TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: RECEIVERS
In camp (12): Robert Woods, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Treylon Burks, Josh Malone, Racey McMath, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cody Hollister, Kyle Philips, Mason Kinsey, Reggie Roberson Jr., Brandon Lewis, Juwan Green.
Offseason developments: The Titans traded a sixth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Los Angeles Rams to acquire Woods, who has recorded 570 catches for 7,077 yards and 35 touchdowns in his playing career with the Bills and Rams. During the 2022 draft, the Titans shocked the NFL when they traded receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles before drafting Burks with the 18th overall pick. The Titans later drafted Philips, who played at UCLA, in the fifth round before signing Roberson (Houston) and Lewis (Air Force) as undrafted free agents. There was plenty of activity even before that, however. The Titans released receiver Julio Jones back in March, and in February the team signed Malone, the former University of Tennessee receiver who was a fourth-round pick of the Bengals in the 2017 draft. The Titans opted not to re-sign Cam Batson, who ended up signing with the Falcons, and Chester Rodgers hasn't been re-signed, and he remains a free agent. In offseason practices, Woods was limited while working in a knee brace, while Burks missed time. Westbrook-Ikhine was probably the most consistent receiver all offseason, while Malone was a pleasant surprise.
In the spotlight: Woods. A two-time captain with the Rams, Woods totaled 367 receptions for 4,626 yards and 23 touchdowns in 68 games in five seasons in Los Angeles. After suffering a torn ACL last year, he arrived in Nashville this offseason motivated to keep on keeping on. While limited this offseason, the work Woods did in OTAs and the minicamp was encouraging. There's a lot on the veteran's plate as he heads into his first season in Tennessee, because he'll be expected to produce in a number of areas following the departure of Brown. In addition to catching passes, Woods is going to be counted on as a blocker, and in the leadership department. Woods is quick to flash a smile, and if all goes well, he'll have Titans fans smiling this fall as well.
Battle to watch: The back-ups. The real competition hasn't even started yet, so it's probably premature for me to start penciling guys into spots. Looking at the group prior to camp, however, I have Woods, Westbrook-Ikhine and Burks as the projected top three. So, who rounds out the group? And, how many receivers will the team keep? Malone was one of the offseason stars, but he'll need to stay consistent while proving he can help on special teams. Fitzpatrick had an up-and-down offseason, but I thought he ended on an uptick. McMath was limited in the offseason, but he'll have a chance to compete and earn a spot in training camp. I suspect one, maybe two, could come from that group of three. Philips should be exciting to watch because he's quick and fast, and he has a chance to carve out a role for himself. Roberson had a good offseason, but at this point I'm thinking he's probably more of a practice squad candidate than a 53-man roster candidate. Others hope to surge, and stick.
Keep an eye on: Burks. Let's face it, the start of his NFL career in Tennessee has been less than ideal. Burks, who was a beast with the Razorbacks, missed a good chunk of time in OTAs because of issues with asthma and conditioning, and it caused quite a stir from fans. But let's also keep things in perspective here – Burks didn't get to train like he normally would because of over a dozen visits leading up to the draft, and the time to panic isn't May or June. With all that said, Burks is now on the spot, because the Titans need him. Burks has been working hard since the end of the offseason program, and I'm expecting him to be ready for the start of camp and in a position to compete. His development will be worth watching. … One more thing to keep an eye on: The market, because adding another veteran receiver is a possibility at some point.
Next up: Defensive line.