We continue our preseason positional analysis with the much and often maligned wide receiver corps.
Although we know Fishball consists of running the football on offense and winning with defense and special teams, the Titans have been known to air it out on occasion. Will this year be one of those times? Kerry Collins will have two promising new wideouts to throw to, which may provide a reason to pass more this season. We’ll see.
Ten receivers are currently on the roster and I don’t see more than six of them making the 53-man roster, which Tom recently wrote about. If it was up to me, I’d only keep four. Barring injuries to the first four guys, nobody else is expected to be on the field much, so why keep more than four on the 53-man? The extra ones will just take up roster spots and then be inactive on Sundays. But injuries will happen, so if Fisher keeps a fifth guy, I won’t be too upset. Especially if the guy returns punts and/or kicks.
Actually, since two of the tight ends, Bo Scaife and Jared Cook, can line up in the slot or even split out, this lessens the need for another WR.
Three receivers are locks to make the team. One’s the only proven veteran, one is a high-priced free agent and the third is a first-round draft pick. The other WRs in camp will compete for the fourth, fifth and possibly sixth spots.
Justin Gage — He’s certainly found a home after being picked up off the proverbial scrap heap. Gage does present something of a deep threat with three seasons of a 17-yards or more per catch average but he’s not really the type to stretch the field. I’ll be happy if Nate Washington does that while Gage plays more like he did in 2008, when he was more of a possession receiver.
Nate Washington — Don’t count me among those who will judge Washington on his stats. I know some people will say that unless he catches 80 balls for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns that his acquisition by the Titans was a mistake. Bull. I’ll be quite content if his numbers are more mediocre as long as his presence keeps defenses out of eight-man fronts. Wouldn’t you love to see just seven men in the box on the other side of the ball? I know Collins and Chris Johnson will and if that’s what happens then I’ll consider his addition to be very solid.
Kenny Britt — As a first-round draft pick in April, his roster spot is the third one at the position group guaranteed. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in preseason but at this time I’m just hoping Gage and Washington stay healthy so Britt can take his time developing, which is the norm for the ones who do develop.
Lavelle Hawkins — The Hawk has to be a slight favorite for the fourth roster spot, but that’s pretty much by default. Although he was a fourth-round draft pick who caught a lot of passes in college, he only had seven receptions last year. Still, he’s shown more upside than the guys behind him on the depth chart.
Chris Davis and Mark Jones each has a fairly good chance to make the team due to their punt return abilities. Jones did have a reputation in Carolina for not being much of a receiver. Same as Davis does here. I really don’t see both of them making the team. They’re essentially the same guy. If you have one you really don’t need the other.
Paul Williams is another returning veteran who hasn’t contributed yet. He and Davis supposedly improved this spring and summer but that’s not as important as what they do in preseason games. I’ll be surprised to see Williams make it.
Rookies Dominique Edison, Dudley Guice and Phillip Morris will all hope to latch on to the final spot, or more likely to be signed to the practice squad.
None of the returning veterans competing for roster spots – Hawkins, Davis or Williams – can block. I hope that Jones or one of the rooks isn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty and block someone. That ought to earn one of them a roster spot, in my opinion. And I’ll have a blocking WR to cheer for now that Justin McCareins is gone.
Finally, I won’t be surprised if the last receiver to make the team is someone who’s not in camp now. There will probably be some guys around the league who don’t survive the final cut who are better players than our fifth or sixth best WR.