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Notebook: Titans Give Kendall Wright Freedom to be 'Streetballerish'

Posted Nov 28, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Hash marks on grass have a much different look than a slab of asphalt with a hoop, but Ryan Fitzpatrick said Kendall Wright excels at the prior because he’s “kind of streetballerish.”

Fitzpatrick said Wright’s freestyle approach is one of the second-year receiver’s strengths and reminds him of Bills receiver Stevie Johnson, who shares more in common with Wright than No. 13 jerseys.

Justin Hunter helps up Kendall Wright after the game-winning touchdown against Oakland.

“They both have basketball backgrounds, so just very quick. It’s been nice to get on the same page with him a little bit because you kind of, he’s never going to run the same route twice the same way,” Fitzpatrick said. “Sometimes he could be a difficult guy to throw to, but I’ve got a good chemistry with him, where it’s a fun guy because he’s always going to be open.”

Wright has 65 receptions for 763 yards this season, already surpassing his totals of 64 for 626 last season as a rookie and has 22 catches for 261 yards in the past three games, including the 10-yard game-winner last week at Oakland.

Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Wright is the only receiver on the Titans and only player he’s ever coached who has been granted the “freedom to get where he needs to get.”

“Kendall knows where he needs to be and how deep he needs to be and he knows at what point Ryan is expecting him to be there,” Loggains said. “How he gets there, you can’t put the kid in a box because it would take away some of his creativity and I think as the season has gone on, he’s started to understand more of the distribution and timing of it, so I think it’s given him freedom and us the opportunity to give him leeway with how he gets there. He’s the only guy on this team that has that option.”

That’s where the basketball background comes into play for Wright, who is decisively using quickness to create separation from defenders who are playing man coverage and reading defenses to find openings in zone coverage like on last week’s game-winning TD.

“It’s kind of like a crossover (dribble),” Wright said. “I love basketball and some of the stuff I do reminds a lot of people of basketball.

Wright, who leads the NFL with 25 catches on third-down plays, said he understands that the Titans will continue to extend flexibility with how he runs routes “as long as I get there.”

“It’s kind of like when I’m running some of the routes I’m running I have a choice. If it’s one-on-one, I do what I’ve got to do to get open,” Wright said. “I’m pre-reading so I already know and he knows by the look that the defense is in.”

HUNTER’S ‘TREE’ GROWS: Loggains said Justin Hunter’s six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown at Oakland shows how the “route tree” has grown this season for the rookie.

“I think early in the season it was give him a role where, as he’s growing, as he’s learning, as he’s increasing his route tree, the number of routes he can run we’ll give him some opportunities to get on the field and do what he does best,” Loggains said. “His route tree is continuing to develop. I think it’s happening fast for him. I think the best thing that could happen to him is getting some confidence with making five big third-down conversions.”

Hunter’s five receptions on third downs against the Raiders accounted for 10 of the 18 third-down conversions the Titans made. Loggains said the final one was the “play of the game.”

On third-and-7, Hunter gained nine yards with a catch that required him to reach slightly behind him. It prevented Tennessee from having to attempt a game-tying field goal and enabled the Titans win in regulation.

Sunday marked the fourth straight game in which the Titans have converted at least 54 percent of their third downs. Tennessee ranks sixth in the NFL in the category for the season, which Fitzpatrick attributed to playmakers.

“Those guys are getting open and making plays so I feel like the skill guys we have as an offense and the confidence we have going, the guys are tough to stop,” Fitzpatrick said.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: The signing of versatile running back Leon Washington adds the possibility of him taking snaps from the backfield or lining up as a receiver, but Loggains said not much of that will happen this week.

“At some point, we’ll get to that with him,” Loggains said. “His number one job is returning and doing that stuff and getting comfortable, which has been a big issue for us as well, but at some point we want to see his skill set and what he can do. This quick, he won’t be able to contribute much on offense. It’s learning the terminology and getting prepared to play.”

INJURY UPDATES: Wright (ankle) and Brian Schwenke (ankle) practiced fully, David Stewart (shoulder), Craig Stevens (concussion), Damian Williams (hip) and Bernard Pollard (illness) did not participate.

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