Things haven’t gone according to plan for the Tennessee Titans or 2021 fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick. The Titans, though, aren’t ready to give up on him yet.
The team traded up 17 spots and parted ways with fifth- and seventh-round picks to snag Fitzpatrick out of Louisville, with the hope that he’d provide supplemental depth in their receiver group.
However, the 22-year-old struggled mightily in training camp and the preseason, failing to make much of an impact and raising questions as to whether he deserved a spot on Tennessee’s 53-man roster.
After being waived on Tuesday, Fitzpatrick signed back with the Titans and was promptly assigned to their practice squad where the team can develop him at their pace for a potential role in the future.
But what exactly led to Fitzpatrick’s fall from grace? Without a clearly defined role in a crowded wide receiver room, a lack of special teams ability likely dropped him down the depth chart in favor of other wideouts like Cam Batson and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
“I don’t know that anything went wrong,” Robinson said. “Some players, it takes them longer to transition to the pro game…I challenged him to come in every day and work to be better. He knows what the expectation level is. I know the capabilities that he’s capable of and the only one that can change that is him.”
Added Titans coach Mike Vrabel: “Same thing that always goes from my standpoint is how much can they do? How many positions can they play? How do they perform? Special teams is certainly something, whether they can return or whether they are two or three or even a four-phase special team guy.”
Kick return duties are likely what locked in wideout Chester Rodgers (punts) and running back Darrynton Evans (kickoffs). Since Fitzpatrick couldn’t secure a role as a gunner or on the protection unit, his time with the Titans will be best spent for now working on developing his route running and ball catching and expounding on his blocking abilities.
Fitzpatrick will join Kinsey – a preseason standout – on the practice squad. It could be argued that Kinsey well outperformed Fitzpatrick in August and could be called up before Fitzpatrick if there are any injuries.
The 6-foot-2 wideout is eligible to be signed by another team right now, but judging by the trajectory of his development thus far, the Titans should stand to get another year to see if their fourth-round pick can live up to what they saw in him back in April.
“We have had conversations with Dez, and just the consistency, the willingness to play without the football in your hand,” Vrabel noted. “It is what you are going to have to do to play receiver, is be able to go and do things without the football in your hand and also then be really good when you are running routes and catching the football.
"We have had conversations with Dez, we will continue to have conversations, continue to coach him and we will see where it all goes as the season unfolds.”