The Tennessee Titans surely wouldn’t cut a fourth-round pick just five months after drafting him, would they?
Two weeks ago, that looked to be the case as rookie receiver Dez Fitzpatrick was a non-factor in Tennessee’s 23-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 of the preseason. Head coach Mike Vrabel, clearly displeased with Fitzpatrick at that point, told reporters after the game that the 6-foot-2 wideout would have to shot “a lot more” moving forward to see more reps or preseason playing time.
Fitzpatrick clearly took those words to heart as the 23-year-old caught both of his targets and added a touchdown in a 34-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Saturday.
He played 27 offensive snaps while fellow rookie Racey McMath had none – a near polar opposite of Tennessee’s first preseason game where McMath was targeted twice, and Fitzpatrick wasn’t targeted at all.
“Hopefully he continues to gain confidence in getting out here and competing at this level,” Vrabel said.
“I think I have mentioned before up here that confidence is a huge thing,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing added. “When you have confidence, you start to play with confidence, you play faster, and the rest of the game slows down for you. I think that is what Dez is experiencing. Dez has a long way to go, and he knows things that he needs to improve on, but it is always nice to see a young player like that have some accomplishments and get a little bit more pep in his step coming out to the practice field.”
Fitzpatrick has had better performances during practice since Vrabel’s not-so-subtle callout. During Tuesday’s practice, Fitzpatrick burned cornerback Kristian Fulton as he outraced him and hauled in a deep pass from Ryan Tannehill. He also had a few other nice catches to build on as well.
“He is making strides, just like all of our guys,” Tannehill said. “They are out here working, and it was good to see him make a play in the game there for the touchdown. Just have to stick with it. Sometimes when you are young and things aren’t going your way early, you just have to stick with it, keep plugging away and I think he has done that. He has shown up a couple times here lately, made a big play today in practice so it is good to see.”
While it may be a bit of an overreaction to call this a career revival for Fitzpatrick, it can’t be ignored that two weeks ago he looked to be on the verge of getting cut. As the Titans close out the preseason on Saturday against the Chicago Bears at Nissan Stadium, Fitzpatrick may be down to his final chance to earn a roster spot.
He faces some stiff competition as he’s competing with McMath, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Marcus Johnson, Chester Rogers, Cameron Batson, Mason Kinsey, and Fred Brown for what’s believed to be three roster spots.
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