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Training Camp Positional Preview: Tight Ends

Posted Jul 19, 2014


ON THE ROSTER: Dorin Dickerson #41, Delanie Walker #82, Taylor Thompson #84, Adam Schiltz #86, Craig Stevens #88, Jason Schepler #89

KEY ADDITIONS: None

KEY DEPARTURES: None

POSITION OVERVIEW:

The tight end core will look similar from a year ago with starters Delanie Walker and Craig Stevens back and Taylor Thompson returning for his third season. Walker serves as the primary pass catcher and playmaker of the group while Stevens remains one of the league’s elite blocking tight ends and is a capable target down field.

The position group will be led by new tight ends coach Mike Mularkey, whose successful 19-year NFL coaching run has included stints with the Steelers, Bills, Dolphins, Falcons and Jaguars. He joins the Titans after one season as the head coach of the Jaguars in 2012 and four seasons (2008-11) as offensive coordinator for the Falcons. A former NFL tight end, he played nine seasons with the Vikings and Steelers, totaling 102 receptions for 1,222 yards in 114 games played.

KEY FIGURES:

#82 Delanie Walker – 9th NFL Season

Walker signed with the Titans as an unrestricted free agent in 2013 after spending his first seven NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. The tight end hauled in 60 catches for 583 yards and team-high six touchdowns – all career marks -- in his first season in Tennessee.

Walker has publicly stated his desire to catch 80 passes in 2014 and is confident that a healthy Jake Locker can make that happen. He may well be on his way to the desired milestone after becoming the team’s first tight end to grab 60 passes in a season since Frank Wycheck in 2001.

Walker is excited to work with Whisenhunt, a former NFL tight end who understands how to get the most out of the position. In 2013, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates posted his best receiving numbers in four years (77 catches for 872 yards) with Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator. The combination of Whisenhunt’s tight end-friendly system and having Locker at 100 percent makes adding another 20 catches a feasible goal.

#88 Craig Stevens – 7th NFL Season

Stevens enters his seventh season in Tennessee with 46 catches, 577 receiving yards and four touchdowns, although the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder has earned his reputation as one of the league’s top blocking tight ends since entering the league as the team’s third-round pick in 2008.

A starter since 2010, Stevens has proven to be an effective pass catcher. However, with Whisenhunt’s desire to establish a productive ground game and keep Jake Locker upright, he should continue to play a more prominent role in Tennessee’s run game.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

#84 Taylor Thompson – 3rd NFL Season

Thompson’s progression as a tight end has been a scrutinized journey through his first two seasons in the NFL. The Titans traded up in the 2012 draft to select the former defensive end with the intent on converting him to the offensive side of the football.

Thompson has played in every game as one of the club’s top special teams performers and been a key offensive reserve in his first two seasons. He caught his first touchdown last season on a nine-yard reception at home vs. Jacksonville.

At 6-feet 6-inches and 259-pounds, the athletic Thompson measures up well with elite NFL tight ends Jimmy Graham (6’ 7” 260 lbs.) and Rob Gronkowski (6’ 6” 265 lbs.).  He enjoyed a solid offseason and the Titans hope he can continue to develop into another reliable pass-catching tight end to compliment Walker.

His sheer athletic potential makes him a player to watch throughout training camp.

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