Simply put, the Tennessee Titans can’t be wrong about Kendall Wright.
With the transition to a pass-first approach in full swing during the current training camp but Kenny Britt back on the shelf due to recurring knee and legal issues, Wright needs to be as good as the Titans believed he was when they drafted him 20th overall.
And he needs to be that good right now. Ruston Webster is in his first season as general manager for the Titans — or anywhere else, for that matter. Already, though, his reputation is at stake.
If Wright does not provide some immediate pop to the offense, this season easily could turn into a disaster.
It is an unusual state of affairs, but the reality of the Titans’ current situation is undeniable. Whether or not it is fair to expect so much so soon from a young player is irrelevant.
The aforementioned Britt, the last wide receiver picked by the Titans in the first round, was a contributor — and ultimately the team’s leader in receiving yards — as a rookie, but he was allowed to find his way and pick his spots. Through the first half of that season Justin Gage and Nate Washington were the starters and every-down performers. Britt was a situational sub who played his way into a starting spot.
Three seasons later he ought to be the guy who keeps the heat off of Wright. He is not.
Instead, another knee surgery and a latest arrest, each just before the start of training camp, have removed Britt from the equation for the start of the year. Either he’s not going to be healthy enough to play Sept. 9 against New England or he is going to be suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell. Or both.
The idea was that Wright — small and speedy — would be a terrific complement to Britt — long and explosive. Their respective athletic gifts in conjunction with Washington’s reliability and tight end Jared Cook’s X-factor unpredictability would make for the most diverse and dangerous passing attack this franchise has had in decades.
Without Britt, the dynamic changes.
Washington does not scare opposing defenses such that they are inclined to alter their approach to account for him. Damian Williams steps up in Britt’s absence but, likewise, has done nothing to this point that would make an opposing coordinator shudder.
And if last season proved anything it was that running back Chris Johnson could be contained — even minimized — if the other team was willing to sell out to do so. Absent any real fear of the forward pass, opponents will be free to do so once again.
Coaches took their time with Jake Locker last year and elected to keep him in a reserve role for all 16 games. They gave Derrick Morgan two years to get his mind and body right before they really raised their expectations of him, as they have done this year. The trend clearly has been to avoid putting too much on the youngsters too soon.
That luxury does not exist with Wright.
He put up huge numbers during his four-year career at Baylor. Last fall he had a lot to do with the fact that his quarterback, Robert Griffin III, won the Heisman Trophy.
Obviously, he’s the kind of guy who can make others look good. Webster, coach Mike Munchak, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and whoever ends up as the starting quarterback all need him to do so right now.
The Titans had to wait a few extra days for him to complete his contract negotiations and report to camp. They simply cannot be as patient waiting on his production.