ON THE ROSTER:
KEY ADDITIONS: Derek Hagan, Brian Robiskie
KEY DEPARTURES: Kenny Britt (free agency), Damian Williams (free agency)
The core of the wide receiving group returns in 2014 with plenty of competition following the top three spots. Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are locks to make the roster, but they’re likely the only three receivers who can say that.
The coming season appears to be prime for breakout performances by the team’s starting receivers. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been an engineer of prominent passing attacks throughout his NFL coaching career. Most recently, he led the fifth-ranked Chargers offense in 2013 en-route to winning Pro Football Writers NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors.
Over the past 10 seasons, Titans receivers have only recorded four 1,000-yard campaigns. Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett both had 1,000 yards in 2004, Nate Washington did so in 2011, and Kendall Wright crossed the milestone last season.
The Titans have rising stars in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. That dynamic duo, along with the veteran Washington will look to capitalize on a healthy
The veteran leader of the group enters his sixth season with the Titans after spending his first four NFL seasons in Pittsburgh. A reliable target, the crafty Washington knows how to find openings in the defense and still has enough speed to make big plays down field, having caught a pass of 70-plus yards in three of the past four seasons.
The wideout ranked second on the team in yards in 2013 with 919 and added three touchdowns. Washington leads the Titans in both categories since coming to Tennessee in 2009 (3,944 yards and 26 touchdowns).
Washington is the owner of two Super Bowl rings from his time with the Steelers and will use his decade of NFL experience to help expedite the development of Wright and Hunter.
Tennessee’s first-round pick from 2012 has shown the ability to be a franchise wide receiver just two years into his NFL career. Wright, who has lined up outside and inside during his first two pro seasons, paced the receiving group in 2013 with a team-high 94 receptions for 1,079 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning TD catch at Oakland. Those numbers came after a rookie season in which Wright led the Titans with 64 receptions, tying him for the league-lead among NFL rookies.
The standout 2013 campaign nearly landed Wright in the Pro Bowl -- and Titans history books. His 94 receptions ranked fifth all-time in franchise history, leaving him just six shy of former Houston Oiler Charley Hennigan’s record of 101 catches set in 1964.
Wright’s speed and elusiveness make him tough to defend, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he surpasses Hennigan's mark when all is said and done in 2014.
Justin Hunter proved he can make the dazzling play in 2013. Both of Hunter’s first two career NFL catches went for touchdowns – and both made national highlight reels. He leaped over a defender to make the game-winning catch in Tennessee’s home opener vs. San Diego, and followed that with an acrobatic TD grab just before halftime against the New York Jets.
Hunter finished the season tied for second on the team in receiving touchdowns with four. Now comes the task of him developing into a complete receiver that can be relied upon in all situations.
Hunter, who recorded 1,083 yards and nine TDs during his junior season at UT before declaring for the NFL Draft, possesses elite size and athleticism. His 6-foot 4-inch frame and play-making ability is what made him a college star and a big reason why the Titans moved up in the second round of last year’s draft to acquire him.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Preston has been with the Titans since signing as an undrafted free agent before the 2011 season. He spent all of 2011 and most of 2012 on the team’s practice squad, then made the leap to the 53-man roster for the final four weeks of the 2012 season, catching five passes for 59 yards.
The 6-foot-5 Preston appeared in seven games last season, catching five passes for 37 yards, including a two touchdown performance at home against Arizona.
The former DIII star has made the most of his opportunities when presented, and he now appears poised to finally earn a permanent spot on the team.
Health has been the primary roadblock so far for Mariani, who spent the last two seasons on injured reserve. The speedy receiver from Montana made an immediate impact during his rookie season in 2010 as a kick returner, finishing with 1,859 all-purpose return yards and two touchdowns en route to making the Bowl. Mariani added another punt return touchdown to his resume in 2011 to go with his 1,266 all-purpose return yards.
Mariani was making strides as a receiver in each of the last two training camps prior to his injuries. That development will likely need to continue with
#80 Derek Hagan – 8th Season
Derek Hagan joined the Titans as a free agent on June 17 to provide depth and competition at wide receiver. The 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pounder has amassed 129 receptions for 1,480 yards and six touchdowns in his first seven NFL seasons. The former third-round selection of the Miami Dolphins has also spent time with the N.Y. Giants, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hagan stepped right in during spring OTAs without missing a beat. If he can continue that progression during training camp, the veteran receiver could very well work his way onto the roster.