Titans tight end Walker enjoying best start yet
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Titans tight end Delanie Walker is following up the best season of his career with an even better start this year. Now the veteran is multi-tasking as well.
The Titans placed their second tight end on injured reserve Wednesday in the past three weeks, leaving Walker as the only player tight end who has played each game. Veteran Craig Stevens was switched to injured reserve Oct. 18 with a quadriceps injury, and Taylor Thompson joined him with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament that kept him out of the past five games.
So now Walker is surrounded by new teammates with lots of questions.
”It’s put a lot on me especially with new guys trying to learn the offense and me, I got to actually be a coach as well as a player,” Walker said. ”As a player, I got to try to tell them what we’re looking for and what we see. … I like the challenge.”
Chase Coffman who spent the preseason with the Titans only to be cut Aug. 30 before being brought back Sept. 23. They signed Brett Brackett on Wednesday for the third time in the past month not counting practice squad stints. Richard Gordon, who signed Oct. 22, rounds out the group as the Titans (2-6) prepare to visit Baltimore (5-4) on Sunday.
There’s not much Walker isn’t doing well already this season, improving off 2013 when he caught a career-high 60 passes for 571 yards. He joined Frank Wycheck as the only tight ends to catch at least 60 passes in a season for this franchise. Currently, he ranks fifth among tight ends in the NFL with 475 yards receiving and second only to Rob Gronkowski of New England in the AFC.
Walker leads the Titans in yards receiving and is tied with wide receiver Kendall Wright for the team lead with 35 catches and most touchdown catches (four). The nine-year veteran had the best game of his career Sept. 14 when he caught 10 passes for 142 yards in a loss to Dallas.
Now Walker’s attracting more attention with each passing week. He had four catches for 37 yards and a TD with rookie Zach Mettenberger at quarterback in a 30-16 loss to Houston on Oct. 26, but Walker had only five catches combined in the previous two games.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Walker’s doing a great job this season but the Titans need to be more efficient offensively to get more plays.
”We don’t have as many possessions because of the fact that we haven’t been as efficient with that,” Whisenhunt said. ”All of that ties into that. Delanie is the one guy that has consistently played well for us and made big plays. Hopefully over the next eight weeks, he’ll get an opportunity that we’ll see more of those plays.”
Now Walker is working with his third different quarterback this season in Mettenberger, and the rookie said it’s been great throwing to the 6-foot, 248-pound Walker.
”He can make the worst quarterbacks in this league look good,” Mettenberger said. ”My job is just put it in his radius, and he’s shown that he can make the plays, come down with it for us. So all I got to do is find him when I can and try not to force it to him.”
Walker came to Tennessee in 2013 as a free agent to catch more passes after spending his first seven seasons in San Francisco behind Vernon Davis. Now working with his third different quarterback this season, Walker said he is talking with Mettenberger to build chemistry together and know what each other is thinking on pass plays.
”When the ball is in the air, my job is to go get it no matter where it’s at,” Walker said.
Notes: The Titans practiced indoors on a rainy day with Southeastern Conference officials flagging penalties. Whisenhunt didn’t let them whistle and stop plays but said players would be penalized. Walker said Titans flagged must step out and run a lap around the field. … CB Coty Sensabaugh (right knee) practiced fully, while WR Nate Washington (shoulder) was limited.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker