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Glennon's Take: Can't Keep a Good Man Down

Posted Dec 6, 2017

Titans tight end Delanie Walker has been facing constant double- and even triple-teams this season. But he's still finding ways to take over games.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the clock ticked toward the end of the third quarter last Sunday, the Houston Texans were winning the battle against Titans tight end Delanie Walker.

A two-time Pro Bowler and the Titans' most reliable pass-catcher, Walker had been held to just two receptions for eight yards.

But with the game tied and the Titans desperate for offensive punch, Walker took over.

He caught an 18-yard pass to move the Titans into Houston territory, a 13-yard pass to set up a key first down and – two plays later – a 24-yard scoring pass that proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

“I put this team on my back,” Walker said afterward. “Whenever I get an opportunity, I'm going to do what I need to do to make sure we get a win or get a first down, whatever is needed.”

The series of plays against the Texans showed not only how much Walker means to the Titans, but how hard it is for opponents – no matter how many players they use to shadow Walker – to shut him down for an entire contest.

Other teams may know the Titans are going to try to get the ball to Walker as often as possible, but it doesn't mean they can stop it from happening.

“He's our target guy, our go-to guy, our Pro Bowl player,” Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said. “ Look what's happening to him. They're doubling him and tripling him, but again, Delanie is one of those guys that just keeps going. He just goes to work.”

Walker's challenge has become even more pronounced the past couple of weeks, as the absence of injured wide receiver Rishard Matthews has increased the attention paid to him.

When the Titans faced Indianapolis two Sundays ago, the Colts sometimes sacrificed their top pass-rusher, using Jabaal Sheard to knock Walker off his path as he tried to get off the line of scrimmage.

“We've seen some teams take their best linebacker, put him on (Walker) and hold him there, and then the cornerback or the safety is sitting outside just waiting,” Robiskie said. “They're doubling him almost like a punt gunner. That's tough.”

Said Walker: “That makes me very upset that I get hit by defensive linemen and linebackers before I can even run the route on the defensive back, and then the defensive back is yelling like he's covering me, when I've been hit three or four times before I get downfield. But at the end of the day, that's respect. I know they're trying to stop me from getting a free release.”

So just how does Walker manage to get open?

He's already caught a team-high 58 passes – only seven shy of last year's season total – for 676 yards and two touchdowns. Even without Matthews in the lineup, Walker has caught nine of the 10 passes he's had thrown to him the last two weeks, for 126 yards and two scores.

One of Walker's weapons is maintaining composure in the face of all the physical contact.

“He's very patient – he doesn't rush things,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “He understands what's going on around him. If there's contact, there's still time on the route. It doesn't rush him.”

Another strength of the 33 year-old Walker, despite the fact he's a 12-year veteran, is his speed.

That was illustrated in the win over the Colts, when Walker flew past three Indy defenders and – even with two more Colts coming at him – snared Marcus Mariota's perfectly placed pass for a 37-yard gain.

“There's a point and time where if you click that film and pause it, there's like eight guys surrounding (Walker),” Robiskie said. “It was the most unbelievable thing I'd ever seen. Like eight guys took off and went to him.”

Added a smiling Walker: “I'm fast, man. I don't know why people keep questioning my speed.”

There are times the Titans use Walker as a valuable decoy, knowing all the attention he gets will open up space for a teammate.

But don't try to tell Walker the pass won't be coming his way.

“Anytime they call a play, I think I'm the guy getting the ball,” Walker said. “Even if they've told me I'm not getting the ball, I still think I'm getting the ball. So I try to do my best to be open. I don't care who covers me – it might be five guys – I'm going to do my best to get that ball.”

-- Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.