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Titans Push Competition at WR

Posted Jun 11, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have tried to do everything possible to make sure Jake Locker has plenty of options when he drops back to pass.

They already had a pair of first-round draft selections in Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright, and veteran Nate Washington. But Tennessee also signed veteran Kevin Walter and used a second-round draft pick on Justin Hunter, creating a crowd at receiver with no more than seven expected to make the roster.

Mike Munchak also switched position coaches, hiring Shawn Jefferson to oversee the receivers with Dave Ragone moving to quarterbacks. Now the Tennessee head coach is enjoying what he sees this offseason with the competition.

"They can't work any harder than they are right now, and hopefully that'll carry over to the season," Munchak said Tuesday.

The Titans have 13 receivers on the roster right now, and Hunter is one of only four rookies. They traditionally keep six receivers, though needs elsewhere could push that down to as few as five. That means someone will not be sticking around after the final roster cuts in August.

Washington said they understand that they have a group of guys that all could play anywhere in the NFL.

"With that being said, we don't want to accept the things or the success that we may have had in the past," Washington said. "We want to be a new group, we want to push ourselves a little bit to be better."

Jefferson is doing his best to do just that in the organized team activities that conclude this week. The Titans wrap up the offseason next week with their minicamp.

"We're under construction right now," Jefferson said. "We're learning how to work. We're learning how to take setbacks and keep pushing through them."

Washington is going into his ninth season with 313 catches for 4,730 yards and 35 touchdowns in his career. He made a catch recently that looked similar to his 71-yard touchdown last season against Detroit where he caught the ball over a defender. Walter also has plenty of experience with his 356 catches for 4,379 yards and 25 TDs.

Britt is the receiver Tennessee expects the most from this season. He's finally healthy and needs a good season in the final year of his contract. Jefferson has made it clear how much he wants both on and off the field from the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Britt.

But that's not the Titans' only options.

Wright led the team with 64 catches and tied Washington, Britt and tight end Jared Cook with four TD catches. The first-round selection out of Baylor a year ago lost about 15 pounds and said he feels faster as he tries to follow up his rookie season. Damian Williams caught 30 passes himself, and Michael Preston caught five passes in his four games.

The biggest surprise might be Marc Mariani, who broke both bones in his lower leg last August. He's been catching passes during the organized team activities, working himself back from an injury so gruesome his career seemed at risk. Mariani has the admiration of his teammates, even as he tries to earn one of the few jobs to be had.

The one receiver who may be falling behind is Hunter. He has not practiced lately in these sessions because of a sore hamstring. The Titans traded with San Francisco to move up six spots to select the 6-4 Hunter, who caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards last year in college at Tennessee.

But they don't want to risk a setback by pushing him to return to the field too soon, and Hunter said he is frustrated.

"Being on the sideline my sophomore year, that brings me back to that, and just being out there," Hunter said of the year he tore his left ACL. "I wish I could go out there and help them."

With Locker taking the snaps with the first-team, he's working enough with the receivers that he sees them finding a comfort level.

"Everyone has a different style with how they run routes, come out of routes and the speed they run them with," Locker said. "And I think once you are able to find that as a quarterback and receiver, that's when you are dangerous."

NOTES: LG Andy Levitre finally hit the field for the first time Tuesday, working in individual drills after spending the offseason recovering from arthroscopic surgery on a knee. ... The Titans hosted a high school coaching clinic Tuesday. Munchak said everyone remembers their high school coach and the coaches hopefully get something out of the sessions that they can take back to their own teams.

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