By John Glennon
Joey Kent. Kevin Dyson. Tyrone Calico. Kenny Britt. Kendall Wright. Justin Hunter. Dorial Green-Beckham.
It takes two hands to recount all the highly drafted wide receivers – first- or second-round picks – that have come and gone during the Titans’ past two decades-plus without living up to expectations.
Some, like Dyson, Britt and Wright, were at least productive, while others failed miserably.
It was with that background in place that a desperate Titans nation turned its attention to Corey Davis when the team chose him in 2017. Drafted with the fifth overall selection, Davis just so happened to be the highest pick of all those receivers. So surely, Davis would finally be the one to change everything – a hit at long last after 20 years’ worth of misses.
No pressure, kid. Just make sure you’re the difference maker all the others weren’t.
It wasn’t necessarily a situation tailor-made for a quiet, serious-minded young man like Davis, who tended to turn inward and criticize himself when he wasn’t producing the big numbers everyone sought. That description covered the better part of his first three years in the league, as Davis averaged 47 catches, 622 yards and two touchdowns during those seasons – pretty so-so stats.
The Titans, to the surprise of few, chose not to pick up Davis’ fifth-year option, which would have paid him $15.7 million in 2021.
It looked as if yet another highly drafted receiver for the Titans would make a quiet departure from an organization that seemed cursed at the position, at least until A.J. Brown came along in 2019.
But physically healthy and more clear-minded than ever this season, Davis has delivered like never before. It’s almost as if the Titans’ decision not to pick up his option took away some of the expectations that had burdened him for so long. Davis posted a 100-yard receiving day in the Titans’ season opener and has been hitting triple digits with regularity ever since. His 110-yard total in Sunday’s win over Detroit marked the fifth time this season Davis has topped 100 yards in a game, and the third time in his last five contests.
Once again, that’s five 100-yard totals in his 12 games this season, compared to two such outings in his first three seasons combined.
“Mentally, I feel like I’m in a better place,” Davis said. “Past years I would put a lot of pressure on myself. Sometimes it was too much pressure. It would end up having a negative impact on my playing. So this year I’m a lot more free. I’m just going out there, playing and having fun with it.”
Davis, of course, is just one part of a Titans offense that appears to be having all kinds of fun overall this season.
How many longtime Titans fans, it’s easy to wonder, ever thought they’d live to see their team put together five consecutive games of at least 30 points and 400 yards – only the ninth time in NFL history that feat has ever been accomplished?