Titans tight end Delanie Walker having his best season yet - Sports Illustrated

Titans tight end Delanie Walker having his best season yet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans is having not just the best season of his 10-year career, the veteran also caught more passes than any other tight end in the NFL. More than Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten or Greg Olsen.

Enjoying such a great season isn't easy when your team is just 2-8.

''Everyone talks about the catches and the yards I have, but we don't win games so it's a bad and a good thing,'' Walker said. ''It's good for me that I'm still able to perform at a high level with the situation that's occurring with the team, but then it's bad. If we don't win games, you don't get talked about, you don't get those prime-time games so that people can actually see that I go out there and basically set off every game.''

Walker leads the Titans with both his 53 catches for 617 yards, and his receptions are two more than either the Patriots' Gronkowski or Witten of the Cowboys. Since the start of the 2014 season, only Gronkowski and Carolina's Olsen have more yards receiving than Walker's 1,507.

Interim Titans coach Mike Mularkey coached Walker with the tight ends before being promoted Nov. 3. Mularkey certainly appreciates the 6-foot, 248-pound Walker.

''It's a demanding position and what he does, you see all the catches and you see what he does after he catches the ball,'' Mularkey said. ''He does a lot of things in the run game. He's very unselfish. We ask him to do something. Block somebody he's probably not a good match-up, he's going to try to do it.''

Walker goes into Sunday's game with Oakland (4-6) with 299 career catches. With six games remaining, he needs only 10 catches to match the career-high 63 receptions set last season. He is 10 yards receiving shy of passing Frank Wycheck for the best two-season total by a tight end with this franchise. Wycheck finished with 1,516 yards in 1997 and 1998.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said they definitely need to know where Walker is on the field.

''He's a great blend of speed and athletic ability, so he gives us some of those matchup issues with linebackers and safeties or corners, whoever you have on them,'' Del Rio said. ''He's a real good player. Our guys are familiar with him, a lot of people in this area are familiar with him having played in San Francisco before going (to Tennessee). He's been a good player for a long time.

Walker spent his first seven seasons in San Francisco and came to Tennessee for the chance to catch more passes. He went from losing a Super Bowl in February 2013 to a franchise that has just 11 wins in his tenurer, and Walker said the losing is tiring, especially for an offensive captain.

''I'm sitting in a restaurant I have to hear about people talking about us losing,'' Walker said. ''It's tiring. I've been playing this game for 10 seasons. I didn't think I would be here for 10 seasons and losing at this point, so it's kind of confusing. But then I get upset because I try to go out there and play as best as I can and we still lose.''

Playing for a struggling team also means Walker attracts few Pro Bowl votes, and the tight end said Thursday he's expecting not to be in that game just like he missed out last season. Quarterback Marcus Mariota believes Walker deserves to be in the Pro Bowl, even if the rookie has to give the veteran a ticket to his home state of Hawaii.

''He's done an incredible job for us,'' Mariota said. ''He's a guy who's been a vet that's led this entire offense, and he deserves to be out there.''

Notes: NT Sammie Hill (knee) returned to practice Thursday and was limited. WR Kendall Wright (left knee) and CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring) practiced fully. LB Derrick Morgan (shoulder) did not practice after being limited Wednesday. RB Dexter McCluster (right knee) and NT Al Woods (ankle) did not practice.



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