We'll continue our annual offseason positional analyses by taking a look at the Tennessee Titans' state of affairs at the WR position.
2011 was a season of adjustment for the Titans at wide receiver. After showing signs of becoming one of the league's elite playmakers, Kenny Britt's season ended prematurely thanks to a torn ACL. In his absence, perennial underachiever Nate Washington stepped up with the best season of his career, while youngsters such as Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins also provided positive contributions to the team's passing game.
What does 2012 have in store for the Titans at the WR position? We'll find out...after the jump.
It brings joy to my heart thinking about what Britt is capable of doing if he's able to stay healthy for a full 16 game season. Unfortunately, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there's that nagging pain that suggests that something will get in the way of that possibility becoming a reality.
When healthy, Britt certainly has the potential to be one of game's pivotal playmakers. He has it all: the size, the speed and the work ethic. Britt's quite the difference-maker when he's on the field...and keeping him on the field has to serve as one of the team's biggest priorities if they're going to make a playoff push in 2012.
Nate was indeed a pleasant surprise in 2011. The much-maligned WR who was known more for his inconsistent production and consistent propensity for failing to hold onto the pigskin, stepped up with his best season as a pro last year, hauling in 74 grabs for 1,023 yards and 7 touchdowns.
If Britt's healthy, Nate's emerged as a legitimate #2 and if the seemingly inevitable yearly injury to Britt once again rears its ugly head, as last year indicated, Nate is more than capable of serving as the team's #1 WR.
Williams was a beneficiary of Britt's absence as he was put in a position to make some additonal plays. Despite a rough patch here and there, D-Will put forth a solid showing in his sophomore season, snagging 45 grabs for 592 yards and 5 touchdowns.
In 2012, I expect Williams to continue to develop into a solid WR while carving his niche as the team's #3 wideout.
Like Williams, Hawkins was also forced to step up and make plays due to Kenny Britt's season-ending injury. After years of disappointment, Hawkins finally turned his potential into a little production in 2011.
Lavelle's career arc is eerily reminiscent of a former Titans' WR who after some years of underacheiving, parlayed a solid season into a bigger free agent contract with another franchise: Brandon Jones.
If there's a team willing to spend a little more to grab Hawkins, as the case with Jones a few years ago, I doubt the Titans will overspend to keep a guy around who, on paper, is the team's #4 WR.
The rest of the bunch
Marc Mariani has often displayed the potential to make an impact as a WR, but the production hasn't followed. If Hawkins departs via free agency, maybe we'll see more of Mariani in the passing game.
Like Hawkins, Donnie Avery is also a free agent. Although he didn't really get the chance to make a lot of plays last year, there's still a part of me that's intrigued with his speed/potential.
He's definitely a guy the team can bring back at a dirt-cheap price and hopefully, with a full season in the organization under his belt, he can become a factor in the passing game.
James Kirkendoll, Mike Preston and O.J. Murdock round out the receiving crew. All three should be lumped into the category of camp fodder.
What was once one of the team's weaknesses has now become a position of strength. I like this group of receivers and regardless of who's throwing them the rock, I expect this unit to continue to make plays in 2012.
Any thoughts/comments on how the Titans stack up at WR? Feel free to provide your always welcomed commentary below.