NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Titans made it perfectly clear from the outset that they wanted Dez Fitzpatrick to be a part of their football team. After all, they traded up 17 spots to select him on the final day of the 2021 NFL Draft (fourth round, 109th overall).
Saturday, coach Mike Vrabel was equally blunt about the fact that the rookie wide receiver has not performed the way they want him to during training camp.
When asked what more he wanted to see from Fitzpatrick, the fourth-year head coach said simply, “A lot.”
Of the eight wide receivers who played in Friday’s 23-3 preseason victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Fitzpatrick was the last to see the field and one of three who did not have a pass thrown his way. He also was the only one to be flagged for a penalty, a false start late in the contest.
Roster spots at that position currently are among the most hotly contested, and the game with the Falcons presented a serious opportunity for players to make their cases.
Pro Bowlers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones did not play. And veteran free agent Josh Reynolds got just seven snaps with the offense (he was the only other wide receiver who was not targeted).
As a result, Fitzpatrick got 24 snaps, which was consistent with Fred Brown (30 snaps) and Mason Kinsey (26) and trailed Racey McMath, another wide receiver the Titans selected in this year’s draft, two rounds and 96 picks after they chose Fitzpatrick, whose 38 snaps were the most among the Titans’ skill position players on offense. Kinsey finished game-highs of four receptions and 51 yards (Atlanta had 52 passing yards as a team). Brown tied Kinsey with four targets and caught two passes for 10 yards. McMath did not have a catch on two passes thrown to hm.
Chester Rogers managed one reception for 17 yards in just seven snaps on offense. Cameron Batson’s 12 snaps included a 15-yard touchdown reception in the second half.
With two preseason games remaining, the next is Aug. 21 at Tampa Bay, it is no secret what Fitzpatrick has to do in order to see playing time earlier and to improve his chances to show up on the stat sheet.
“He needs to show us a lot more in practice,” Vrabel said.