The headlines have focused in on the return of Tennessee Titans’ wide receiver Kendall Wright, but he would argue that he never really left. He was there all along waiting on the sidelines for his number to be called, and when it was called, he went onto the field made a play.
Correction — he made several plays.
The former first round pick out of Baylor appeared to be on his way out of Tennessee at the beginning of the season. He was playing in his contract year with a host of different options standing in front of him, specifically Rishard Matthews and rookie receiver Tajae Sharpe. Even veteran wideout Andre Johnson was in on some snaps.
It didn’t help matters that Wright was also nursing a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the entire preseason and the first three regular season games.
But the Titans continued to struggle without him on the field. Matthews couldn’t get open consistently, Sharpe hit a rookie wall and Johnson, who recently announced his retirement from the NFL, was a shell of his former self.
The plethora of problems led to quarterback Marcus Mariota playing hero ball and forcing errant passes down the field. The Titans missed the presence of a speedy receiver who could take the top off a defense. They needed a playmaker that would constantly keep defensive backs on their toes.
Help arrived in the form of a familiar face on a warm Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns.
“It was a lot of ‘Welcome back. Welcome back’,’’ Wright said after the game. “But I never really left. I haven’t gone anywhere. Whenever my number is called I have to be ready to make a play, and that’s what I did today and it’s what I have to keep doing.”
Wright’s return on the stat sheet couldn’t have come at a better time for an offense that had grown sluggish over the last few weeks.
He had eight receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown against the Browns. A quiet game against the Indianapolis Colts followed before he exploded again last Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars with four receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Kendall only needed 1 yard to reach 3,000 career receiving yards. But Kendall is an overachiever. https://t.co/nn1PqtQv9A
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) October 28, 2016
“It feels good to contribute,’’ Wright said. “I have always been a playmaker. Whenever my number is called, I just have to do my job. But we have a lot of personnel groupings and we have some pretty good running backs, so I am happy when I am blocking for them and happy when Marcus is throwing the ball. I think I am in a good place.”
The Titans are obviously a run-first offense with multi-talented running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry coming out of the backfield.
But an option to go deep down the field, especially off a play-action, will be a handful for any defense. Murray is running the football like he’s back in a Dallas, and he will be the first problem opposing coaches will try to neutralize. If Wright can stay healthy, it would give the Titans the spark they’ve desperately needed on offense, though.
It could also lead to that contract extension he’s desperately wanting as well.