It’s rare when the NFL’s worst team lets go of the most “talent” on cutdown day but that’s what happened in Nashville on Friday, at least among the teams that got an early start en route to the 53-man roster limit.
Jon Robinson, the first-year general manager of the Tennessee Titans, has no allegiance to his predecessor’s (Ruston Webster) picks or plans and highlighted the fact that there is a new sheriff in town by parting ways with a pair of recent second-round draft picks, running back Bishop Sankey and wide receiver Justin Hunter, as well as 2015 third-round selection, Jeremiah Poutasi.
Add in the recent trade of 2015 second-rounder, Dorial Green-Beckham, and you’ll notice the pattern.
You can rest assured that the same kind of short rope with premium draft picks will not continue in ensuing years when the selections have Robinson’s tint to them.
That said, this is an organization that has won a total of five games over the prior two seasons so acting like the new general manager jettisoned difference makers is probably being a slave to reputation.
Clearly, the status quo wasn’t working in the Music City and significant change was needed. More so, by moving on from underachieving players with some standing due to their draft position sends a clear message to the locker room that production will trump pedigree moving forward.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Webster took Hunter with the 34th-overall pick in 2013 while Sankey went at No. 54 the next year and Poutasi was No. 66 last year, yet none were able to develop into consistent starters.
In his three seasons in Nashville, Hunter, a former star at the University of Tennessee, compiled just 68 receptions for 1,116 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2015, his numbers were only 22 receptions for 264 yards and a touchdown, not good enough due to the emergence of rookie Tajae Sharpe and the additions of Rishard Matthews and Andre Johnson.
Meanwhile, the writing was on the wall for the disappointing Sankey as well after Robinson drafted Derrick Henry and traded for DeMarco Murray to spearhead the running attack.
Sankey was thrown into the deep end of the pool as a rookie, starting nine games, but he was largely ineffective, amassing just 569 yards at 3.7 per clip. By last season the University of Washington product lost the starting gig to the nondescript Antonio Andrews and finished with just 193 yards on the ground.
As for Poutasi, he opened the 2015 campaign as the starter at right tackle but lost the job by midseason and was moved inside to guard this time once Robinson drafted Jack Conklin in the first-round.
Finally, when you add in the recent trade of Green-Beckham to Philadelphia for backup offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, who stuck on the final 53 ahead of Poutasi, it’s plainly evident that Robinson felt it was time to change the culture of the Titans.
And when you’ve won five of the last 32 football games you’ve played, that’s probably the correct assessment.
It’s going to take some time to get Tennessee back in the thick of things in the AFC South but Robinson, a former decade-long employee in New England, has brought the Patriots’ way down south.
Buy in or get out.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] managerail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SBNation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.