Titans Preview by Position: Receivers and Tight Ends
Last week, I compared the offensive line of the Titans to that of the other teams in the AFC South to see which team is in the best position. I'm going to continue in that series by moving on to other positions, until each position on the field is covered.
This week, I'm going with the pass catchers: wide receivers and tight ends.
So how do the Titans measure up to the rest of the division when it comes to pass catchers? Read on for my take.
The Titans are stacked at receiver now, but the problem they have is that their best receiver may not see the field for the first few weeks next season.
Kenny Britt has proven that he's absurdly talented, but he's also injury-prone, and misses a lot of games because of this. To make matters worse, he's got plenty of off the field problems as well, and will probably be suspended for some of 2012.
Across from Britt is Nate Washington, who's coming off a career year with over 1,000 yards receiving. Washington is a better than average No. 2 receiver and can be a No. 1 when the situation calls for it.
Kendall Wright will be the next in rotation in all likelihood. He's an untested rookie, but he's fast, has great hands and has a lot of practice catching deep passes. He should make an instant impact.
Beyond those three, there's Damian Williams, who showed flashes of greatness in 2011, but needs to improve on his consistency. Lavelle Hawkins and Marc Mariani are depth guys, but Hawkins has shown that he is nothing to ignore.
At tight end, the Titans are also sitting pretty. Jared Cook had a fantastic season in 2011, even though he still needs some consistency. Craig Stevens is a great blocker, but he can catch pretty well too, so he can open up the middle of the field.
Rookie Taylor Thompson is big, athletic and has lots of upside, but he's going to take time to transition. Cameron Graham and Joey Haynos are depth players at best, and may not make the roster in the end.
The Texans are top heavy at receiver: they have Andre Johnson, one of the best in the game, but then are pretty sparse behind him.
Johnson is one of the best receivers in he game, but he's also the only notable receiver on the team. In fact, the only receiver other than Johnson that had any significant playing time last season is Kevin Walter, who finished the season with an unspectacular 474 yards.
The Texans do, however, have two rookie wide receivers in DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin. Posey was considered a reach in the third round, while Martin was picked a round later. Both of them are essentially question marks.
At tight end, they're doing pretty well. Owen Daniels is a great tight end, and I think he's even a little underrated. He had 677 receiving yards in 2011, which doesn't sound like that much, but when you remember how often the Texans run the ball, it sounds better.
Daniels is probably the best tight end in the division, but like their receivers, the Texans don't have much behind him. The other tight ends on the roster, Garrett Graham, Phillip Supernaw and Logan Brock are collectively responsible for one catch at the professional level.
Reggie Wayne is still in Indianapolis, but I think a lot of people give him more credit than he really deserves. While there's no doubt that he's a great receiver, he spent most of his career having perfect passes tossed his way by Peyton Manning.
Other than Wayne (who is 33, by the way), the Colts still have Austin Collie, who's an alright receiver, but he drops too many passes. That's about it for their veteran players. I'm not even sure which others will make the final roster.
They do have a promising rookie in T.Y. Hilton, and another, less promising rookie in LaVon Brazill. I think Hilton could be the steal of the draft at receiver, and he could be an instant impact deep threat; but until he proves something on the field, he's an unknown.
At tight end, the Colts look great on paper, getting the first and second ranked tight ends in the 2011 class in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. And while I like both of them, they are, like Hilton, unproven rookies.
Everyone knows how bad the Jaguars were at receiver last season, and that's why they traded up to grab Justin Blackmon. Unfortunately, he's gotten a DUI since then and they haven't been able to come to an agreement on his rookie contract.
Still, Blackmon will almost certainly be their best receiver right away.
Laurent Robinson, a former Cowboy, will likely be their No. 2 option across from Blackmon. The Jags overpaid to land Robinson, but he's a good receiver, and will help their game a lot.
Beyond that, they return the terrible group they had in 2011. Mike Thomas is a solid depth receiver, but the rest of the group is very forgettable.
At tight end, the Jags have Marcedes Lewis, who's a very good tight end under normal circumstances. Last year wasn't his best though, so he's a bit of an unknown. I have a feeling he'll bounce back.
Zach Miller, the team's probable second tight end, has shown some potential, but until it translates to more production on the field, he'll just be a depth player.
Advantage: Tennessee Titans
The AFC South has a lot of good receivers and tight ends. From proven veterans like Andre Johnson, Marcedes Lewis and Reggie Wayne to highly touted rookies like Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright and Coby Fleener, the AFC South is full of great receiving options.
However, at the end of the day, when you lay out what every team has at the position, the Titans are clearly ahead—at least when Britt is in the lineup.
The Texans have the best individuals at both positions, but they have no depth. The Colts have a ton of promise, but little proven talent. The Titans have proven talents in Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and Nate Washington, along with promising rookies Kendall Wright and Taylor Thompson.
You never know how these things will look at the season's end, but for now, it certainly appears that the Titans have the most talented pass catchers in the division.