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Second-Year Titans Chig Okonkwo, Treylon Burks Not Providing Expected Boost

Chig Okonkwo
  Chig Okonkwo/ Angie Flatt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – One of the key elements for the Titans to make a jump on offense in 2023 was the expected growth of two second-year players, Treylon Burks and Chig Okonkwo.

But through five games the franchise has gotten minimal contributions from them following promising offseasons that suggested they could have bigger sophomore seasons.

Burks stayed in town for the bulk of the offseason, even going through great efforts to get back to town for the first day of phase three of OTAs. He was fitter through the spring and summer and had a handle on the Nashville weather and his asthma, which slowed him down as a rookie.

 

But he didn’t find any rhythm in the Titans' first three games, missing the last two games with a knee injury and missing Wednesday's practice in preparation for the game against the Ravens in London on Sunday. A 70-yard catch against the Chargers was his big moment. Beyond that, he’s got five catches for 29 yards as well as three drops.

Okonkwo hasn’t missed any time.

But last year he averaged 3 yards after the catch above expected, per Next Gen Stats, the best number in the NFL. This year that number is -0.4. He has averaged just 4.7 yards per target tied for the sixth-worst of 41 qualified tight ends, per Inside Edge.

He’s not been dynamic, with five first downs on 15 catches out of 22 targets, breaking just two tackles.

A lot has been asked of him in the blocking game because the tackles have needed a great deal of help, and while his effort is big it's not his forte. Pro Football Focus has him as their 55th-rated pass-blocking tight end, 10 spots behind teammate Trevon Wesco.

“I think he's just inconsistent,” Mike Vrabel said when asked about Okonkwo’s overall development. “Some of that's our ability to try to find ways to get him the ball within what we're trying to do. But some of that's on Chig as well. I love his effort and I love some of the things that he's doing. But I think there's some details and some things that he can be better at as well.”

He’s a great athlete but doesn’t look instinctive right now.

“I’ve just got to get that one game when everything just explodes and pops out, it’s just a matter of time, when it happens, it happens,” Okonkwo said. “We’ve got 12 more games to put stuff on tape.”

Burks can add a big element to the offense.

Kuharsky megaphone“Being able to move the ball downfield, to be a big player that builds speed, that has some speed down the field, that had good play strength that can help us down the field,” Vrabel said.

They could use that at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday against the Ravens’ third-ranked pass defense. When he was set to miss the Bengals game on Oct. 1, Vrabel indicated the injury would cost Burks a week or so. As of late last week he had not had a procedure. 

If he misses a third game he'll have until Oct. 29 against Atlanta to be ready as the Titans have a bye on Oct. 22.

They really need the sort of crossing routes and physical yards-after-the-catch he can deliver.

Mike Herndon and I discuss Burks and Okonkwo further in this week's edition of The Paul Kuharsky Podcast.

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