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Burks Will be Put to the Test at Training Camp

With relatively little on-field work during OTAs and minicamp, the first-round pick out of Arkansas will have to show what he learned beginning July 27.

NASHVILLE – Every NFL rookie faces an educational challenge in his first training camp.

That learning curve is likely to be a steeper one for Tennessee Titans first-round pick Treylon Burks, the talented wide receiver who missed the team’s minicamp and was a partial participant in offseason OTAs.

His offseason absence not only kept him from gaining important on-field chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill but also hindered his on-field progress in two other significant areas: transitioning to an outside receiver role after primarily playing in the slot at Arkansas, and learning an NFL route-running scheme more complicated than the Razorbacks’ run-pass-option based offense.

In other words, Burks was just the kind of rookie – highly skilled, but in need of polish – that would have benefited from a full offseason.

Assuming his asthma and conditioning issues are resolved in the next month, Burks will begin the process of trying to make up for lost time when the team begins training-camp practices on July 27.

Tannehill and the team’s coaching staff have to hope the work they put in with Burks off the field will help make up for the significant time he missed on the field. Burks, after all, will be expected to make a significant contribution as a rookie, following the Titans’ decision to trade Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations as we’re watching tape, talking through the reps that other guys have had and communicating it,” Tannehill said. “Just (wanting to make sure) sure he’s hearing it, what I’m looking for, and kind of hearing what he’s thinking.

“Obviously the best thing is to have him on the field working with us, but that’s not the case. So you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got and make the best out of what you have. We’re communicating, and then whenever the time comes for him to be out there running with us, then we’ll take advantage of those reps.”

One of the more interesting stats regarding the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Burks during three seasons at Arkansas was that he lined up in the slot on 77 percent of his snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

Though the Titans will likely rotate him at all three receiver spots – and possibly the backfield from time to time – Burks will see most of his action at the “X” position – where Brown played – on the outside of the formation. Burks’ ability to outmuscle pressing cornerbacks and win contested passes would seem to make him a natural at that spot, but again, he will be playing catch-up to some degree in training camp.

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The same goes for learning a more complicated offensive NFL scheme, as The Athletic’s Dane Brugler described Burks as “a novice-level route runner,” noting Burks was aided by a high volume of screens and quick targets at Arkansas.

It remains to be seen how much Burks was able to learn on those fronts during the offseason.

“It definitely hurts, right, not to be out there,” Tannehill said. “But I think everyone in the building is trying to do their best to prepare, even the guys that aren’t out there – mentally, making sure they’re staying up on their scripts, and the walk-throughs and the jog-throughs and learning from the full-speed reps on tape.

“That’s all you can do at this point is to try to learn each and every way you can, and then when the time comes, you’re able to step on the grass and it’s time to go.”

It’s clear the Titans did all they could to challenge Burks when he wasn’t on the field.

Veteran Titans receiver Robert Woods noted that head coach Mike Vrabel, offensive coordinator Todd Downing and Moore were quizzing Burks on a regular basis.

“They were always throwing out questions, picking his brain,” Woods said. “So he (was) always on the hot seat. … We’re just doing that so he can pick up the offense as fast as he can.”

Burks obviously would have preferred to be on the field more often himself, but Moore said the 22 year-old showed patience during a difficult offseason, doing his best to control what he could.

How did he fare as a student?

“He’s done a great job of responding to everything we’ve given him, and he’s eager to learn, eager to get to work,” Moore said. “He’s getting all the installs and all the information. It’s just a matter of taking all that information and putting it to practice.”

That test begins in just over a month.