Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright forgot an important date while focusing on his new offensive scheme.
By GREG POGUEFS Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Learning a new offense must be time-consuming for Kendall Wright, the second-year
Tennessee Titans wide receiver. So much so that he didn’t even realize his former Baylor teammate — Heisman Trophy winner and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III — was getting married.
That impending matrimony has made national news recently after fans tapped into the wedding registry and began sending the future newlyweds a variety of gifts. It even prompted RG3 to tell fans thanks but no thanks, but the gifts are still coming.
He might even get one from Wright, who teamed with the versatile quarterback to drive opposing college defenses crazy before they were selected in the first round — RG3 at No. 2 and Wright at No. 20 — in last year’s NFL Draft.
“I didn’t even know he is getting married,” Wright said Tuesday from the team’s practice facility as the Titans go through their period of organized team activities (OTAs). “I haven’t talked to him. He’ll text me.”
But of that gift, Wright said he will give it some thought — if he can work it in while participating in the team’s current six-week training program. Much of that time for Wright and fellow offensive teammates will be spent learning a new offense being implemented by first-year offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, the team’s former quarterbacks coach.
“I’m not sure if I will go to the wedding,” Wright said of his college buddy who is reportedly getting married on July 6. “I will get him a gift, if he is serious about it.”
These days, Wright is most serious about building on a rookie season that saw him lead the Titans and tie for the lead among NFL rookies with 64 receptions. More succinctly, Wright would like to use his elusive skills once he catches the ball to increase production on yards after the catch.
“Catch the ball first and then run after the catch,” Wright said of improving on the 9.8 yards per catch that produced only 626 yards with four touchdowns. That compared to 15.4 yards per catch he posted as a senior at Baylor.
“Once I catch it, I know I can do a lot of things after the catch,” he added. “That is one of my personal emphases. I just want to go catch the ball and then go instead of trying to make the move without catching it. It just doesn’t work like that.”
Through free agency and the draft, the Titans have gathered a deep and talented wide receivers corps. Fifth-year wideout Kenny Britt, a former first-round draft pick and potential game breaker when healthy, is expected to return completely healed from a knee injury that ended his 2012 season prematurely.
Also returning is veteran Nate Washington. Plus, the Titans drafted University of Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter in the second round last month and also signed 10-year veteran wide receiver Kevin Walter through free agency.
With Britt, Washington and Hunter able to stretch the field, the Titans expect Wright to become even more of a playmaker underneath from the slot position. There, he can catch short passes from third-year quarterback Jake Locker and gain yardage from a variety of looks.
“I don’t think for us it is a focus on trying to increase that number,” Locker said of improving Wright’s yards after the catch average, “but just find the ways to get the ball into his hands. When you do that, you have seen how explosive he is when he catches the ball on short routes and turns it into big plays with yards after catch.”
Locker emphasized the new offense will utilize all the weapons available, including the expanded receiving corps, the change of pace provided at running back between shifty Chris Johnson and powerful free-agent signee Shonn Greene, and the addition of veteran tight end Delanie Walker via free agency.
“It allows not only myself, but a lot of guys on offense to use what they’re good at,” Locker said of the new offensive philosophy. “There is a way (to increase Wright’s production). Those numbers begin to climb. You just try to find ways to get him the football in space and let him do what he does best, and that’s be a football player.”
Also part of the learning curve for Wright and rest of the Titans receivers is the addition of new wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, who held the same job with the Detroit Lions the past five years. He replaces former Titans wide receivers coach Dave Ragone, now the quarterbacks coach.
Let’s just say there is a distinct difference in the coaching styles of the new position coach compared to the previous one, a former University of Louisville and Houston Texans quarterback.
“All the receivers like it,” Wright said of Jefferson’s coaching demeanor. “I mean, he’s in our face. He’s just bringing a different passion to the field.
“When you see him out there, he’s out there in his cleats running routes, doing the same things we are doing. He’s always serious. When you step onto the field with him, it’s straight football, and that’s it.”
Plus, Wright is now a year older and wiser. Many coaches claim the largest learning leap in the NFL comes in a player’s second season.
“Coming in last year, I didn’t know any plays or any players,” Wright said. “Now, I am learning the plays easier and I know everybody, so I am not nervous or anything. I just can go out there and be myself and ask questions if I need help.”