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Anthony Firkser Interview Part Two: Titans TE talks offense, Matt LaFleur’s coaching style

Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

In part two (read part one here) of our two-part exclusive interview with Titans TE Anthony Firkser, the New Jersey native talks the nuances behind his route running ability, Matt LaFleur’s detailed offense, Derrick Henry stiff arms and the Titans’ playoff chances.

JM: You haven’t stopped contributing since being elevated back onto the active roster. Have you always felt like this is exactly what would happen if you’d just been given an opportunity?

AF: Yeah. You have to have confidence in yourself. I work and train hard. I knew if I ever got an opportunity, I’d be able to contribute and help out the team. I just had to prove that to my coaches and to my teammates. I wanted them to know that if they gave me a shot, I’d be able to help them win games. I’m grateful they’ve given me that opportunity. I’m thankful for the success I’ve had thus far.

JM: With the Titans being your third team now, was there ever a moment were you felt like this might be now or never for you?

AF: I mean, yeah. That thought definitely goes through your head every time you get cut. After I got cut by the Jets, I was back home for a good 9 or ten weeks. I thought maybe it was time to start looking at other options. I was then cut by the Chiefs and I was like welp, here we go again. I was signed by the Titans after rookie mini-camp. It definitely gives you some extra motivation because you know how unfortunate it feels to get cut. It gives you a little bit of an extra edge out there. You realize you have to find a way to stand out from everyone else. You need to really show that you can contribute and showcase your value to the squad.

JM: I wanna talk about your route running a little. I think you’re an excellent route runner. How did you pick up some of your releases off the line of scrimmage? The little head fakes that you employ, is that a natural thing for you or does it come from somewhere else?

AF: Yeah, I would say that it’s natural. It could go back to my basketball background a little. Playing point guard, you have to be able to break guys down off the dribble. I think that’s where that type of movement translates from. You kinda feel like you’re playing one-on-one with the guy, especially if I’m seeing man coverage. You give a fake one way to try and gain the edge on him. You have to finish at the top of the route as well. I’d probably credit that to my basketball background.

JM: What you just said, and I think you’ll agree with me, is why I hate when kids specialize too early. Picking one sport and focusing on that from a young age can be a mistake. I don’t think people realize how playing a variety of sports can benefit you later on in life.

AF: Yeah, I definitely agree with you on that. Basketball and even hockey were huge for me. Hockey definitely helped with my lateral movement, being able to push off and stuff like that. My basketball background helped me develop my quickness and a lot of other areas as well. Football helped with my physicality. Hockey has the physical aspect to it as well. I think being well-rounded and playing different sports growing up certainly helped me out. It’s better to develop a wide variety of skills at a young age. You eventually put it all together and use it later on in life when you decide to specialize.

JM: I wanna get back to your route running. Do you have a favorite route to run?

AF: I’d probably say the choice route is my favorite. I can go five yards and pick whichever way to go. That allows me to work off leverage. If the defender is leaning inside, I can break out and vice versa. I feel like that gives me the most options out there. If they’re in zone, I can just sit down somewhere in space. I think I probably like that route the best.

JM: Are there any tight ends you model your game after?

AF: I definitely like how Jordan Reed runs his routes. He has that quick first step and he’s very quick out of his breaks and at the top of his routes as well. That’s definitely something I try to emulate in my game.

JM: What is Matt LaFleur’s coaching style like? Is he as laid back as he comes across in his interviews?

AF: Yeah, he can definitely be pretty laid back in the team meetings and stuff like that. He also expects a lot from us. In our meetings, he goes into so much detail about every little thing, our route running and every little concept that we have. He paints a picture for us players. He wants us players to understand every concept so we know exactly how the spacing works for example. For the route distribution, he’s very detailed on how he wants the top of the routes to look. He really puts so much emphasis on teaching us throughout those meetings. I think that’s definitely helped all of us tight ends and the receivers as well.

JM: Is Marcus Mariota as nice as everyone says he is?

AF: Yeah, he really is (laughs). He’s just an awesome guy. He’s great with the fans. He’s great with us players as well. He’s awesome to play for.

JM: Did Derrick Henry stiff arm you against the Jaguars the other night?

AF: Did he stiff arm me? (laughs)

JM: Yeah, it seemed like everyone was catching a Derrick Henry stiff arm out there.

AF: I think he stiff armed everyone out there (laughs).

JM: You may have caught one without knowing.

AF: Yeah, I may have been around the debris of one of those stiff arms that he gave out.

JM: The team got some tough news this week with the injury to Jonnu Smith that will sideline him for the remainder of the season. That certainly makes you the number one pass catcher amongst the tight end group. How did the team react to that?

AF: It’s so unfortunate to see. That guy has worked so hard and he’s accomplished so much as of late. To have that happen to him at this point of the season as we’re pushing to make a playoff run, it’s just really tough. I feel for him. We saw it earlier in the season with Delanie [Walker] as well. It’s part of the game unfortunately. There are so many injuries in this business. All of us have to do our job and take on more responsibility as the tight end unit. We’re gonna do our best and do what we can to replicate the impact that Jonnu has had on our team.

JM: The team has rounded off two massive wins in a row over the past two weeks. Is this team firmly thinking playoffs right now?

AF: We have to think one game at a time. I think that’s the biggest thing for us right now. We can’t look too far ahead. We have two big wins behind us but we have to move past them. We need to keep working and improving on what we’re doing. We’re gonna go over the things we’re not doing well. We have to focus on this next game against the Giants. We have to get a win there and then look towards the week after that. This game coming up is the only thing that really matters.