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Titans offseason positional review – wide receivers

We continue the review of the Titans’ position groups with the offense and the wide receiver corps.
The wide receivers have been a major weakness of the Tennessee Titans for years and the situation didn’t improve any last year. It still looks bleak from my point of view. I just don’t see any help on the horizon, especially for the 2008 season.
The Titans need to add two quality receivers — one who can stretch the field and catch the occasional long ball, and another possession receiver, who doesn’t necessarily have to be a WR. A tight end could fit that bill just fine, if they can get one who can do for Vince Young what Frank Wycheck did for Steve McNair.
Vince needs a go-to guy, whether he plays WR or TE, and the Titans don’t have that now. What they have now are some guys who should be second or third options for Vince to look to, but not one who should be his first option.
I don’t see anyone in free agency who might fit the bill, other than possibly Donte Stallworth, and he’ll be expensive. The draft? Rookie WRs aren’t difference makers and I’ve come around to Tom’s opinion that there isn’t good value drafting a WR in the first round. It takes several years to develop a rookie WR, so that obviously won’t be an answer for the ’08 season.
This is a painful exercise, but let’s look at what the Titans have now and what new OC Mike Heimerdinger has to work with. One promising factor — Dinger has worked as a receivers coach in Denver with the likes of Rod Smith, who should be a future Hall of Fame member.
Justin Gage – An unrestricted free agent, the Titans need to resign him. They’re talking with Gage’s agent and could get a deal done. It may not be before the 29th, though. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that he won’t find Mike Reinfeldt’s offer satisfactory and will test the market. Who knows, he may or may not get a better offer in the marketplace, especially with a rather weak WR class in free agency this year. One thing that may favor the Titans — Reinfeldt liked Gage enough to sign him a year ago when nobody else wanted him, so MR obviously saw something he liked. He has to like Gage even more now, and may make him a more generous offer than I anticipate.
Roydell Williams – 2007 was a big improvement for him after a disappointing 2006 campaign. I have no idea why, but Roydell kind of disappeared in his second year before breaking out of his shell last year. Unfortunately, he’s the closest thing the Titans have to a deep threat, which doesn’t say much for the other Tennessee receivers.
Brandon Jones – Of the three WRs Tennessee drafted in 2005, Jones quickly showed the most potential. Barring injury, he should have a solid, but unspectacular, NFL career. Along with Gage and Roydell Williams, the three of them comprise the best of the Titans’ receivers. None of them are top-shelf though, and as noted above, all of them should be secondary options as receivers. None of the three are primary targets. To put it bluntly, they shouldn’t scare any team in the league.
Eric Moulds – He’s another unrestricted free agent this year. Unlike Gage, he doesn’t have much, if any, upside remaining in his career. There’s no way the Titans should resign him, at least not right away. Maybe in July, to give him one last chance in training camp, and if the Titans are desperate for help. The best thing I like about Gage is his ability to come back to Vince to make himself available as a target, which he does better than any of the others.
Chris Davis – After getting some playing time early in the season, Davis spent most of the rest of 2007 on a milk carton. Strictly a slot receiver, he’ll get another chance this year.
Biren Ealy – Like many fans, I like Ealy, mainly because of his Horatio Algeresque story. An UDFA a year ago, he impressed enough to concern the Titans some other team might claim him off waivers. Ealy is a project and if he develops it should take at least another year or two to get results. One thing that helps him is his good working relationship with Vince, as the two of them have spent a lot of time practicing together.
Paul Williams – Talk about being on a milk carton, he was truly an invisible man as a non-injured player who was inactivated for all 16 games last year. It seems like he was a waste as a third-round draft pick last year. I didn’t notice him doing anything in training camp last year and it speaks volumes that fellow rookies Davis and Ealy saw playing time instead of him.
Mike Williams – The good news is it didn’t cost the Titans much to take a chance on him. The gamble didn’t pay off and he won’t be a part of the 2008 Titans team.
David Givens – It’s sad to say, but Givens’ career seems to be over. He didn’t make much progress last year and underwent a third surgery, which Drexel wrote about.
Outlook: It doesn’t look good for the prospect of finding anyone who can make an immediate difference. I don’t expect the receiving corps to improve much from last year’s group.
The Titans normally keep six receivers on their roster and they have five now who will contend to be included in that group: Roydell Williams, Jones, Davis, Ealy and Paul Williams. If Gage is resigned, he’ll make six. I would hope the Titans find people to replace two of those six. Davis, Ealy and Paul Williams would be the most likely victims at this point. Fortunately for them, they’ll all have a chance in training camp to compete for a roster spot and win or lose a job there.

2007 Stats Gms Strts Recs Yds Avg Lng TDs
Justin Gage 16 8 55 750 13.6 73 2
Roydell Williams 16 14 55 719 13.1 48 4
Eric Moulds 16 8 32 342 10.7 46 0
Brandon Jones 9 2 21 248 11.8 35 2
Chris Davis 12 0 5 38 7.6 13 0
Biren Ealy 4 0 1 6 6.0 0 0
Total 73 32 169 2,103 12.4 73 8

Next in the series we turn our focus to the tight ends.