Tennessee Titans: Delanie Walker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Jake Locker scans the field and runs through his reads, he’ll be picking from a nice smorgasbord of options.

Of the Titans’ top six pass-catchers right now, no two really look alike. That’s a nice feature to have, that variety.

A run through, in roughly their order of importance and quality:

WR Kendall Wright: An excellent slot guy who’s shifty and fast enough to cause problems. Ken Whisenhunt is likely to line him up outside, too, and to send him on more than just underneath stuff. He was dynamic downfield and can add that to his NFL game.

Backup situation: There is no one else like him on this team, though Dexter McCluster and Leon Washington could do a bit of what Wright does.

[+] EnlargeKendall Wright
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsKendall Wright caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns last season.
WR Nate Washington: Can line up in all three receiver spots. Lacks top-end size or speed, but makes up for it with reliability and craftiness. He’s going to be where he’s supposed to be and looked to be a Jake Locker favorite when the quarterback was healthy last season.

Backup situation: The Titans don't have another all-around receiver who's proven himself over a long career.

WR Justin Hunter: The blazing downfield X receiver who should be threatening and stretching defenses even when the ball is not coming his way. He had a catch in the camp opener Saturday that is the sort the team hopes he can make with regularity -- climbing over Coty Sensabaugh and collecting a pass on the boundary.

Backup situation: No one else among the receivers has speed in the same range as Hunter.

TE Delanie Walker: A tough and athletic tight end who can muscle his way to success. The Titans feel he gives them mismatch opportunities, as he can outrun a linebacker and overpower a defensive back.

Backup situation: Craig Stevens is a better pass-catcher than he was given a chance to show last season, but he's not in Walker's class. Taylor Thompson should be at least OK in the department, but is no roster lock yet.

RB Dexter McCluster: More quick than fast (though he says he’s both), he’s just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds. He has played more receiver than running back in his first four years in the league. He’ll get shots to lone up in the slot or to motion there, but he’ll come out of the backfield and give the Titans far better receiver skills than Chris Johnson showed in recent years.

Backup situation: Leon Washington can do some of the same things, but doesn't match McCluster's quickness.

RB Bishop Sankey: Projects to be the Titans best all-around back once he learns the ropes. He’s completely comfortable as a pass-catcher, and while not likely as dynamic as McCluster, defenses will have to account for the possibility of him working as a receiver when he’s on the field.

Backup situation: If he went down, McCluster would likely catch even more passes. And Shonn Greene would be expected to do a bit more in the area.

***

“It’s become a matchup game, and you’re trying to create those mismatches,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We have a number of guys that we feel can do that, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get some guys that step up during camp in those backup roles that we have confidence can do that.

“When you get to the season, it’s more about week to week, what their roles are. If we don’t have somebody, then we’re going to lean more heavily on some of the others that we know what they can do.”

“I’ll give you the perfect example. Wide receiver that we had in San Diego last year, Tutu (Seyi Ajirotutu) wasn’t even on our team at the start of the season. We’re playing Kansas City in a critical game late in the year, on the last play of the game in a 2-minute situation as an X, he catches the touchdown pass. You never would have expected that to win the game, but that’s what this league’s all about. He came in, he showed up, earned more trust from the quarterback, and he made a play for us.”

The Titans are going to throw downfield more, and they will be counting on Hunter to make a big contribution as they expand in that department.

That, in turn, will help create opportunities underneath.

“Wideouts may not be wide open down the field, but we can leak out and still make plays out of the backfield,” McCluster said.

In 2-minute drills, Whisenhunt expects McCluster and the backs to be big contributors as well.

“If you’re efficient with that, a lot of times the back is going to make big chucks for you,” Whisenhunt said. “If the down-the-field throws aren’t there, they are playing off coverage, if you can do that it’s big. It takes discipline. But we’re working at it.”
Continuing our series on the best games members of the Tennessee Titans have ever played…

Delanie Walker, tight end

Nov. 14, 2013
Colts 30. Titans 27
LP Field
Walker: Nine catches, 91 yards including a 19-yard touchdown

Walker
“It would probably have to be last year, the Thursday night game against the Colts. Nine catches, 90 yards, some great blocks, got headbutted. Before that even happened, I think I was playing great, that just added to the flames. It was a run play to the right, I was blocking [linebacker Erik Walden] til the whistle blew. I guess he didn’t like it, he yanked my helmet off then headbutted me in the face. That’s when I got angry and started having a great game in the run game, just real physical. I think that just really brought the fire out of me, being headbutted. We lost and I was very upset. Thursday night game, everybody watching, we played a great game and to lose it at the last minute that always hurts. If I play that way in a game, now you’ve always got to step up to that standard. This year I’ve got another opportunity to do that. With Whiz [new head coach Ken Whisenhunt] and the type of offense we’ve got here, I feel like we can have games like that all the time.”

Review all of the Best Game Ever posts.

Camp preview: Tennessee Titans

July, 17, 2014
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NFL Nation's Paul Kuharsky examines the three biggest issues facing the Tennessee Titans heading into training camp.

Jake Locker: It’s now or never for the Titans’ quarterback, at least in Tennessee. The fourth-year quarterback started last season well, then he got hurt, didn’t shine when he came back and ultimately suffered another season-ending injury. Now he’s got his third offensive coordinator in Jason Michael and a new playcaller and head coach in Ken Whisenhunt.

The Titans would love to see him blossom into the player they thought he could be when they tabbed him eighth overall in 2011. But they began to line up a contingency plan for beyond 2014 when they drafted LSU's Zach Mettenberger in the sixth round.

The team declined to execute Locker’s option for 2015, and he’ll be a free agent after this season. He needs to prove himself worthy of a new contract or the Titans will be prepared to go a different direction next season -- or maybe even sooner.

Things are set up for him to succeed with an upgraded coaching staff, a running game that should be better with a committee instead of Chris Johnson’s deteriorating vision, a reshaped defense and what should be a far easier schedule. But plenty of league insiders and outside critics have little faith Locker can be an effective long-term starter on a winning team.

The new 3-4 defense: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will bring people from different spots and has some rushers who can play as deeper outside linebackers or line up in a three-point stance as if they are defensive ends. We don’t know if they added enough, but out of Kamerion Wimbley, Shaun Phillips, converted end Derrick Morgan and Akeem Ayers, there could be ample edge rush.

The team’s best defensive player, DT Jurrell Casey, will now be playing a lot on a three-man line. But the Titans promise his duties will not change much and say he actually will get more one-on-ones -- because offenses won’t be able to help on him before getting to a linebacker who will be at the line of scrimmage a lot sooner.

Horton quickly won the respect of the team based on his fine résumé and calm but purposeful no-nonsense demeanor. He said small guys who can hit and big guys who can run will have a major say in whether the Titans are successful.

Houston and Indianapolis made the playoffs in their first seasons following recent transitions to a 3-4. The Titans know the scheme change doesn’t buy them patience.

Whisenhunt’s weapons: The Titans signed pint-size Dexter McCluster to be a weapon in Whisenhunt’s offense. McCluster played receiver and running back in Kansas City, but the Titans will look to him as part of the backfield committee, where he figures to catch a lot of passes coming out of the backfield.

Bishop Sankey was the first running back taken in the draft and should be a more direct, decisive back than Johnson, though he certainly doesn’t bring CJ’s speed. Shonn Greene will have short-yardage chances. Are those three enough to take heat off the passing game?

The Titans are counting on a big jump from blazing outside receiver Justin Hunter. Kendall Wright was the best player on offense. And while Nate Washington is aging, he has been dependable and productive. Along with tight end Delanie Walker there are options for Whisenhunt to be inventive with, but we don’t know what will work.
The quick conclusion about tight ends and the Tennessee Titans: With former NFL tight end Ken Whisenhunt as the coach, former tight ends coach Jason Michael as the offensive coordinator and former NFL tight end Mike Mularkey as the tight ends coach, we’ll see all sort of clever use of Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens and even Taylor Thompson.

[+] EnlargeDelanie Walker
Mark Humphrey/AP PhotoTight end Delanie Walker warms up during the Titans' organized team activities on June 12.
Said Walker: "We’re going to be very physical, we’re going to play until the whistle blows, we’re going to be very tough in the run game and when the passing game comes to us, we’re going to make plays. ...I see the tight end position being of big impact in this offense."

But in terms of creative use, the Titans' top tight end doesn’t necessarily expect to line up all over the place.

“We’re going to move around, but I think you’re going to see more of Dexter McCluster in that spot,” Walker said. “He’s the Swiss Army knife now for this team. He can play multiple positions, and I think you’re going to see Dexter moving around making great plays for us.

“I see myself as that guy as well, but you’re going to see me on the end of the line more too as well.”

Walker guesses he lined up on the line about 70 percent of the time last year and thinks that number will go up to 80 or 75 percent this year. According to the stats, Walker was actually on the line just over 60 percent of the time last year.

Where Walker lined up last season, from Marty Callinan of ESPN Stats & Information:

Wide: 30 snaps, 4.1 percent
Backfield: 54 snaps, 7.4 percent
Slot: 202, 27.8 percent
Tight: 440 snaps, 60.6 percent

“Our strong point is going to be running the ball, we're going to run the ball this year," Walker said. “And that’s going to help our passing game. I feel like you’re going to see me in the running game blocking more, doing my part to help pen up that passing game.”

Game-to-game matchups mean we’ll see Walker moving around more in some game than others.

He's one of the team's top weapons in the passing game. Mularkey is teaching him to finish blocks in ways he’s never learned before, Walker said.

"The hand technique -- we call it lifting the keg," Walker said when I asked for an example of what he’s learning about blocking. "If you ever had a keg before, you know you've got to get your hands inside and lift it. He’s been teaching us. He’s been teaching us that and stepping on toes.

"Basically you just lift up and you thrust your hip and you want to step on his toes, you want to get as close as you can to him while you’re lifting him up. You never thought of it that way and now it’s set in your mind. I can just do it naturally, that’s something we do every day. I feel like my blocking has been getting better."

I'm all for an increase in his run-blocking role, so long as he's still up near the top of the reception list as well.
In post-draft, spring NFL fantasy football rankings, the Titans have a new top dog.

The collective ESPN rankings have second-round running back Bishop Sankey at No. 68 overall and the 29th-best running back. Matthew Berry also has him as the top Titan, and even higher at 51st overall and the No. 23 running back.

The Titans are going to get carries and touches for three running backs -- Sankey, Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster.

But as they positioned themselves for the draft, they said they wanted to add a guy who can be an every down back for them. Sankey will yield to Greene and McCluster at times and in situations and maybe even as part of some game plans.

But in the end, I expect he will be the guy who winds up with the most total touches out of the three.

Greene, receivers Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter and tight end Delanie Walker all make the top 200 from ESPN and Berry.

Drops are surely subjective. You and I might look at a play and you’d say Phil should have caught it and I’d say he couldn’t have.

ESPN tracks drops and applies a strong benefit of the doubt standard. A drop has to be something quite obvious.

Pro Football Focus breaks down targets into catchable balls, and judges drops more harshly.

Both ESPN and PFF then compute drop rates -- ESPN simply by dividing drops by targets, PRR by dividing drops by catchable balls.

Britt
Britt
By any standard, Kenny Britt had a terrible 2013. ESPN says he dropped four passes, PFF counted seven.

Britt is a free agent, and the Tennessee Titans have no interest in bringing him back. He’s drawn a decent amount of interest and will be a reclamation project somewhere.

Another Titans receiver, Damian Williams, is on the market and looks unlikely to return unless his price drops.

No coach or player is going to say anything more than none is an acceptable drop total. But everyone drops some. Let’s sample three top guys at random just for some context on their ESPN drop rates from 2013: Detroit’s Calvin Johnson was at 5.2, Andre Johnson at 3.4 and Larry Fitzgerald 0.7.

I was spurred to look at the Titans’ drops as PFF has put out stories recently on receiver drops, running back drops and tight end drops.

Here’s how last year’s top pass catchers fared for Tennessee.

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No receiving yards are completely meaningless. They show up in the stats of the pass-catcher and the quarterback and they count in the game.

But if you’re trailing by four touchdowns late and the defense is in prevent and most concerned with keeping you in bounds and keeping the clock running, a long reception certainly means less than it does in a tight game against tight coverage.

Chase Stuart of footballperspective.com knows his formula for “meaningless receiving yards” is flawed, but it’s still something very interesting to consider.

Jacksonville’s Ace Sanders led the league in percentage of receiving yards that lacked great meaning with 57.5 and with a percentage of meaningless targets with 53.7.

The Titans figure prominently in the list of 31 here.

Of Chris Johnson's 345 receiving yards, 33.6 percent ranked as meaningless by Stuart’s formula. Delanie Walker was at 23.1 percent.

And four Titans were over 20 percent of meaningless receiving targets: Kendall Wright at 27.3, Walker at 26.7, Nate Washington at 25.7 and Johnson at 23.1.

The piece is worth a look.
ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry is emphasizing his first rankings of the top 150 fantasy players for 2014 are written in pencil. They'll be erased and rewritten after free-agent movement, the draft and injury updates.

As of now, he's got four Titans on his list.
Check out Berry's whole list here.

The most interesting variable here is with Johnson. My expectation is that he will be cut. Where he resurfaces will have a great deal to do with his ultimate fantasy value.
[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Patric Schneider"Some of the guys that was the cancer, they really didn't care," Delanie Walker said after the season.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Delanie Walker indicated he thought there was a cancerous element on the Titans during the 2013 season.

After the season he expanded on the idea, saying as the season went south, more guys jumped in the cancer box, not caring about the team's results. He had talked to the players and to coach Mike Munchak about it, getting no results. That made him feel more comfortable talking about it in a radio interview.

I thought he felt he could bring some attention to the issue by discussing it publicly, and that it would help position Ken Whisenhunt and a new staff to solve it.

After the interview, he backed down a bit. He said his initial estimate of six guys was probably high, an exaggeration.

Whisenhunt said he respected Walker's feelings and chatted with him about them, but wants such matters to stay in house in the future.

Sunday at 104.5 The Zone's SportsFest in Nashville, receiver Nate Washington and cornerback Jason McCourty -- both captains of the 2013 Titans -- addressed Walker's comments.

McCourty
Here's McCourty: "The one thing I will say -- and I've talked to Bernard [Pollard] about this as well because I know during the season, him and Delanie were both guys that spoke of cancers on the team and things of that nature -- my feeling is that you never, no matter what you're doing, if you're at work at a regular job or in the NFL or whatever, you're never going to have every single guy in that locker room that whole heartedly believes in the team and everything about it.

"I remember talking to Bernard about the locker room in Baltimore and he said the same thing. You may have a guy out there who could care less if the team wins. Could be a defensive end and all he cares about is getting sacks, but at the end of the day if that guy finishes that season with 15 sacks, he's going to believe that he helped you win. I truly don't believe in that whole 'cancerous' talk. I know those guys have come from different locker rooms and they probably believe in some different things and believe that their way is the right way, but my whole thing is if there are cancerous players, let's have a team meeting, players only, and let's bring those guys out there and let's get it all figured out.

"But to be honest, for me to talk to you guys about cancers in the locker room, it's not going to solve anything. I believe that if we do have cancers, we can figure that out, but I truly don't believe that there are guys that could care less about the team. I think that we could probably get some better guys in at certain positions to help us win and the Super Bowl team would probably say that, the Seattle Seahawks, coming from this year to next year, they could probably get rid of some guys and replace some other guys, so we definitely have room for improvement, I would say that."

Washington
Here's Washington: "Like Jason said, he's talked to Bernard, I've had a couple of conversations with a couple of other teammates, and at the end of the day, we know that Delanie meant well by that statement. Like Jason said, at the end of the day, every locker room in the league is going to have some type of cancer, but I will say that I don't think that we had not one cancer that was going to dictate the outcome of our games, because like you said, we played hard no matter what.

"Every single man on that totem pole played hard. Now whether his habits specifically could be the talent to get us over the bar for that day, that's a totally different story. That's not a cancer, that's him still giving his effort. Like J-Mac said, I just wish, as one of those guys that was in that locker room and heard that statement, I wish that initiative would have been taken up by Delanie during the season. We should have had a players meeting. This initiative should have came from him back during the season when these things were going on, if he thought that that was an issue."

"But the debate didn't come until the issue was brought to the media. That should have been something behind closed doors. If you're married, as a husband, you don't go out and tell the world what your wife did, you understand what I'm saying? That should have been something kept in our locker room with Coach Whisenhunt, with the front offices, if he felt that it should be handled that way. There's not an issue with any of us or Delanie because at the end of the day, we know what he meant. We know exactly where the statement was coming from, so we have no issue with Delanie.

"But like J-Mac said, this is something that when we get back together, in a player meeting, as captains, as being someone who has been in this system for five, going on six years, this is something that maybe we do need to get corrected, behind our closed doors and hope that our fans and this community know that coming from these captains, that it means that much to us to get corrected."

I think Titans fans should be encouraged by how strongly Washington and McCourty responded to the issue. I expect the staff and players will hash it out in a way it wasn't last season. And still, as both these players said, there will be some selfish guys on the team who can rank as cancer who won't prevent the Titans from winning.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This week we count down the Titans’ top five bedrock players.

These are the team’s foundational pieces that general manager Ruston Webster and coach Ken Whisenhunt can build around.

We’ll count down from fifth to first day by day.

Right tackle Chance Warmack was fifth.

4) Tight end Delanie Walker.

Walker was a solid player in his first year after jumping to the Titans as a free agent from San Francisco. He finished second in receptions with 60 for 571 yards and a team-best six touchdown catches.

He also has great leadership skills that should blossom in a second season now that he’s an established personality in the locker room. He called out cancers in the locker room during the season and again afterward, and is sure to be a resource for the new coaching staff as they try to weed out problems and add answers.

The Titans were an outside-in passing scheme under Mike Munchak and coordinator Dowell Loggains. They are likely to be more inside-out under Ken Whisenhunt and coordinator Jason Michael.

Also, Whisenhunt and tight ends coach Mike Mularkey are former NFL tight ends and Michael coached tight ends. All of that should mean a mindset that will look to maximize Walker, who can create mismatches.

He’s a cornerstone piece for sure and along with young receivers Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter provides Whisenhunt with some premium targets in the passing game.

ESPN.com’s resident scout Matt Williamson says: “Expect Walker's numbers to spike with Whiz on board now. Walker has questionable hands, but is extremely versatile and is an exceptional blocker.”
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans from Radio Row in New York…

According to David Climer of The Tennessean, Ray Horton believes his Titans defense is more about attitude than alignment. Writes Climer: “Elaborate defensive schemes are fine, he says, but it doesn’t matter how you line up unless you commit yourself. You don’t win games with Xs and Os. You win games with effort and execution.”

Nick Eason is the Titans new assistant defensive line coach, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. Earlier they hired Mike Sullivan as offensive line assistant.

Delanie Walker said he was never shy talking about team cancers, says Jim Wyatt.

To which I say: Which is why we asked a follow up this week on Radio Row. I thought he certainly put more meat on the bone with his comments this week.
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NEW YORK -- If Chris Johnson doesn't believe he's one of the cancers on the Titans that Delanie Walker talked about, then perhaps he's been a little defensive on Twitter Thursday night.

Here's the background of what Walker said.

Here's the Twitter conversation that popped up, apparently after CJ caught wind of it or got questions from people about it.


 

 

 

 

RTC: New coordinators introduced

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
1:42
PM ET
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans ...

The complete interview with Delanie Walker on The Midday 180, where he talked about the team’s cancers and more. Walker was promoting MADD on Radio Row.

Titans who played in Super Bowl XXXIV recount the experience with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. Four offensive linemen rolled down their rental car windows and took off their shirts, playing Freeze-Out in too-cold Atlanta after a dinner out.

It’s hard to know at this stage just how differently the Titans defense will look under coordinator Ray Horton in 2014, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. Ken Whisenhunt said it won’t be a complete overhaul.

Horton is impressed by the Titans' speed, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.

Here’s video from the team of the press conference introducing Horton and offensive coordinator Jason Michael.
NEW YORK -- The reaction to Delanie Walker's concern about a half dozen teammate from 2013 that he called cancers has been mostly surprise.

But it shouldn’t be.

It shouldn’t be because Walker talked of it before. After the Tennessee Titans lost to previously winless Jacksonville on Nov. 11, 2013, Walker said: “We’ve got to find that cancer because it’s slowing us down. We’re going to have to find out.”

[+] EnlargeDelanie Walker
Mark Humphrey/AP PhotoDelanie Walker on getting certain teammates to play hard: "If they dont want to do it, you cant make them do it. No matter what."
He and Bernard Pollard talked repeatedly of guys who didn’t want to be there, and how the Titans needed them to turn in their stuff.

More broadly than that, I think every bad team likely has guys Walker would identify as cancers -- players who don’t practice hard enough, who don’t care enough, who give up hope once a season takes a bad turn, who are more concerned about their contract status than the team.

It’s part of what makes those bad teams bad teams. And the 7-9 Titans were a bad team.

Walker and Pollard played in the Super Bowl a year ago before signing with the Titans. Their experience in a winning culture was part of the reason Tennessee wanted them.

That pedigree, however, didn’t mean a lot to the guys Walker complained about in his interview with us on The Midday 180 on Wednesday.

“They look at us like, ‘This ain’t the 49ers, this ain’t the Baltimore Ravens,’” Walker said. “I was like, 'We go to the Super Bowl, we go to the playoffs, we’re always in it. We’re talked about. We’ve got prime-time games.' You give them that, but they’re like, 'Who cares? You’re with the Titans now.'

"And then you’re like, 'OK, we’re with the Titans but we’re trying to turn that around. You see us speaking out, you see us playing our hearts out, we go out every day, we play hard, we never give up.' And it’s hard to relay that message to guys that don’t want to do it. If they don’t want to do it, you can’t make them do it. No matter what. I’m not the coach, I’m your teammate.

“I can’t make you play. I can’t tell you what to do. I can get in your face: 'You’re terrible, you’re hurting the team.' It doesn’t do nothing.”

I asked if Walker thinks it’s common on bad teams.

“Yeah, because when you’re on a bad team you start acting like you’re on a bad team," he said. "You’re like, ‘We might lose anyway.’ You go into a game thinking you might lose.”

With the 49ers, things started to change when Jim Harbaugh took over as coach.

Like fans of the team he plays for, Walker is hoping a similar transformation occurs in Tennessee with Ken Whisenhunt now at the controls.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans finished a distant second place in the AFC South with a 7-9 record that got their coach fired.

We’ve had some debate here over whether the roster is as good as they thought it was.

Per Pro Football Focus' All-AFC South Team, Tennessee has 50 percent of the best players in the division on offense and defense.

On offense, running back Chris Johnson, tight end Delanie Walker, receiver Kendall Wright, left tackle Michael Roos and left guard Andy Levitre are on the team.

On defense, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, defensive end Derrick Morgan, outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, cornerback Alterraun Verner, free safety Michael Griffin and strong safety Bernard Pollard are on the team.

The most questionable selection here in my eyes is Levitre, who was paired with Houston’s Brandon Brooks as the guards.

Wrote Khaled Elsayed: “(Levitre) came around toward the end of the year, but you can’t help feeling the Titans spent a little too much on Levitre. This division wasn’t exactly blessed with talent at guard outside of these two, with Brooks the only player to really step up and make a name for himself.”

Ayers is a weak selection as well. As Elsayed points out it's not a strong position in the division.

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