NASHVILLE – During a 1-on-1 drill early in training camp, receiver Kyle Philips was next up for the Titans.
The rookie could pick any defensive back to go against.
He called out safety Kevin Byard, a two-time Pro Bowler who is beginning his seventh season with the team.
"(Kevin) said: 'OK, let's go rook'," Philips recalled.
So, what happened?
"Unfortunately," Philips said with a smile, "I didn't win that rep. But it was a good experience, and it was a good rep."
Byard, by the way, loved it.
"He (called) me out first," Byard said. "I like the confidence. He has been making a lot of plays. He's a really good route runner."
A fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft out of UCLA, Philips has been a regular standout through 10 training camp practices so far.
He's been making plays, and his teammates have noticed.
"He's a shifty guy," Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of Philips. "I think that's what stands out immediately is his shiftiness. He's able to use his quickness, his lateral quickness and change of direction to get himself open in a lot of different situations, a lot of different routes. He has a good understanding of finding the open areas. He just has a knack for getting open.
"At the end of the day, that is what you love to see from receivers, one way or the other. Whether it is a big, strong, physical guy or him as a little bit smaller, quicker guy. Using your skill set to find way to get open. He's shown to do that so far, and he just has to keep progressing and keep making plays."
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has praised Philips as well.
"He gets open, catches the ball, and he knows where to go," Vrabel said. "It looks like the quarterback trusts him. I think he does a good job of recognizing whether it's man or zone, how he wants to run his route, and (he's) decisive."
A 5-foot-11, 189-pounder, Philips arrived in Tennessee with impressive credentials.
In four seasons with the Bruins, Philips caught 163 passes for 1,821 yards and 17 touchdowns. Philips had a reception in each of the last 29 games he played in and 35 catches in the last five games of the 2021 season, when he caught 59 passes for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns. Philips led all Pac-12 receivers with the 10 touchdown catches and he rated No. 2 in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game (67.18) and No. 3 in the league in receptions per game average (5.36) in 2021.
Phillips also averaged 22.6 yards per punt return last season, including an 82-yard touchdown scamper against Colorado. He was named first-team All-Pac-12 as a receiver and was a second-team selection as a kick returner by the league's coaches.
In Tennessee, Philips said his confidence is growing.
"I am just coming in each day and trying to earn more trust," he said. "(My confidence) has gone up tremendously. My first day going against the 1s, (there were) a little bit of jitters and each day I am able to catch a couple of balls. I feel like I belong. I feel comfortable, and I am ready to play some football."
On Thursday night, Philips will make his preseason debut when the Titans face the Ravens in Baltimore.
Philips hopes to carry the momentum from practices into games.
"I just want to show that I am a reliable receiver," he said. "Whatever the team needs I'll give it to them. If they want me to go block someone, I'll go block 'em. If they need me to make some catches, I'll go catch the ball."