Titans' trio of young wide receivers starting to produce
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By TERESA M. WALKER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans' trust in their young receivers may be starting to pay off.
Corey Davis, the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, is leading the Titans with 744 yards receiving and could become the franchise's first 1,000-yard receiver since 2013. Tajae Sharpe notched his first 100-yard receiving performance in October, and Taywan Taylor became the third to post a new career high with 104 yards receiving in the Titans' comeback win against the Jets.
It's a confident trio that's becoming more comfortable with each week.
"We know what type of players we are," Taylor said Tuesday. "We know what we bring to the table, all of us, my brothers in the receiving room and everybody on this team. We know what type of players we are, and ... when we trust our training and everybody executes, good things can happen."
The Titans signed only veteran Michael Campanaro during the offseason and didn't replace him when he was placed on injured reserve. They signed young tight ends in Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt after three-time Pro Bowler Delanie Walker broke his right ankle in the opener. Since then, they've leaned on Davis, Sharpe and Taylor along with Darius Jennings and Cameron Batson.
Mix in a new offense with a first-year play-caller in coordinator Matt LaFleur, and the Titans have had plenty of growing pains. It didn't help when Taylor, their speed threat, missed three games with an injured left foot. Taylor was drafted in the third round out of Western Kentucky last year.
Marcus Mariota overthrew Taylor on the first play of the fourth quarter against the Jets. He went back to Taylor for a 44-yarder and then a 55-yarder t o set up a pair of field goals in their big comeback.
"It was good to see Taywan be able to stretch the defense and go make a play," coach Mike Vrabel said. "I know Marcus would like to have the one back, but to be able to hit two of those to change field position and momentum, certainly, we would like to have as many of those every week as we could."
The Titans (6-6) need the young receivers to produce for an offense that ranks 29th in the NFL, managing just 197.5 yards passing per game. It won't be easy Thursday night when they host the Jaguars (4-8) and a secondary featuring Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in a game Tennessee needs to win to keep itself in the chase for the AFC's final wild-card slot.
This franchise hasn't had a receiver post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Nate Washington did it in September 2013.
Mariota sees the Titans' comfort level growing weekly as they become more efficient. Getting Taylor back should ease the defensive focus on Davis, who had 161 yards receiving in the Titans' overtime win over Philadelphia in September and 125 yards against the Patriots in November.
Now the key for Mariota and his receivers is continuing to show progress as the Titans chase a second straight playoff berth.
"We've just got to continue working at it," Mariota said. "It's a process, but I think it's something to build off of and something that we can use moving forward."
NOTES: Sharpe (ankle) and CB Malcolm Butler (quadriceps muscle) were limited in practice Tuesday. Mariota (right hand) practiced fully. ... The Titans signed RB Dalyn Dawkins to their practice squad after waiving him from the active roster Monday.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker
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Updated December 4, 2018