Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Ryan Tannehill, Titans coaching staff impressed early on with rookie tight end

There are several questions surrounding the Tennessee Titans‘ offense entering 2022. Can 28-year-old Derrick Henry continue his dominance? Will Ryan Tannehill bounce back after his disappointing postseason performance? And of course, who will replace A.J. Brown in the receiving game? Tennessee made additions in Robert Woods and Treylon Burks, but there’s another newcomer who could end up playing an important role in his first NFL season.

In the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Titans selected former Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. “Chig” is a 6-foot-3, 238-pound weapon that is not your typical tight end. What he lacks in blocking ability he makes up for as a playmaker. Okonkwo plays big like a tight end, but has the YAC skills of a wide receiver. In fact, he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of any tight end at the NFL combine with a 4.52. He’s a player that can hurt linebackers in the flat, and even someone the Terps liked to utilize in the run game with reverses. 

On the first day of Titans minicamp, Okonkwo caught three touchdowns while working the red zone, according to Jim Wyatt of the Titans’ official website. His performances have certainly caught the eye of Tannehill.

“Chig’s done a great job for us,” Tannehill said, via the Titans’ official website. “He’s made some big strides this spring. I’m proud of the way he’s come in, learned what to do, and we’ll continue to push him on that. But just physically, to see his size, his strength, his speed, how he’s able to play through contact, he definitely gives us another weapon.”

Okonkwo brings the versatility desired by creative offensive coordinators. He’s a player who can line up as a typical tight end, in the slot or as an H-back/fullback type. Tennessee also signed tight end Austin Hooper in free agency, which could be something that allows offensive coordinator Todd Downing to have a little bit of fun with his other new tight end.

“We’ve asked him to do a lot,” Downing said of Okonkwo. “We’ve thrown a lot at him. I think he’s handled it well. I think he’s hungry and eager to please. There are obviously some new roles and some assignments that we’ve given him. Those are always going to come with a little bit of a learning curve. But I think he’s doing a nice job with it.”

Losing Brown is obviously a big blow to this offense, but if Okonkwo can prove he’s a versatile piece who keeps defenses on their toes, the Titans could have a great opportunity to win the AFC South for a third straight season. 

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