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New Titans WR Justin Hunter Will Make Things Easier for Jake Locker

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Watch Justin Hunter simplify the game for former Vols QB Tyler Bray. Can he have the same effect on Jake Locker?

The most recent addition to the Titans receiving corps.
The most recent addition to the Titans receiving corps.

Ruston Webster and the rest of the Titans front office moved up to the 34th pick to land Justin Hunter and it's easy to see why. At 6'4" and 200 pounds the best Tennessee Volunteer receiver in 2012 (take that, CP!) provides an easy target for any quarterback to hit. He's more than just big and tall though, as his speed will give cornerbacks trouble as they decide to press or play off. What struck me as I watched Hunter is that a lot of the routes and plays aren't extremely difficult to execute. It's the threat of the big play that forces corners off him and this creates a lot of easy completions. I embedded three videos and will point out a few specific plays from each that will hopefully demonstrate this point.

The first game here is against North Carolina State. Right off the bat you'll see a play that looks fairly similar to ones the Titans have run with Wright: shotgun snap to the QB and a direct out throw to the WR. From there it's up to the receiver to make the play. Hunter takes it for about eight yards.

If you skip to the 0:48 mark, you come to a 3rd and 3 with Hunter as the slot receiver. He sits in the open field for an easy completion from Tyler Bray. After that we have three similar plays. At 1:09, 1:59 and 2:16 you will see Hunter run a variety of crossing routes. On the first one he starts on the wide side (he's not included in the camera shot) and is about 15 yards deep as he crosses the field. It's an easy read as he comes across the face of the quarterback and Bray hits him in stride. At 1:59 Hunter is the slot receiver with a much shallower route. Once again it's yet another easy read and throw for Bray as Hunter breaks into the middle of the zone defense. If you let the video run through the following play at 2:16 it's almost the exact same route. To hammer home the point about the ease of the throw, the broadcast shows the play from Bray's view.

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In this next video against South Carolina I'll shine the spotlight on a different style of route. At 2:52 Hunter starts at the bottom of your screen at the Z position (correct me if I'm wrong). He's going to fake the corner inside before turning out for the completion. Immediately after that at 3:03 Hunter's lined up as the X and runs a similar route (he's cut off the screen halfway through but you see the whole route in a replay). He sucks the corner inside and then blazes right by him as he breaks to the sideline. It was a beautiful move by Hunter as the defender is lost on the play. The next play after that (3:20) is a little different with the same result. Hunter runs what my dad taught me as a "hitch", but there are a variety of names for the route. The idea is the same regardless of name: come off the line fast to get the defender backpedaling, and curl back once he's on his heels. Again it's an easy pitch and catch for the Volunteers. The defender (in this case new Texan safety DJ Swearinger) is already giving a seven yard cushion before the ball's snapped and Hunter forces him back enough that there's about three or four yards between the two as the ball is delivered.

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Finally we come to a game before Justin Hunter's knee injury, a match against Cincinnati in 2011. I'm not going to point out anything specific on this one apart from the TD, which is at 1:03. Watch how smooth and graceful the whole thing play is for him. Hunter had 10 catches for 156 yards to go along with that score. I'd recommend watching the whole video. It's four minutes worth your time.

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This is just a tidbit of what Justin Hunter can bring to the Titans. The intermediate routes were focused on today but there's no question he possesses that deep ball ability as well. He's also spent time at all of the receiver spots so it gives the team added versatility in case of an injury elsewhere. My guess is that he plays opposite Britt almost immediately as the other outside receiver. Stick Kendall Wright in the slot and you can see that this offense has the potential to be explosive.