Titans Offseason Positional Analysis - Receivers
The Titans' receiving game sucks. That's pretty plain, simple, and straightforward.
Tennessee ranked 31st in the NFL in receiving yards last year, 31st in receptions, tied for 30th in receiving touchdowns, and tied for 28th in first down receptions. I didn't have to look those stats up to know that the Titans' receiving game sucked, only to see how badly. Looks like hind teat, as suspected.
Here's the stat that really hits home and puts things in perspective. The Titans had only one reception of over 40 yards last year, dead last in the league. Contrast that with New Orleans, who had 20.
The receiver corps is obviously a position group that will require an upgrade this offseason. First and foremost is the need for speed. Not only do the Titans need the deep threat, they also need the threat of it to make opposing defenses commit a safety to stop it, instead of crowding the line of scrimmage to hinder the running game. Opponents showed no respect for the Titans in that phase of the game last year.
Tennessee tried to upgrade the position by signing David Givens to a $24M contract last year. As has been the case with free agent receiver signings in previous years, it didn't work. Givens was hampered with minor injuries throughout the preseason and early in the season, before tearing an ACL and other tissue in his knee.
I don't count on Givens to contribute at all this year. Even if he's able to play, it will probably be at only partial speed, without any initial burst off the snap. Any contributions he might make will be gravy, but I don't anticipate him doing diddly squat. And for those who say Brandon Jones came back from an ACL injury last year so why can't Givens, it was unexpected and it wasn't as bad as Givens' injury.
I'm not going to bother putting up the individual stats from last year for the Titans' receivers. It's depressing and not worth the effort.
The two leading receivers last year were Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade, who will both be free agents this year unless the Titans re-sign them.
Bennett's production has been in decline, yet he has continued to lead the team in receptions. He is also one of the best receivers to potentially hit the free agent market this year. Pickings are slim when someone with his numbers is considered one of the best available. I imagine the Titans will give him an offer, but I hope they won't overpay to keep him.
Wade is a reclamation project, picked up off the scrap heap, aka the waiver wire. He'll probably get an offer from the Titans too, which he'll probably accept. He's been about the only guy to contribute out of the slot.
The one guy the Titans can count on is Brandon Jones. Coming off ACL surgery ahead of schedule, he surprised and actually improved. He's the one bright spot I see in the WR corps this year.
Courtney Roby and Roydell Williams, selected with Jones in the 2005 draft, have both underwhelmed. But they'll be back, only because they won't have much competition. Jonathan Orr, drafted in the sixth round last year, didn't even see the field.
Maybe the Titans will have better luck at receiver now that Floyd Reese is gone. Not to bash the guy after he's gone, but that was one position he did poorly at filling, both in the draft and free agency. Derrick Mason and Bennett were the only real contributors that can be credited to Floyd. Mason was a fourth-round draft pick and Bennett was an undrafted free agent rookie.
Other than Mason, Reese had no success drafting receivers, making first-day picks such as Chris Sanders (third round, 1995), Joey Kent (second round, 1997), Kevin Dyson (first round, 1999), and Tyrone Calico (second round, 2003). Titans fans will long remember the Three Stooges, Berlin, Hill, and Schifino. Reese had no success with free agents either, signing such high-priced notables as Yancey Thigpen and Carl Pickens.
So where do the Titans go from here? It's probably best to try to re-sign both Bennett and Wade. The best free agents that might help the Titans are probably Kevin Curtis and Bobby Engram. Calvin Johnson and Dwayne Jarrett, two of the top draft prospects, probably won't be available when the Titans select at number 19. Ted Ginn, Jr. is an intriguing rookie prospect. He has a rep of too many drops, but has blazing speed. He could stretch the defenses, could be another Devin Hester as a returner, or could be another Calico.
Thank goodness the Titans can run the ball. Things don't look real promising with the receiving game.