to build off of. And with how well he played toward the end of November, I have a feeling that those numbers are more emblematic of the eventual norm and not a fluke.

When you go through everything he did last year, from the beginning of rookie minicamp all the way through the season, it is easy for youngsters like him to lose their confidence with everything seemingly going against them. At the very least, lots of guys will want a good break and ample time to distance themselves from the sport and start fresh next year, but none of that has been the case with Burks.

Burks has been in Nashville all offseason putting in work to familiarize himself with the offense and the new coaches and stay in shape, and he has been harping a lot on not making the same mistakes he did last offseason. He also seems much more comfortable and confident than he did last offseason and seems to be in a really good mental spot.

Just seeing him talk in Tuesday's press conference was evidence of the progression he has had since May 2022.

He went from hardly being able to breathe in rookie minicamp to keeping up fine at training camp and then overcame a slow start and injury in order to put together a really nice stretch of games before the second injury took place.

And then on Tuesday, he mentioned that the stuff he has learned in advance of this year has made him much more cool and calm, and he even talked about how not having the stress of being a rookie has helped him. It is a tremendous step up from last year, when he would always talk about how he had things to improve or recover from, and definitely felt the pressure.

It is not just one or two instances in which Burks has shown improvement, it has been consistently over the course of the year, and not once has he taken a step back. And it cannot be understated how badly the Titans need him to continue to make progress.

Despite the wide receiver position being such a big need for them, they only drafted one this year and not until the seventh round. With so little improvement at the position, we know the Titans are going to continue to be a run-heavy team but obviously still have to throw to have success.

So they will need Burks to shine big time because besides Kyle Philips -- who is totally unproven -- there just is not a lot of talent at wide receiver. It is baffling that the Titans did not do more there, but part of it could be due to how highly they think of Burks, which that in itself I think they are right about.

Do not be surprised at all to see him truly break out in the 2023 season.