NASHVILLE — As the Tennessee Titans (7-3) advance deeper into the regular season, their 2022 rookie class continues to make important contributions. Tight end Chig Okonkwo is one who has continued to earn the trust of his teammates and coaches.
Tennessee will need him down the stretch.
Okonkwo has not been a high-volume target, but no player truly is in the Titans run-first offense. The rookie is doing more than enough with his opportunities, however, to make a legitimate difference. Eight catches for 172 yards and a touchdown through eleven weeks are far from eye-popping statistics.
Okonkwo’s impact in Tennessee requires a closer look.
Titans are starting to get more from their tight ends
Of those eight receptions, Okonkwo has had one in each of the last four games.
In three consecutive contests, those catches have gone for 48, 41 and 31 yards respectively. Explosive plays have been hard to come by in the Titans offense this year. Good things happen when Tennessee’s quarterbacks can get him the ball.
So, how does he secure a larger role?
“Continue to try to find ways to get (Okonkwo the football,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said earlier this month. “When he is out there running a route, like I tell every player that is out for a route, your job is to get open and you can’t control whether you get the ball or not. That is up to the quarterback. We will continue to try to find ways to get everybody involved and do things that help us.”
In the Thursday night win after Vrabel delivered that quote, quarterback Ryan Tannehill gave Okonkwo a chance to deliver again.
On a 2nd-and-7 play from the Tennessee 12 yard line, Tannehill found the first-year tight end on deep shot to the left side of the field for a 31-yard gain. That strike gave the Titans offense an opportunity to prolong a drive and, four plays later, a touchdown pass thrown by running back Derrick Henry to fellow tight end Austin Hooper for a 20-9 lead.
“It was amazing, the feeling in the locker room,” Okonkwo said of the win at Green Bay in a 104.5 The Zone interview this week. “Just going back in there and knowing that we finally played a complete game. Every quarter, every phase. Just being able to experience that. It kind of just refreshed our team on how good we can be when we’re able to play and hit everything on all cylinders like that. It feels like we’re unstoppable out there.”
With continued impact plays from Okonkwo and first-round pick Treylon Burks, the Titans offense could certainly start to be.
Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.