Just because Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey is dedicated to running an exotic smash mouth brand of football this season doesn’t mean he’s going to ignore the passing game. In fact, he wants to see a lot more out of his receiving group moving forward.
This is why he is so frustrated by the hamstring injury that befell Kendall Wright on Tuesday as well as the ensuing practice time being missed by the guy who should be his top receiver.
“It’s really crucial,” Mularkey said. “This is the time we need him with the passing game. Nothing we can do about it, but I wish it hadn’t happened. But it is what it is. The quicker we can get him back, and he’ll be a large part of that – what he does, how much he’s in that training room. But it’s critical. Every day is critical in camp, and he’s missing. He’s missing a lot every day.”
The Titans really need Wright to be healthy to have a credible passing attack, but this is the same old story with the talented receiver, who caught 36 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns while playing in only 10 games last season. That actually tied him with Harry Douglas for the most catches by a receiver, as it was tight end Delanie Walker who was the big threat, grabbing 94 passes for 1,088 yards.
In addition to getting Wright back on the field, Mularkey would like to see more consistency from the talented Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter, as well as some contributions from newcomer Rishard Matthews. In stressing the importance of having Wright on the field, Mularkey pointed out how well Douglas was picking up the new offense. It also should be noted that Douglas took Wright’s snaps at the slot position after the injury occurred.
“We don’t miss a beat with Harry,” Mularkey said. “Harry knows the whole offense at every position. If we went four wides, he would know all four positions.”
That comment might seem like a shot across Wright’s bow, a message that he should do whatever he can to get back onto the field as soon as possible – and it is.
Mularkey knows how crucial Wright is to his offense. He needs the fifth-year player to soak up the scheme, to get onto the field and finally back up the potential he showed as a second-year player in 2013, when he caught 67.6 percent of his targets for 94 receptions, 1,079 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wright took a step back in 2014, then was dogged by injuries last season, woes that seem to be a consistent deterrent to his development.
The Titans are not about to become a contender – their rivals in the AFC South have improved too much this offseason to expect Tennessee to move up much in the standings after a 3-13 season.
But Mularkey knows how short a coach’s shelf life can be in the NFL. He knows he needs to show improvement quickly, and he knows Wright will be crucial to an improvement in his offense. That’s why he’s putting pressure on his no-longer-young receiver with so much untapped potential.