The Titans have some question marks going into the 2014 season. But who are the players who have the ability to make or break the season? Yesterday we took a look at No. 5 on our list, North Carolina product ILB Zach Brown. Today we look at the next on the list.
#4 Justin Hunter
The Tennessee wideout has the athletic makeup that can allow him to stretch defenses vertically, an ideal pushed by Whisenhunt and the new staff. Coaches have already remarked on his ability to affect the game, making the splash plays to get the team over the edge, and meanwhile taking the heat off other targets like Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker. With a rare size/speed combo and a stunning ability to go up and get the ball vertically, Hunter can demand double coverage at times, and his development should be aided by a new group of coaches that know how to use his talents.
Quarterback Jake Locker has the arm talent to find him on the deep routes, and showed glimpses of what could be with the game winner in San Diego last season. Hunter built on a quiet start to the season where he was worked in slowly, shining in a couple of 100 yard games late in the campaign. It is well known that rookie wideouts face a difficult transition from college to the pro's, but Hunter seems to be in position to take the next step in 2014.
"He's shown flashes of making plays...He's a big, long receiver that's still growing into the position. As coaches, we've got to keep pushing him to make those next steps. The sky's the limit there."
Jason Michael, Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator
The Titans know Hunter has a way's to go before we can consider him a polished product. Too often he allows the football to get into his frame, and needs to work on extending for the ball instead. He also needs to get more comfortable in close quarters, where his drops have been frustrating.
At his best, Hunter could "take the top" of defenses and allow the rest of the offense to operate with the luxury of a spread out defense. If not, opposing DC's will be able to key in on guys like Kendall Wright.
Hunter has the potential to legitimize the Titans receiving corps, giving it the missing piece from the past three seasons, a true "X" who can stretch the defense and open up opportunities for other players. If he doesn't add the muscle (and the strength) to his frame, he won't be as effective in that role, as he will struggle to beat the jam. That development, as well as becoming an expert on the route tree, will be key for Hunter in 2014 and beyond.
His response in that regard may end up deciding if Tennessee's offense is noteworthy next season, or merely a footnote.