During the offseason, Tennessee Titans fans were waiting for Mike Vrabel and the coaching staff to help Chig Okonkwo and Treylon Burks take the next step after glimpses of promise in their rookie seasons.
Instead, Treylon Burks has once again suffered several injuries that aren't his fault, but they have still severely impacted his ability to help the Tennessee Titans. He still has the potential to be a good receiver in this offense, but he is going to have to earn his chances from here on out.
On the other hand, Chig Okonkwo has been healthy, but he has lost everything that made him special in his rookie season. In just one offseason with Tony Dews as his new tight ends coach, Okonkwo has gone from one of the most efficient and dynamic tight ends in the NFL, and he has turned into a crucial drop waiting to happen.
Acknowledging that the Tennessee Titans could certainly fail to develop young talent/hinder the development of young talent, it is fair to say that two young skill position players have given the Tennessee Titans fans some hope for the future.
The Tennessee Titans have two young playmakers
The Tennessee Titans mercifully took Kyle Philips off of punt returns in Week 8 this season. In two of the three games since that transition, Philips has led the Titans in receiving yards.
In fact, in the last two weeks, Philips has had two 20+ yard catches in each game, which matches what he did in Week 1 last year before he got hurt. Not only is Philips creating explosive plays, but he has done it on one-third of the offensive snaps.
At this point, the expectation for Philips should be that he is a dynamic slot receiver that Will Levis can trust to move the chains or take chunks out of the defense. That is a far cry from what his outlook was during the bye week when he was still being asked to return punts.
The other young standout is running back Tyjae Spears.
Being a rookie running back behind Derrick Henry has limited Spears to less than eight touches per game. Despite that, he has had either a 15+ yard run or a 20+ yard reception in 6 of his 9 games.
He is an outside runner who still knows how to make it work between the tackles thanks to his vision and ability to cut on a dime. Long-term, I don't know if he is going to be a bell cow running back like Derrick Henry you can give the ball to 20+ times per game, but the good news is that Super Bowl-winning teams don't give their running backs 20+ touches per game.
Instead, Spears is a guy who rarely gets tackled by the first defender and he has the athleticism to turn a one-yard gain into a 20-yard gain. That is going to be big for a team that needs playmakers around Will Levis in the future.
Look, it is fair to say that it is bad right now, and if you want the best future for the Tennessee Titans you should hope for impressive offensive performances in losing efforts for the rest of the season. However, whether you are hoping for a 3-14 season or a 7-10 season, every Titans fan should be cheering for these players to continue to develop and solidify themselves as playmakers that the team can build around for years to come.
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