Influx of receivers doesn't mean Titans turn into a three-WR offense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With an influx of perimeter weapons who can run after the catch, the Titans are in better position to play balanced offense.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey wants camp to unfold to learn just what he’s got.

But those around him believe, as I do, the Titans won’t be changing a great deal from what they were in their turnaround 2016 campaign: A two-tight end base offense that calls on an extra blocker to help a run-first scheme and add a layer of protection for Marcus Mariota.FullSizeRender 10

“Our offense is a run-first offense, I would say," Delanie Walker, the No. 1 tight end, said. "With the tight ends on the field we can run those packages and we can also spread out a tight end and be able to audible out into a pass.

“I think we’re going to keep that two tight-end set. Even if our receivers come together and be a dominant group, we’re still going to run two tight-end. It’s going to be very hard to get away from that.”

The Titans ran the third-fewest three-wide receiver sets in the NFL last season.

Anthony Fasano was a dirty work hero as the on-the-line tight end, and he played a significant role in protecting Mariota, helping right tackle Jack Conklin have an All Pro rookie season and left tackle Taylor Lewan make his first Pro Bowl.

Fasano left as a free agent for Miami.

The Titans will turn to rookie Jonnu Smith and veteran Phillip Supernaw in the role now, while third tackle Dennis Kelly could also get some snaps. He was the third tight end in jumbo sets a year ago.

“I don’t think much is going to change from last year,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said.

 A facelift for the receiving core will increase the big plays and produce more deep stuff for sure, he said. And that will serve to enhance the core of what the Titans are.

“We’re a two-tight end, bread-and-butter power, we’re those guys,” Lewan said. “And that’s who we’re going to stay. Ask the offensive line what do you want to run, and it’s 'Beat the s--- out of them football.' We’re not going to sit here and say, ‘Go into 11 personnel (with one back and one tight end).

“We want to run the ball and we want to run it hard, set up that play action and take a shot once in a while to really keep anybody honest.”

If Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor are what the Titans expect, and if a healthy Eric Decker is getting regular snaps, Tennessee will have its best group of wide receivers in some time and Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie will get to be more inventive with what’s been dubbed their exotic smashmouth offense.

Walker and Lewan will happily run whatever is called.

But they are clearly all-in with the identity Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson successfully established in their first year working together. The wide receiver overhaul can enhance it. I don’t expect it will change it dramatically.IMG 0500 1

“The offensive isn’t going to change,” Mularkey said. “It’s going to be what people worry about with us, it’s going to be multi-dimensional, multiple personnel. I’ve got to be influenced by what goes on out here (at camp) with these guys. A lot of what goes on on Sunday is what happens out here.

“It depends on who we think can get us the best opportunity to win and be the most threatening. Does that change some things? Maybe it changes the numbers. Until I see that, I can’t predict anything right now.”

When the Titans are in three-wide, that inside receiver will be asked to help in the protection scheme before he heads out. All the newcomers have been rated by the team as able and willing blockers.

Remember, though, just a year ago, the fundamental pledge was to protect Mariota. More targets out more quickly can help do that, but it’s a different approach than consistently fortifying his protection.

“That’s a part of us and what we do,” Robiskie said. “We’ve got a group of tight ends that we think are really, really good, a tight end coach in Arthur Smith that we think is outstanding.

“We will never expose those tackles. Anything we do, any discussion we have, any inkling that we are doing something that exposes our tackles or our linemen, we’ll never do it. That’s a very high standard. Very, very high…

“I think we’re going to do what we do. We’re always going to have a good mixture. But we’re going to always consistently try to get in position, what gives us the opportunity to convert?”

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