The Tennessee Titans drafted WR Treylon Burks to be a difference maker on offense before all else. 

When a team trades a player of AJ Brown’s caliber, you know they are putting a lot of chips on the draft pick that replaces him. 

That’s the case with Burks. 

Without AJ Brown or Julio Jones on the team, the Titans are left without many proven options at the WR position outside of veteran addition Robert Woods. 

At the very least, Burks needs to be a WR2 option and replace some of the production Brown is leaving behind him, and his success in doing so will go a long way into determining the success of Ryan Tannehill and the Titans offense. 

His primary responsibilities, though, will simply be to “get open, catch, and block,” as GM Jon Robinson said in the season opening press conference.

Burks’ performance in his rookie season will be graded first and foremost by how he does catching passes for Ryan Tannehill. 

It seems, however, like Burks may be finding an additional (and surprising) way to help the Titans in 2022. 

Burks has been taking reps as a punt returner in practice, and according to Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, we should see him in that role during preseason games. 

“He’s getting more comfortable catching them. Hopefully we can see him out there in the preseason.”

– Mike Vrabel on Treylon Burks returning punts

Burks returned 12 punts in 2019 as a Freshman at Arkansas, but only returned one punt in his final two seasons combined. 

Even though he’s taken a bit of a break from his return duties, Burks told me after practice that it still feels familiar to him, and he’s finding new ways to improve through his reps. 

Some may quarrel with the idea of a first round receiver, who you are counting on to be a key offensive contributor, risking his health on punt return duties. 

After all, it was just one month ago that Burks was not on the field for most of the drills during a practice. Now he’s practicing as a receiver and a return man? Shouldn’t they take it easy with him?

I’d say just the opposite. 

Vrabel said it perfectly. Treylon Burks’ speed and illusiveness is one of the reasons the Titans drafted him where they did. He’s tough to tackle. He’s skilled enough to make an impact anytime the football is in his hands and help in multiple facets of the game.

That should be utilized. 

If it becomes clear that Burks is not the best option for the job, of course you go in another direction (Mason Kinsey, Kyle Philips, or Terry Godwin). But, if Burks can change football games from the punt return spot, it would be a welcome surprise for a team in need of a Chester Rogers placement. 

The modern NFL recipe is simple. Get the ball to your best players, and let them make plays. Sometimes, that can even mean playing a top receiver as your punt returner. 

Hunter Renfrow (LVR), Tyreek Hill (MIA), CeeDee Lamb (DAL), Brandon Aiyuk (SF), just to name a few. 

I’ll be excited to watch Burks’ growth throughout the preseason and see if his return reps stand as a testament of his true value and versatility. 

Image via George Walker IV / Tennessean.com-USA TODAY NETWORK