NASHVILLE — Receiver Dez Fitzpatrick knows he is under a microscope. A 2021 fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, Fitzpatrick has made strides in the early going of Year 2.
There are only so many reps to go around, however, in Tennessee’s crowded wide out room.
Not making the Titans 53-man roster in his rookie season clearly has had an impact on Fitzpatrick. He was promoted from the practice squad last November and appeared in four total games. Fitzpatrick’s best statistical performance came in a home loss to the Houston Texans.
The then-rookie’s errors in that game also led to at least one of four interceptions by quarterback Ryan Tannehill that day.
Titans receivers depth decisions
Eleven wide receivers currently populate Tennessee’s roster.
Veterans Robert Woods, Nick Westbook-Ikhine and first-round pick Treylon Burks are locks to make the 53. Fifth-round selection Kyle Philips seems to be as well, after consistently strong performances in camp on both offense and special teams. Fitzpatrick is competing with the likes of Racey McMath and Josh Malone for active roster spots.
There may well be room for two of the three, but just increased urgency will not be enough.
“On the second play of the (preseason) game,” coach Mike Vrabel said on Saturday. “We had a six-yard gain. It wasn’t that (Fitzpatrick) lacked urgency to get in there, his technique kind of broke down. The guy threw off and made the tackle for a six-yard gain. We’d like to have him get in there, replace his hands and finish the guy or cover him up. It wasn’t that he lacked the urgency to go in there and try to get him. He did and it was a good, physical contact. He kind of lost a couple seconds into the play. We could use that as an example of there was urgency, just the finish has to be better.”
Fitzpatrick focused on corrections
In the Titans first practice work since their preseason loss at Baltimore, Fitzpatrick was noticeably active.
The receiver polished off one of Tennessee’s two-minute drives with a 38-yard catch for a touchdown. The intent of the drill was simply to set up the field goal unit to simulate a late-game situation, but Tannehill found Fitzpatrick on a coverage bust to make the play. Back-up Logan Woodside also hit Fitzpatrick for a score in seven-on-seven drills.
“Just bouncing back from a loss,” said Fitzpatrick on Saturday. “Every time we step out on the field, we want to compete to win. Going in there early today, getting the corrections, seeing what we did wrong, how we avoid it and how do we apply it now today in practice.”
Fitzpatrick was targeted four times on Thursday in Baltimore.
He caught only one of those passes for 10 yards. There were additional opportunities in which the quarterbacks either did not Fitzpatrick when open or were inaccurate on the play. Tennessee’s coaching staff is looking at what the second-year receiver does on every snap he takes, however, not just what the box score says.
Refinement will need to come quickly for Fitzpatrick to prove himself worthy of more than the fringes of his position group.
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