Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bennett Injury Puts Titans Rookies in the Limelight

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Drew Bennett (pictured, below) dislocated his thumb in Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He'll be out of action at least two weeks probably, possibly longer. Since Bennett is the Titans leading wide receiver, this development would supposedly be viewed as tragic, with the team already struggling at 2-4. It takes on even more frightening dimensions when you consider that the presumed heir apparent to Bennett's lead slot would be Tyrone Calico, a third-year guy out of Middle Tennessee State who simply has not lived up to his potential. Calico came out of college in 2003 as a speedster with the tag of "potential superstar sleeper." But he's got bad knees, and he simply has not stepped up as a reliable pass-catcher. He neither has provided the deep threat the Titans envisioned, nor has he proved to be a durable, fearless receiver who can catch the ball in traffic and still hold on to it. I'm not sure if Calico exactly "hears footsteps," but it's either that or his hands are only average. No matter how you slice it, he's been a disappointment.

To be even blunter, I'm not even sure Bennett is good enough to be a #1 wide receiver anyway. You've got to go back to the days of Steve Largent with the Seahawks or Fred Biletnikoff with the Raiders to find a situation where a white guy is a dominant wideout. (Please, no comments about reverse race-baiting. Facts are facts.) Bennett is very good, don't misunderstand. He's extremely useful. His size is a definite advantage and he has his big moments. But he was better when Derrick Mason was around, because opponents focused on Mason's elusive, tough-over-the-middle presence. All alone, Bennett doesn't really pose a consistent deep threat.

So the situation doesn't look particularly hopeful for Tennessee, unless you consider the glass half-full instead of half-empty. The kiddie corps of rookies—Brandon Jones (left), Courtney Roby (center) and Roydell Williams (right)—have, in my opinion, all the potential in the world.

Jones has already shown a ton of guts. He goes over the middle and holds onto the ball, God bless him. As far as I'm concerned, he's now the #1 Titans receiver, and anything the team gets out of Calico at this point is a bonus.

Furthermore, Roby and Williams deserve a shot at more serious playing time. Heck, I say start all three rookies on Sunday against Arizona, a mediocre team ripe for being surprised. The sooner these guys get into the offense full-time, the faster they'll get better. This is a risk the team has to take. With their defense still struggling to find consistency, especially with a young secondary, the key to any success this year rides with the Titans being able to keep up offensively.

Time to roll the dice with the kids.

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