Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver Kyle Philips is consistently sticking out during training camp practices. Philips’ short-area quickness and overall savviness are allowing him to separate from coverage. Philips appears primed to play a sizable role in Tennessee’s passing game. The most likely outcome includes Philips starting out as a third-down specialist while gradually playing his way into more snaps as the season progresses.
Philips first started impressing throughout organized team activities (OTAs). Philips has carried that momentum over to training camp, showcasing the same shiftiness and attention to detail that captured the Titans’ coaching staff’s eyes earlier this offseason. Philips’ efforts were rewarded during Tuesday’s practice where he earned reps with the starting offense for the first time at camp. That’s quite the accomplishment for a fifth-round rookie. It’s a development worth monitoring.
The Titans will debut a completely overhauled passing attack in 2022. General manager Jon Robinson revamped his receiving corps by trading away A.J. Brown and releasing Julio Jones. Joining Philips are fellow new additions Robert Woods and first-round pick Treylon Burks. New tight end Austin Hooper is also expected to command a starring role. Philips will quickly command a role as a receiver that has little issue winning one-on-one matchups in space.
Figuring out Phillips’ immediate role isn’t straightforward despite his standout performances at training camp. Woods is expected to serve as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver and looks 100% recovered from last season’s torn ACL. Burks was a first-round draft pick for a reason, and the Titans are satisfied with him thus far despite some previous conditioning rumors that proved to be unfounded. The Titans also like Nick Westbrook considerably more than casual fans realize. Westbrook has continuously improved in Tennessee and is fresh off a career-best campaign. Westbrook has earned praise from head coach Mike Vrabel for the way he’s transformed his body this offseason. Westbrook could see another uptick in snaps after seeing 53 targets last season.
Tennessee’s personnel will likely be matchup-based on any given down. All four of Woods, Westbrook, Burks, and Philips are capable of playing in the slot. It gives Tennessee’s offense a desired layer of unpredictability.
It’s worth noting snaps in the slot are certainly up for grabs. Last year’s designated slot receiver was Chester Rogers, who signed a one-year contract with the Houston Texans earlier this week. Rogers was a slot-only player. Tennessee decided to get away from that this offseason while becoming more multiple. The versatility of their top four receivers should allow them to achieve just that.
It’s conceivable to wonder if the likeliest outcome includes Woods and Burks operating on the boundary with Philips in the slot. It will probably take time before it gets there. Burks will likely begin the season splitting snaps out wide with Westbrook until he proves capable of playing 50-plus percent of the team’s offensive snaps on a weekly basis. The Titans won’t pigeonhole their playmakers, however. Woods has long been praised for his ability to move inside and outside. Woods and Burks will receive snaps via the slot when the Titans’ coaching staff identifies a favorable matchup opportunity. New passing game coordinator Tim Kelly is tasked with crafting a more efficient, diverse approach.
Philips is also expected to carve out a role via special teams. Philips returned 26 career punts at UCLA, scoring two touchdowns in the process. Philips averaged 22.6 yards per punt return in 2021, helping UCLA rate No. 1 in the NCAA in punt returns as a team. For his career, Philips averaged 19.3 yards per punt. He’s the current favorite to claim Tennessee’s punt return gig.
If Philips is productive out the gate, it will continue a trend of the NFL curiously overlooking undersized slot receivers that are high-level route runners with top-notch production to their name. Players such as Hunter Renfrow, Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, and Cole Beasley were underappreciated coming out of college. Several teams regret passing on those receivers. It’s worth noting Robinson was in New England when Edelman and Welker joined the Patriots. It may not be long before 31 franchises regret allowing Philips to last all the way until the Titans snatched him up at 163rd overall.
- Aug 09, 2022
- Aug 09, 2022