TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: SPECIAL TEAMS
In camp: K Randy Bullock, P Brett Kern, K Caleb Shudak, P Ryan Stonehouse, LS Morgan Cox, along with punt returners Kyle Philips, Amani Hooker, Mason Kinsey and kick returners Dontrell Hilliard, Trenton Cannon, Jordan Wilkins, Racey McMath, Reggie Roberson, and Philips.
Offseason developments: The Titans re-signed Bullock to two-year deal in March, and they also retained the dependable Cox to a one-year contract, and he'll once again handle the snapping duties. The team signed Cannon, formerly with the 49ers, and he'll be counted on to help in a number of areas on special teams, including the return game. Former Texans defensive back A.J. Moore, also signed in March, will also be an asset on special teams. The Titans added Shudak (Iowa) and Stonehouse (Colorado State) as undrafted free agents. Shudak was got off to a nice start before suffering an injury that sidelined him for the end of the offseason and also resulted in him beginning camp on the team's PUP list. Several players worked in the return game, but the real competition won't begin until camp. On the coaching staff, the Titans added former NFL player Chase Blackburn as assistant special teams coach, where he'll work alongside Craig Aukerman.
In the spotlight: Bullock. Bullock stepped in and stepped up when the Titans needed him in 2021. The veteran kicker, originally signed by the team last September following an injury to Sam Ficken, went 26-of-31 on field goal attempts last season while also making 42-of-45 extra point attempts. Bullock finished the 2021 season with 120 points, which was the second-highest total of his career and the ninth-highest in franchise history. The Titans awarded him with a new contract during the offseason with hopes of him carrying the momentum into 2022.
Battle to watch: Returners. Hilliard and Cannon are considered among the top candidates at the kick returner spot, and Wilkins could factor in here as well. I think Philips, the team's fifth-round pick out of UCLA, has the inside track at punt returner as long as he proves capable during camp practices and games. The shifty Kinsey is another receiver who will also get a chance at punt returner. During a time when dynamic returners aren't real common in the NFL, the Titans have some options here, even if they might not have game-changers. Still, it will be interesting to see which guys end up winning these jobs.
Keep an eye on: Shudak and Stonehouse. I've seen a lot of camp kickers roll through over the years, camp legs intended to give the veterans a break. Based on what I've seen so far, Shudak and Stonehouse are better than some of those previous guys. During OTAs, Shudak got a lot of opportunities, and he was money early, making 17 of his first 19 kicks before a forgettable day when he made just 2 of 5 and suffered an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the offseason. He'll begin camp on the PUP list, but should be available to compete at some point in camp. Stonehouse, meanwhile, hit some bombs in practices after averaging 50.9 yards per punt on 58 attempts last season. These guys will get a chance in practices and games, and they'll be worth watching.
Next up: Training camp.