NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Step by speedy step, Titans rookie wide receiver Taywan Taylor is starting to make his presence felt.
It's taken some time for the third-round draft pick to transition from the spread, air-raid style of offense he played at Western Kentucky to the NFL's more detailed and balanced attack.
But Taylor has seen both his responsibilities and production increase over the last few weeks for the Titans, who return to action Sunday against Baltimore.
Taylor posted a season-best three catches in the Titans' recent win over Cleveland, giving him five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in his last two games combined. In his first five games combined, he'd caught five passes for 72 yards.
The numbers may not be eye-popping just yet – compared to the incredible stats Taylor racked up in his last two seasons with the Hilltoppers – but Taylor is faring well in comparison to his peers.
Among rookie wide receivers, Taylor's 10 catches this season rank fourth behind only the Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp, San Francisco's Trent Taylor and Pittsburgh's Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster. His average of 17.8 yards per catch is tops among the league's rookie wide receivers with at least 10 receptions.
"It's been going really well," Taylor said. "I'm just trying to learn something new every day and trying to improve. That's been my main focus, coming in and learning as much as I can and staying in the game, or getting mental reps and making sure I'm ready when my number is called."
Taylor played in former Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm's entertaining, anything-goes style offense, an attack that featured plenty of bubble screens, short passes and trick plays.
So one of his biggest adjustments to the NFL game has been learning that attention to detail matters much more at the highest level.
"I would say one big example is how deep a certain route is supposed to be," Taylor said. "It's important you get your depth because that helps out with the timing of the quarterback. You definitely want to make sure the timing is right because if it's off just a little bit -- with depth and timing – things get screwed up and it can affect the overall play."
Said Titans coach Mike Mularkey: "He's learning to be really disciplined where he lines up. I promise that there's much more here (in the NFL) that he has to know than he did (in college). You don't have a lot of time with college players because their time is restricted. But here we have a lot of time, and we have a lot of information we give these guys."
The Titans' level of trust is clearly increasing with Taylor based on how much time he's spent on the field. Taylor has played at least 30 snaps in each of the past three weeks, after averaging just 17 snaps in his first four games.
The Louisville native has rewarded the Titans with some impact plays during the team's two-game winning streak. He hauled in a game-winning 53-yard touchdown pass against Indianapolis and made two important catches for first downs against Cleveland – a 17-yard reception during a successful field-goal drive, and a 23-yard reception on a third-and-14 during a later drive.
"He's been great," Titans wide receiver Eric Decker said. "There's a learning curve as a rookie. It's a lot that's thrown on you.
"But I'm excited about his development. He's definitely a student of the game. He listens, he takes criticism well and he always asks questions. That's all you can really ask of a rookie."
What's also important to note about Taylor is that he doesn't necessarily have to be catching the football to impact a game.
Taylor's speed and ability in the open field are such that he's also a threat when taking hand-offs and turning them into jet-sweeps. He's only carried five times for 26 yards this season, but defenses still have to be aware of Taylor every time he motions toward the backfield.
"That's a big plus for us," Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said. "When he's in the backfield, whether he gets the football or not, your eyes are on him. Did they hand it to him or not? So you have to figure that a linebacker sitting across the line of scrimmage is trying to figure that out, too. It's a great distraction for us and it ties into our misdirections."
Defenses also have to respect the downfield ability of Taylor, who has two of the Titans' three longest catches this season – the 53-yarder against Cleveland and a 42-yarder against Jacksonville that set up a touchdown.
"He has a certain skill set that is very unique in our room," Decker said. "He's got the speed and the ability to get hand-offs … and to get down the field and really put pressure on the defense. He's been making plays. That's important."
-- Reach John Glennon at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.