NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During his NFL career, tight end Anthony Fasano has proven he can block. He’s helped pave the way for four 1,000-yard rushers over the years -- Julius Jones (Cowboys), Ricky Williams (Dolphins), Reggie Bush (Dolphins) and Jamaal Charles (Chiefs).
Fasano’s also made a name for himself with his hands. He has 253 career catches, and is closing in on 3,000 receiving yards. He has 31 career touchdowns.
Despite his accomplishments – and a five-catch, 107-yard game against Tennessee while with the Dolphins in 2010 – some Titans weren’t sure what to think when Fasano signed with the team this offseason.
Fasano, after all, is heading into his 10th NFL season.
“Throughout OTAs and training camp I was like, “Dang, I didn’t realize this guy was that good,’’ cornerback Jason McCourty said. “When you look at him, you think he is a slug, but he doesn’t drop a pass and he finds a way to get open all the time. He is a really good player.”
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt knew.
He’d coached against Fasano, who began his career with the Cowboys (2006-07) before spending five seasons with the Dolphins (2008-2012) and the past two seasons with the Chiefs. Fasano, who went to Notre Dame, caught 48 passes for 426 yards and seven touchdowns over the past two seasons in Kansas City.
Still, even Whisenhunt admits Fasano has been even more valuable than he anticipated in his first few months on the job with the Titans.
“I didn’t like playing against him,’’ Whisenhunt said of Fasano. “I was really excited to get him; I didn’t know if we’d have a chance in free agency. But I have been extremely pleased with what he has done, his versatility, his leadership, his competitiveness. All of those qualities I think are something that’s good not only for that position, but for our team. When you get a pro like that, the younger guys see it and it really helps build chemistry and puts the right idea in mind of how you do it.”
asano, 31, has been one of the more eye-opening free agents for the Titans this offseason. He’s consistently made plays in practices, and in recent weeks he’s gotten even more chances with veteran Delanie Walker sidelined.
The extra reps have helped, as Fasano has taken full advantage. On Friday night, Fasano will return to Kansas City when the Titans play the Chiefs in preseason game No.3.
Fasano, who has started 109 of 132 career games, gives the Titans a proven commodity at an important position. It’s a spot where the team has numbers. Aside from Walker and Fasano, the Titans also have veteran Craig Stevens and another pair of tight ends – Chase Coffman and Phillip Supernaw – have also performed well.
Fasano, released by Kansas City in February, said he’s happy he chose the Titans after considering other options. He’s already developed a nice chemistry with rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“I think it has been great,’’ Fasano said. “The quarterback has been really impressive. And we spread the ball around to receivers, backs and tight ends and we have a strong tight ends group. All of that plays in to having fun as an offense.”
A year after catching 25 passes in Kansas City, Fasano’s not sure how often he’ll be on the receiving end of Mariota passes in Tennessee this fall. Walker led the team in catches (63) and receiving yards (890) in 2014.
Whisenhunt didn’t care to speculate on what Fasano’s final numbers might look like either, but did say an improved offense should give every player more opportunities. In Year 10, Fasano uses his experience to get an advantage against defenders younger and quicker than himself.
He’s ready to help this fall any way he can.
“I have never been a high-catch stat guy,’’ Fasano said. “I just take pride in doing my job, and winning.
“So we’ll see. I just know Delanie commands a lot of coverage and respect in the passing game, and he is going to win his matchups. But we spread the ball around, so I am looking forward to it.”