For Titans Receiver/Punt Returner Mason Kinsey, It Feels Like Now Or Never

Mason KinseyNASHVILLE, Tenn. – It sure feels like it’s now or never for Mason Kinsey.

The receiver has spent the last two years on the Titans' practice squad, elevated for one game in 2021 and two in 2022.

He’s a steady practice player, in the right spot, usually making catches for whoever is throwing him the ball. Now Kyle Philips is down and may be out for as much as six weeks, and Kinsey is a slot guy in a similar mold. 

“I try not to count numbers or count guys who are going to be here and who’s not,” Kinsey said. “I don’t make the decisions on who makes the 53. All I can do is focus on putting my best foot forward, and just continuing to grow trust with the personnel and the coaches for when the time comes, if I have an opportunity to play you know I am ready and it’s also of course something I do want.

“It’s an exciting opportunity, it’s an opportunity to get some more reps, but also I’m praying for my boys Kyle and Treylon (Burks) and hoping for a speedy recovery for those guys.”

The Titans lost Philips for all but four games last year because of shoulder and hamstring injuries, and they didn’t turn to Kinsey. Per Sports Info Solutions, among Titans receivers, Robert Woods ran 116 routes from the slot with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine at 100 and Burks at 64.

Now Philips is down again and Burks is also out. The knee injuries both are carrying will very likely take the Titans into the regular season without two of their top three receivers. I think Westbrook-Ikhine will be first in line in the slot, with Chris Moore opposite DeAndre Hopkins outside.

The recent history, however, indicates the Titans are perfectly comfortable rotating multiple receivers through the inside spot as opposed to putting a more limited, slot-specific player there, even as Vrabel said Kinsey is more versatile than it may seem. Philips has lined up beyond the slot periodically throughout camp. 

Beyond Hopkins, Moore and NWI – who continued his camp of drops with another on an early seven-on-seven ball from Ryan Tannehill he high-pointed from Ryan Tannehill -- the depth at wide receiver is currently a mystery. In preseason game No. 2, Colton Dowell was out and Reggie Roberson and Tre’Shaun Harrison were the first on the field after Moore, NWI and Philips.

Kearis Jackson also suffered a knee injury in Minnesota and his status is unknown. I’d put him ahead of Kinsey as far as upside in the slot and as a contender for punt returner, though we’ve not seen much from him there yet.

Eric Garror, who’s making a bid for a back-end cornerback spot, could also handle Philips’ punt return job.

In his three call-ups, Kinsey’s got one 3-yard catch and no yards out of two punt returns.

“I think the more that you stack days, the more that you show up on film consistently, the more trust that you build with the coaches that you know what to do and they can trust you to put you in situations,” Kinsey said. “I do feel like I’ve put in a lot of time here and I have continued to grow that trust with the coaches. Whether it’s with Rob (Moore) or Vrabes or Tim (Kelly) or whoever.

“Just showing in the last preseason game just trying to be consistently like I have in the last two preseason games and hopefully earn enough respect and trust from my teammates that if my name is called Week One to be out there that I am ready to go.”

Against the Vikings, with Malik Willis set to play the whole game as the Titans didn't dress Ryan Tannehill and didn't want to play Will Levis with a lower-body injury, they set up Kinsey as their extra quarterback and he played there for two snaps. He handed off once and kept the ball for a 6-yard gain.

Vrabel and Kelly following through with the emergency plan is the sort of thing coaches do as a nod to a player they like, giving him a little extra. Kinsey enjoyed it, joking with the others at his position about how it's every receiver's dream to play quarterback.

Kinsey said he thinks he has a solid camp, without big highs or bad lows. He knows he's not going to take the top off defenses or look especially flashy on film.

But knowing what to do, not having many missed assignments and catching what's thrown Kuharsky megaphoneto him keeps him level and scores him points. 

Over time, an undrafted player out of Division III Berry College who was cut by the Titans and spent two stints on the Patriots practice squad in 2020, the underdog has become a favorite of a segment of Tennessee's fan base.

"It's cool seeing people that support you, but there is also another side of it where people can't stand you," Kinsey said. "And I see both. It's not my job to read what anybody's opinion is of me. I'm here to earn the trust and respect of my coaches and my teammates and that's the most important thing.

"I think there are a lot of guys in the locker room that would vouch for me, that would say I put my body on the line for them. But it's cool, the more people you have to support you, the more confidence you have. So it's been pretty cool."

You are not authorised to post comments.

Comments powered by CComment

Cron Job Starts