TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: TIGHT ENDS
Offseason developments: The Titans re-signed Firkser on a one-year deal, and he worked with the team throughout the offseason workouts. Firkser also took part in Tight End University, which was organized by 49ers tight end George Kittle and included the NFL's best at the position. The team also re-signed Geoff Swaim to a one-year deal, and after the draft signed a pair of undrafted free agents in Moore (Kansas State) and Forristall (Alabama). Earlier in the offseason the Titans signed former Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney, who spent time with the Falcons last year. Also, after former tight ends coach Todd Downing was promoted to offensive coordinator, the team named Luke Steckel tight ends coach to replace him. Former Titans tight end Jonnu Smith signed a lucrative deal with the Patriots early in free agency. The Titans opted not to re-sign MyCole Pruitt, who ended up signing with the 49ers. The team invited former St. Louis University basketball star Hasahn French to the team's minicamp, but did not immediately sign him.
In the spotlight: Firkser. While working behind Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith earlier in his career, Firkser learned plenty to put himself in a position to succeed when he got the chance. Coming off a year when he caught 39 passes for 387 yards and a touchdown in 2020, Firkser is in line to play a much bigger role for the Titans this fall. Firkser showed up at offseason workouts in great shape, and impressed those around him even further with his work ethic. His time at Tight End University in Nashville allowed him to learn even more from some of the game's best at the position. With plenty of weapons around him in the offense, Firkser is in a great spot to have success.
Battle to watch: The younger TEs. Firkser and veteran Geoff Swaim will take up two spots at this position, with Firkser serving as the pass-catching threat (who has improved in the run game), and Swaim serving primarily as a blocker. But there's room for at least one more, and some younger guys will battle it out for now. Hudson, a who spent time on the team's practice squad last year after signing as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft, has the edge entering camp over Moore, Pinkney and Forristall. Now it's up to him to take the next step. Watching Hudson in practices, I've seen improvement, but he still needs to clean things up from a technique standpoint. Moore has talent, and he could emerge when the pads come on. Pinkney's decision to miss OTAs was a head-scratcher for me, but he did look good in the two-day minicamp and could be a factor as well. Forristall is tall (6-5) and athletic, but has his work cut out for him to stick around.
Keep an eye on: The market. Prior to the Titans trading for Julio Jones, I looked at the tight end position as a big position of need. I view things a little differently now. Because the team now has plenty of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, I don't think adding a big-time, accomplished player is a must. Now that doesn't mean someone else won't be added here, and how things shake out in camp could help determine which direction the team goes. Firkser is talented enough to carry the load as a pass catcher, but will one of the young guys emerge behind him and Swaim? Pinkney has talent, and he's probably more athletic than Pruitt. While I'm not expecting the team to make another big trade to acquire a guy here, adding someone else remains in play if the current crop of tight ends fails to convince the team more help isn't needed.
Next up: Receivers.