Tennessee Titans receivers Chester Rogers, Marcus Johnson, Josh Reynolds, Mason Kinsey and Racey McMath each took turns as the flavor of the week at varying times during training camp and the preseason.
But the player who was talked about the least earned perhaps more confidence from the Titans coaching staff of any player not named A.J. Brown or Julio Jones.
Before the Jones trade, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was in serious consideration to be Tennessee’s No. 2 or 3 wideout. He fell back a few spots in line as the Titans stockpiled talented pass catchers, but now, Westbrook-Ikhine has played his way into being a prominent part of the offense.
The 24-year-old receiver was singled out on Wednesday by Titans head coach Mike Vrabel for being an example of how easy it is to move up the depth chart simply by having the willingness to play wherever, whenever.
“You just have to try and get everybody to understand that when you come into work, they can be active in the game and play a large role,” Vrabel said. “Just look to Nick. He knows multiple positions. He is an impact player for us on special teams and those are the type of players that you look for, guys that can play more than one position.
“…Know as many positions as you possibly can, help on special teams, and that is a great recipe to be able to be active on Sunday.”
With Brown and Jones each dealing with hamstring injuries, Westbrook-Ikhine saw his snap counts increase significantly after Week 2. In the Titans’ first two games, he played on just 26 percent of Tennessee’s offensive snaps (40 of 153) and nearly half of the team’s special teams snaps.
But during his next three games, Westbrook-Ikhine played 74 percent of the Titans offensive snaps and jumping from three total targets to 15 targets over three games. The 6-foot-2 wideout registered 10 receptions, 109 yards and a touchdown in two wins over the Colts and Bills and a loss to the Jets.
“Nick has been huge for us several times this year,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.
A former Indiana University standout, Westbrook-Ikhine is averaging 10.42 yards per reception, and six of his 12 catches this year have gone for first downs. He also has zero drops. Tannehill also has a 105.1 passer rating when targeting him.
With Jones not being able to finish the last two games he has started (Week 3 against Indianapolis and Week 6 against Buffalo), Westbrook-Ikhine has put himself on the map as a comfortable go-to option for Tannehill should Tennessee’s receiver group find itself lacking its normal star power.
“I take pride in having a role on this team and that includes having to know a bunch of different positions,” Westbrook-Ikhine added. “What it takes is really just being in your playbook and paying attention. Because at practice, you’re not going to get every rep, but you need to be locked in and see the adjustments and corrections and be ready to apply them even if you haven’t done it on the field yet.”
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