TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: TIGHT ENDS
In camp (5): Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser, Parker Hesse, Tommy Hudson.
Offseason developments: The Titans re-signed Pruitt and Firkser to one-year deals, and the team added undrafted free agent Tommy Hudson, who played at Arizona State. Smith was named the team's Ed Block Courage award recipient this offseason after taking another big step in his development in 2019 despite the fact he was coming off a serious knee injury. Smith spent a good chunk of his offseason working with quarterback Ryan Tannehill in South Florida, and that should help their on-field chemistry even more this fall. The Titans also said goodbye to arguably the best free agent acquisition in franchise history in tight end Delanie Walker. A 14-year pro who made it to three Pro Bowls with the team but suffered a devastating ankle injury in Week One of the 2018 season, Walker was released back in March, and he remains unsigned.
In the spotlight: Smith. A third-round pick of the Titans in the 2017 NFL Draft, Smith had the best season of his three-year NFL career in 2019, when he caught 35 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns. Smith made an acrobatic touchdown catch in the team's playoff win at Baltimore. Smith has stepped up in each of the past two years when injuries derailed Walker's seasons, and now he's the undisputed TE1 heading into 2020. There's reason to be optimistic about Smith's chances of taking another big step.
Battle to watch: Firkser vs. Pruitt. It's a battle for extra playing time between these two tight ends. Firkser made one of the biggest catches of the year in 2019, when he caught a third down pass from Tannehill to keep a late drive alive in the team's win at New England. It offered proof he has Tannehill's trust, and they'll look to build on that in camp. Pruitt is a solid blocker who has risen to the occasion since joining the Titans in 2018. While both players are expected to make the 55-man roster, if Firkser can further develop as a blocker, he could earn even more snaps this fall.
Keep an eye on: The other 2. Smith, Firkser and Pruitt all return, so there's great familiarity in the room. Each of the veterans brings something different to the team, and the Titans will count on all of them this fall. But is there room for a fourth? And, if not, which of the remaining three is the top candidate for a practice squad spot? The Titans have liked what they've seen from Hesse, who spent the 2019 season on the team's practice squad. Hudson, a 6-3, 255-pounder who had 10 catches for 112 yards as a senior at Arizona State, is a physical player who finishes.
Next up: Receivers.
Titans Online looks back at tight end Jonnu Smith's 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)
A look back at tight end MyCole Pruitt's 2019 season. (Photos: Donald Page)