- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- At the start of camp, I figured Taylor Thompson was in a make-or-break month and thought he was as likely to fizzle out as he was to stick.
Now it’s clear he’s a roster lock as the team’s third tight end, a pass-catcher who can get open and an improving run blocker. The Titans have Delanie Walker as their top receiving tight end and Craig Stevens as their top blocking man at the position.
Thompson is proving capable of contributing in both areas.
In 2012, the Titans traded up in the fifth round to draft Thompson, who played four years as a defensive end at SMU. But Tennessee was impressed with his pre-draft work and knew he arrived in Dallas as a tight end. The Titans acquired him to be part of their offense.
His first two years were slow moving, and he admits he had doubts about whether he could pull off the transition.
“For sure,” he said. “It was hard. Doing one thing for four years and going back to playing tight end. It was a challenge. But I think tight end was always my natural position, and I think it finally went back to being my natural state of being.”
“There were times when I was uncomfortable out there, I didn’t really know what I was doing. But now I am 100 percent confident in everything I do, and I feel really good about it."
Right from the start of camp, he was a frequent target of No. 2 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. But he’s not limited to playing with the second team by any means and gets snaps rotating through the Titans two- and three-tight end sets when the first team is on the field.
Ken Whisenhunt said he knew nothing of Thompson when he signed on to be the Titans' head coach and has been pleased.
Tight end coach Mike Mularkey is also encouraged.
“I’ve been pleased with his progress,” Mularkey said. “We purposely called some things [Saturday night against Green Bay] to see if he could win them, and he did. He had a drop that we’d like to see him make that play. We think he’s capable of making that play, we have confidence that he can make that play.
“But he has progressed in all phases, not just catching the ball. He’s a very good run-blocker as well.”
As two former pro tight ends, Whisenhunt and Mularkey, guide Thompson, they still think they have not tapped all the way into all that he can do.
“He’s got an upside still,” Mularkey said. “When he starts understanding a lot of things prior to snap, what’s going to happen after snap, if he gets the answers to some of the questions before the test [that will help him]. A lot of that is just getting a feel for this position. It’s a hard position.”