TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: TIGHT ENDS
In camp (6): Austin Hooper, Geoff Swaim, Chig Okonkwo, Tommy Hudson, Briley Moore, Thomas Odukoya.
Offseason developments: The Titans are better here, and they could suddenly be dangerous in three-tight end sets with some nice, versatile options. The Titans signed Hooper, formerly with the Falcons and Browns, in March. The team then drafted Okonkwo in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Maryland. Earlier, the team re-signed Swaim, the veteran tight end who recorded a career-high 31 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns last season. The Titans opted not to re-sign Anthony Firkser, who signed with the Falcons. MyCole Pruitt, who saw his season cut short in 2021 because of an injury, has not been re-signed and he remains a free agent. Moore, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in training camp a year ago, returned to practice this offseason. Meanwhile, the Titans were awarded Odukoya, who played in college at Eastern Michigan and is from the Netherlands, as part of the NFL's International Allocation Program.
In the spotlight: Hooper. A two-time Pro Bowler, Hooper has a nice NFL resume. Over his 88-game career, Hooper has started 57 games and he's tallied 298 receptions, 3,024 yards and 23 touchdowns. Hooper earned Pro Bowl honors following the 2018 and 2019 seasons, when he combined for 146 receptions in Atlanta over those two seasons, a total that ranked fourth among NFL tight ends during that span. Hooper accounted for 38 receptions, 345 yards and three touchdowns last year in Cleveland. During the offseason, Hooper was a favorite target of QB Ryan Tannehill in practices. He should be a big factor this year, and the two will look to build more chemistry in training camp.
Battle to watch: A 4th TE? I'm banking on Hooper, Swaim and Okonkwo making the 53-man roster, so the questions become: Is there room for a 4th? Or, how about a TE on the practice squad? Hudson has the skill-set the team is looking for because he's a hybrid player who can block, make some plays in the passing game, and he can play on special teams. But Hudson has had trouble staying healthy, and he's now on the spot. Moore flashed early in camp last year before his injury, so he'll look to build some momentum this year in camp. Odukoya is a big man and a hard worker, but he's not real fast.
Keep an eye on: Okonkwo. The athletic tight end finished the offseason with a bang, catching four touchdown passes in the team's two minicamp practices. Can he pick up where he left off when camp begins? If the answer is yes, then the Titans could have something special here. Okonkwo (6-3, 238) has proven early he can catch it, and run with it. At Maryland, Okonkwo started all 13 games for the Terrapins in 2021 and he finished second on the team with 52 receptions for 447 yards with a team-best five touchdowns. The Titans are hoping he can be a factor for the team as a rookie.
Next up: Receivers.