NASHVILLE – Delanie Walker was presented with an interesting question as the Titans prepared for an intrasquad scrimmage earlier this month.
His answer was even more eye-opening.
Asked who he'd select first in a pick-up game, Walker named his starting quarterback -- Marcus Mariota.
His second pick? “Anthony Firkser.”
“He is making plays, and he is really looking good,” Walker said of Firkser. “He has stepped up a lot from last year, just coming in there and taking that role of making plays, catching the ball well. This year I have seen him work on his routes, and he is more explosive.
“I am excited to see what he can do when he has the ball in his hands.”
A year after stepping up to make plays following the early season loss of Walker, Firkser has shown improvement in his second season with the team. Through two preseason games, Firkser is second on the team with four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown – a 23-yard grab against the Eagles.
Firkser had two catches for 29 yards on Saturday against the Patriots, including a diving 23-yard catch.
The Titans face the Pittsburgh Steelers in preseason game No.3 this Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
“You feel a little more comfortable in your second year, knowing the coaches, knowing the guys on the team, knowing the system a little bit. So that makes it a little easier to focus on the details and stuff,” said Firkser, who made the squad as an undrafted free agent last season and spent most the season on the 53-man roster.
“(Last year) gave me a lot of confidence, that I could play out there. But I definitely have a lot to learn from and it’s good to have Delanie out there and hearing what he has to say.”
Firkser ended up catching 19 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown in 12 games last season, and he played a bigger role down the stretch as the team played without Walker and fellow tight end Jonnu Smith.
A Harvard grad, Firkser was dependable, catching 19 of 20 targets.
This offseason, he’s worked to make himself a more complete tight end.
“I want them to trust me in the run game, and keep doing my role on third down and running routes, catching the ball and helping the team,” said Firkser, who spent time with the Jets and Chiefs prior to joining the Titans last offseason. “I am doing my best to get better (as a blocker) as well, because that is important as a tight end. So that is another thing I have to add to my game, of course. So improve as a route runner and catching the ball as well.”
Walker’s return figures to give the team a big boost. In Saturday’s game against the Patriots, he reminded everyone he’s back with a pair of catches, including an 11-yard touchdown grab. Smith also returned this week, and looks to be on track to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Leading up to roster cuts, the Titans will have some tough decisions to make at the position behind Walker and Smith.
Tight end MyCole Pruitt played a big role last season, and he’s been heavily involved in camp. The team added Ryan Hewitt in June, and his versatility – he’s lined up at fullback as well as tight end – makes him even more valuable. Tight end Cole Wick, who joined the team late last season, is also in the mix.
Firkser said he plans to take advantage of his opportunities.
He’ll also watch Walker.
“Everything he does is detailed and 100 percent effort, and he gets the job done every time,” Firkser said. “So it is something you want to emulate, just the consistency and the physicality and everything he does.”