Why big is best for Titans at receiver

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Julio Jones is 6-foot-3 and 220-pounds. A.J. Brown is 6-1, 226. Josh Reynolds is 6-3, 196.

The Titans’ size at receiver hardly ends after their long top three.


Julio Jones pool photo: George Walker, The Tennessean

Dez Fitzpatrick is 6-2, 208. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine is 6-2, 211.

Among guys less certain to be on the roster, Cody Hollister is 6-4, 216; Racey McMath is 6-3 217; Kalija Lipscomb is 6-1, 201; Marcus Johnson is 6-1, 207; Fred Brown is 6-1, 195; and Chester Rogers is 6-0, 184.

Only Cam Batson (5-8, 175) and Mason Kinsey (5-10, 198) are under 6-feet.

“There are a lot of advantages to having a big target,” Ryan Tannehill said. “You get range, a bigger catching radius, they can use their bodies to create separation. If it’s tight coverage you have more space to throw it away from a defender and they’ll still be able to make a play on it. Jon (Robinson) and Coach Vrabel have done a good job of getting guys that kind of fit the way we want to play – tough, physical. We’re going to ask them to block, and be a big help to all of that.

“I’m excited for the room we have and it’ll be fun to see those guys work as we get through training camp and how that room ends up will be exciting.”

The size isn't a giveaway of speed as it sometimes can be. Jones is a 10-year veteran, but he came into the league running a 4.39. Brown has been running away from people for two years after running a 4.49 at the combine. Reynolds was a 4.52 but has a knack for separating downfield without running past people.

Reynolds was the guy the Titans grabbed in free agency after Corey Davis went to the Jets. They waited until the fourth round in the draft to grab Fitzpatrick and added McMath in the sixth. Then they recently traded for Jones.

That’s 24-feet-11-inches and 841 pounds of receiver.

“We have guys with great size, great length, most important is the production,” Mike Vrabel said. “However big you are, however fast you are, you have to be productive to be able to function within our offense.

“Be able to block when we need you to block, be able to beat man coverage and be somebody the quarterback trusts. If you use that length and some of that play strength to get open, that’s great. You can play big and within the rules and have a large catch radius. I would imagine you don’t have to be as accurate as a quarterback.”

The big receiver theme could help inform the Titans’ draft strategy after the fact. They could have had Elijah Moore or Rondale Moore in the first round, D’Wayne Eskridge or Tutu Atwell in the second, Amari Rodgers or Nico Collins in the third. All are smaller receivers, Rondale Moore (5-7, 181) and Atwell (5-8+, 155) super small. 

Tannehill said some bigger guys have a tougher time getting into and out of breaks, but the Titans will have to figure all of that out as he learns the new group and continues to grow with Brown and the guys he knows.

"It depends on the guy; physics-wise it is a little bit tougher to transition when you're when you're bigger," he said. "But I've seen some really big guys who have amazing transition and can transition just as fast as anybody. So it's really a person-by-person basis and whatever each guy's skill set is.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

"But on the whole, we have to just take advantage of each person's individual skillset, try to bring out the best things that they do and ultimately help us make plays."

The long receivers are making an impression that extends all the way to the offensive line.

Answering a question about being reunited with Reynolds, an old teammate from the Rams, Roger Saffold pointed to the unifying quality of the group.

“The thing that is great about our wide receiver corps is having guys that are 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 that are very lengthy, very athletic,” he said.


A couple of thoughts from practice...

--Jones caught some passes from DeShone Kizer from about 11 yards out along the left side of the end zone during a special teams period, at one point stretching and jumping for one and taking a tough landing on his backside. He was expectedly graceful in the air and with his footwork. Derrick Henry "lined up" against him for a few snaps and caught shorter passes. Pictures of the two together would have produced all sorts of feelings for fans of the Titans and Alabama, but it was not in a shooting portion period. (The team photographer got one -- see tweet above.) Tannehill threw a few to Jones before it was over.

--Janoris Jenkins brought some of the energy I expected. In a seven-on-seven period, he rode up Cam Batson's back to break up a pass, though he didn't exactly keep Batson, or himself, on their feet. Moments later he put a pretty good half shoulder into RB Mekhi Sargent to assure a pass was not completed. I found Jenkins to be generally influential.

--Jones and Henry were not part of much of the most meaningful work -- the 11-on-11 stuff.

--In addition to Hasahn French, the power forward turned tight end, the Titans have cornerback Kevin Peterson in for a tryout. TE coach Luke Steckel spent one extended water break with French discussing spacing and get-off. You can see French run a bit here. He's got a long way to go to be sudden, but he's a project trying out for a reason.

--Not on the field: Kicker Blake Haubell, A.J. Brown, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Caleb Farley, Kristian Fulton, DB Maurice Smith, Bud Dupree, Jayon Brown, Monty Rice, Ty Sambrailo or Taylor Lewan.

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