The Titans have loaded up on targets for Jake Locker over the past two years. Making moves in the draft like picking Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Taylor Thompson have given the Titans young help. They were also active in free agency signing sure-handed TE Craig Stevens to an extension and adding Kevin Walter from the Texans. However, there are only so many spots on the field and the Titans need to decide whether they want to be a team the predominantly trots out three WRs or a team that goes for a more gritty, two TE approach.
These are the pros and cons of playing Craig Stevens or Justin Hunter.
-Over the past five years Stevens has only dropped five passes. That sure-handed reliability will be necessary to run the controlled run-first offense that Dowell Loggains seems to be preaching.
-Craig Stevens is a proven blocker that can handle defensive ends one-on-one in the right circumstances.
-Both Chris Johnson and Jake Locker have a comfort level with Stevens in the running and passing game that would be hard to replicate over just one minicamp.
-For whatever reason Stevens hasn't impressed the coaching staff enough to become the primary TE in the new offense they are running and they might not think he has what it takes to be an every down TE.
-If the Titans are more focused on a pure run blocking effort from their number two TE then Taylor Thompson might get the nod. Thompson was really picking up his effort level and looked like a capable FB/TE with upside.
-Hunter may be the most athletically gifted WR the Titans have ever had on the roster. If (WR) coach Shawn Jefferson can get him to be a more consistent receiver then the Titans may have to move Kenny Britt to the number two WR position.
-Hunter's frame and leaping ability give him a huge catch radius that will be tough for any corner to defend against. This would allow Jake Locker to be less precise and still be equally as effective.
-The former Vol has yet to reach his full potential. After the 2010 season Hunter was drawing early A.J. Green comparisons, but an ACL tear derailed those expectations. If he can get back to that form now (usually an ACL takes two years to fully heal despite what Adrian Peterson says or does) then he can show why the Titans had him ranked as their #1 WR.
-I feel confident in saying that Hunter isn't going to be a run blocking WR at the next level. His slight build and lanky frame will make it easy for stronger CBs to shuck him and make tackles on the perimeter.
-Injury concerns might make him to risky to become a full-time starter. Hunter had the aforementioned ACL injury and now he is having slight hamstring issues. If he makes it through camp without an injury then he may be able to put those concerns to bed.
The Titans have a good dilemma on their hands here. They can either play a WR with one of the most impressive height/weight/speed combinations ever, or they can play a TE that can do anything you ask of him. For my money I think this year should belong to Stevens.
Stevens gets the edge because the last thing the Titans can afford is to have Jake Locker's confidence drop due to dropped passes. If he has a solid go-to-target on third downs that can also block and attack the seams in zone coverage on first and second down then you can't risk giving an inexperienced WR too many meaningful snaps over him no matter what the upside.