On March 18, the Titans signed Austin Hooper, a former tight end for the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns, to a one-year deal worth $6 million. Hooper is entering his seventh season in the NFL, and at the age of 27, is a two-time Pro-Bowler.
When the Titans signed Hooper, it was a pretty safe assumption he would be a large contributor to the offense in 2022. He fits the system like a glove.
Hooper is one of the best blocking tight ends out there, and it doesn’t hurt that his blocking skillset is so versatile. He can block from the line, the slot, or even get down field and block into the second level. In the Titans run heavy offense, Hooper can be an elite helper for Derrick Henry.
Don’t mistake that for Hooper being one-dimensional, though. During final season in Atlanta (when he made the Pro-Bowl), Hooper took 51.5% of his snaps without a hand in the dirt, either in the slot or out wide, per Pro Football Focus. With an equal balance, he was at his most productive as a pass catcher, posting 787 yards and six touchdowns during the 2019 season.
When Hooper landed in Cleveland in 2020, his role changed significantly. About 66% of Hooper’s snaps came on the line with a hand in the dirt, via PFF. That ranked him top-five in percentage of inline snaps amongst all tight ends. As a result, his receiving production took a hit. The Browns may have struggled to use him as a pass catcher, but with Hooper inline, he was a big part of the reason the Browns finished top five in rushing yards in both seasons he was in Cleveland.
The role of Austin Hooper can really be whatever you need it to be. The Titans have not had that in their offense since Jonnu Smith left. Even then, Hooper is the superior vertical threat to what Smith was in Tennessee.
During Titans voluntary OTAs on Tuesday, Hooper showed off a little bit of everything, including some leadership, as he worked alongside rookie tight end Chig Okonkwo:
While it can be hard to tell who’s really setting themselves apart without pads on, it certainly looks like Hooper has been making a lot of plays and impacting the Titans passing game. He was on the receiving end of multiple passes from quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the brief 7-on-7 drills, and one of those went for a long touchdown across the middle.
I spoke with Titans tight ends coach Luke Steckel about the impact Hooper has already had on the Titans offense and the importance of him getting comfortable with Tannehill during OTAs:
“I lean on his experience and I think the other guys in the room do too.”
– Titans tight ends coach Luke Steckel on Austin Hooper
Hooper really could be a treasure trove for the 2022 Titans.
He’s on a short-term veteran deal and brings with him the skillset to be an assertive run blocker, or a reliable pass catcher, depending on where he’s needed. Six years of experience will also allow him to show younger players, like Chig Okonkwo, the ropes.
This has the makings of a home run signing by Jon Robinson and the Titans. Don’t be surprised when Hooper impresses this fall.
Image via George Walker IV / Tennessean.com-USA TODAY NETWORK