Titan wide receivers out to silence critics
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — The first round of the NFL Draft went by, then the second round and the third without Tennessee spending a pick on a wide receiver. To the Titans on the roster at that position, nothing could have been a bigger endorsement.
“It’s great,” receiver Brandon Jones said. “Being a wide receiver, you always look at that. It’s good (coach Jeff) Fisher has that trust in us we can go out there and get the job done. We have the confidence in ourselves. We work hard enough. We want to go out and get it done ourselves. We don’t look at as we need to get some help to bring it in.”
Questioning the Titans’ receiving corps is easy enough based on production in 2007.
Only three Titans caught more than 33 passes, and one of them was tight end Bo Scaife. Justin Gage and Roydell Williams each finished with 55 catches, but Tennessee managed only nine touchdowns receiving for a passing offense that ranked 27th in the NFL averaging 179.9 yards per game and not enough to counter the NFL’s fifth-best rushing offense.
But Fisher changed offensive coordinators in January, bringing back Mike Heimerdinger, who showed a deft touch with receivers and the passing game while holding the job here between 2000 and 2004. He liked what he found enough that he didn’t lobby to use a high draft pick at receiver.
“The whole group worked pretty hard, ran good routes and had pretty good technique, so I wasn’t sure that there was a drastic need to go out and just go take a receiver because everybody thought we needed a receiver. They all looked like they had some talent,” Heimerdinger said.
After Heimerdinger rejoined the team, the Titans signed Gage to a new four-year deal with $6.5 million guaranteed.
“Justin Gage is a good technique guy,” Heimerdinger said. “I don’t know how many chances he had to catch a deep ball. You can’t say he doesn’t have the ability to go deep.”
They also signed Justin McCareins, a former draft pick traded away to the Jets a few years ago, to a one-year deal. McCareins thinks the Titans have a very good group of receivers.
“We think we can be as good as anybody if we continue to improve and continue to pull together and know what we’re doing out there with this new offense,” he said.
The Titans currently have 11 receivers, five of those are draft picks including two from last year in Paul Williams who never got on the field in 2007 and Chris Davis who had only five catches. Lavelle Hawkins, a fourth-round pick out of California, was the only receiver drafted this year and joined the veterans for the first time Friday.
Paul Williams, who shares that last name with three other Titans receivers including Mike Williams (the 10th pick overall in 2005) and undrafted rookie Edward, had several nice catches Friday using long arms that have earned him the nickname Inspector Gadget.
“And they’re all there to get (jobs) whether it’s Gage who just got new money or me that’s working to have a good year to get new money or stay here longer,” Mike Williams said. “Everybody’s going for the same thing: To win and to play. This offense, Coach Dinger’s record. Play for him, chances are you probably are going to be doing pretty good.”
Heimerdinger threw open competition on the first day, telling the receivers to show him what they’ve got. Gage and McCareins are working first in the rotation while Roydell Williams’ ankle heals followed, so far, in the rotation by Biren Ealy, a 6-foot-3 receiver who was an undrafted free agent in 2007, and Mike Williams.
But Heimerdinger demands consistency and the ability to make plays.
“I had no preconceived notions about who should be where and what they should do or where they should all go. It’s a clean slate for those guys, a chance to show what they can do,” he said.
Time to catch on.
Notes: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch had a brief fight with offensive lineman Leroy Harris, getting in a left with the lineman on the ground before it was broken up. … Rookie tight end Craig Stephens, who went to California with Hawkins, also was on the field Friday. DE Bryce Fisher, who went to Air Force, missed the sessions this week because of his military obligations. He is a public affairs officer with the Washington Air Guard. … The Titans will wrap up their offseason on-field sessions in late June with five more practices.