The Tennessee Titans invested a significant amount in rookie receiver Dez Fitzpatrick.
The team traded fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks to move up 17 spots to grab the 23-year-old out of Louisville in the fourth round of April’s draft.
During training camp, Titans coaches were simply waiting for Fitzpatrick to turn heads and fight his way up the depth chart. But after Tennessee’s 23-3 preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons on Friday, Fitzpatrick might be considered a long shot to even make the team now.
“He needs to show us a lot more in practice (to get more snaps),” Vrabel said.
Fitzpatrick played just 24 snaps in Friday’s game and wasn’t targeted once. The 6-foot-2 wideout is competing with players like Mason Kinsey (four receptions, 51 yards), Chester Rogers (one reception, 17 yards), Cameron Batson (one reception, 15 yards, TD), Fred Brown (2 receptions, 10 yards) and Racey McMath (2 targets, zero receptions) for one of the Titans final three receiver spots behind A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and Josh Reynolds.
As things currently sit, Fitzpatrick isn’t one of the Titans’ six best receivers. Brown and Jones didn’t play in Friday’s game and Reynolds saw only seven snaps. They’re a lock for spot Nos. 1-3.
Marcus Johnson and Rogers have both been camp standouts, and Rogers adds to his value in the punt return game, as was evidenced by his 57-yard return on Friday. No one would fault Titans head coach Mike Vrabel if he put both on the 53-man roster.
Realistically, that leaves Fitzpatrick battling with Kinsey, who looked sharp on Friday, Batson, who had 12 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown in nine games with the Titans last year, and McMath, who ads great value with his speed and ability to play special teams.
“That is a competitive room,” Vrabel said. “We have to all earn the right to be here each and every day and prove our value to the football team. There are always small victories along the way, whether that is getting in there and blocking, and being positive in blocking.
“We didn’t throw the ball much in the second half (against Atlanta), so it wasn’t like there were a lot of guys we were targeting in the second half. We wanted to see some of these backs run and I am hopeful that Dez (Fitzpatrick) will continue to develop and continue to work and keep fighting and try to earn a spot just like everybody else.”
Vrabel’s displeasure with Fitzpatrick was evident to everyone following practice on Saturday. The rookie is very clearly in the fourth-year head coach’s doghouse, a place it’s wise to not spend much time in considering how quickly the Titans have moved on from other recent draft picks.
“We have to inspire them to do their job better; we don’t have to motivate him,” Vrabel added. “It’s pro football. We are going to try to teach, to develop, to inspire him to do his job better and I know we are doing that. We are teaching him what is required of us. There are a lot of guys showing him what is expected of our football team and the players and staff of our football team.”
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