Let’s all just be honest about it: it has been a tough first two weeks for Tennessee Titans fans. There has been a lot to be upset about, but one of the few rays of sunshine is rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks.
Burks had an up-and-down start to his Titans career, but all the offseason noise has proven to be nonsense. Not only is Burks playing well by any measure, he is doing so within an anemic Titans offense.
As of writing this, Burks has the seventh-highest Pro Football Focus grade of ANY receiver in the NFL at 80.9. He is 12th in receiving grade at 79.1, 20th in yards after catch, and of the 19 receivers ahead of him only one has less targets.
Now, seven catches for 102 yards doesn’t seem all that great, but considering where Burks ranks in some of these categories, it is hard not to be excited about the rookie.
Well, as you know, this is a film article, so prepare to get even more excited because I can show you exactly why you should be.
The production has been good, but the film shows that it isn’t just Burks making plays, but he is actually being used in a smart way that suits his skillset.
If this continues, Burks should be in a position to make big plays until he grows more as a player.
As we do every week, let’s dive into the film to see exactly what Burks is doing and why he’s being put in a good position.
Physicality: Part 1
AP Photo/Adrian Kraus
First, we have to talk about the routes he’s being asked to run. We knew coming out of the draft that Burks is a guy who would do best early with slants, curls and go routes.
The Titans have found a way top utilize him on all of those.
Burks’ physicality was one of his best traits coming out of school and we see it on display here. Corner is in tight man coverage, but Burks just works through it, uses his upfield arm to create some space, and makes a tough catch.
Physicality: Part 2
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Another route that requires that physicality is the curl route.
Using that upfield arm to create a touch of space is a nuanced move that, for a rookie, gives you high hopes for his ability to perfect this early in his career.
He’s going to be bigger than almost every cornerback he sees, so using his strength in these tight situations will allow him to win when there isn’t much room. Can’t expect to win every time as a rookie, though…
Going deep: Part 1
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Burks is the only man in the Titans’ offense who will be feared going deep. This is precisely why the Titans need him to do more of it; only he can clear out room for slower players like Woods, NWI, Burks and Hooper.
Not only that, but even attempting some of those deep shots should, in theory, open up things for the entire offense. Burks has the speed to get vertical and the ball skills to win over the top.
Love both these attempts from Week 1.
On the first one, Burks makes a nice move at the line of scrimmage to release into his route. This is 100 percent pass interference and if Burks isn’t outright tackled, I think he comes down with it. At minimum, this should be a spot foul and a first down, but Boger…
Going deep: Part 2
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The second is no where near as open, but just having Burks attract two DBs will be important going forward. I’d like to see Burks press the outside corner just a little more before leaning back inside, but hey, the guy is a rookie!
Scheming up touches: Part 1
Syndication: The Tennessean
Nice to see Burks having success with the routes we thought he would, but the other component is the way the Titans scheme up touches for Burks. I like what I have seen so far. Take the Titans’ staple: Play Action Glance.
You’ve seen this play run one hundred times to [REDACTED] over the last few years and Burks has a chance to slide right in to have similar success. Fake to Henry, BANG route right over the middle.
Scheming up touches: Part 2
AP Photo/Mark Zaleski
One of my favorite examples of schemed-up touches is this play-action pass out of the gun.
Titans run a condensed formation to create space on the outside and run Burks across the formation to the opposite flat. This creates an easy pitch-and-catch situation and gets the Burks the ball in space so he can do what he does best.
Scheming up touches: Part 3
AP Photo/Mark Zaleski
This is a similar idea, but on a designed drag. One thing I have noticed this season is teams are playing a lot more man coverage on early downs to try and eliminate the space the receivers are getting on the PA passes.
The Titans see this, too, so here they go with a drag-route concept that uses the two tight ends as screens for Burks.
Sadly, NPF and Nate Davis give up instant pressure; tough throw, too, but more athletic QBs can make this play. Either way, Burks would have run for days if the pass got there. Love the opportunity created.
Scheming up touches: Part 4
AP Photo/Mark Zaleski
Our next play may get me more excited than any before. The Titans need explosive plays and Burks, as I mentioned earlier, is the only one who can give them that in the passing game.
Here is a nice deep crossing route. Giants are in man, which again, teams play a lot of against the Titans with their lack of dynamic receiving threats. Burks comes underneath Robert Woods to create a pick and runs wide open into the middle of the field. PLEASE REPEAT.
Scheming up touches: Part 5
AP Photo/Gail Burton
Similar idea here where the Titans want to get Burks going across the field, but this is meant to attack zone. Burks is the middle man of three routes going over the middle. This is called a flood concept.
Having Burks be the ideal target on these plays is going to be key. Now, Burks is a rookie, so I get it, but I’d like to see him cut this back inside and score. He’s too willing just to barrel into guys and go down. I think as the game starts to slow down for him and he gets in peak condition, he will be able to.
Scheming up touches: Part 6
AP Photo/Matt Durisko
The final play I want to show you is simply just a clever design. The Titans try to get cute with stuff like this too much, in my opinion, instead of just running normal plays, but in a third and really long situation, I see why.
The defense is going to be backing off and protecting the first-down line. Downing says fine and runs a designed screen to Burks. I love how Tannehill is constantly instructing Burks pre-snap trying to get the timing perfect.
What I love more is how the three blocks work on the other side. Hooper takes the inside guy, NWI pinches back down to seal, and then Haskins is like a lead blocker going up to the CB. Pretty smart, but the defense has to react EXACTLY how you think or it wouldn’t work. Oh yeah, it wouldn’t work with anyone else but Burks as well.
OK, I lied; one more. Watch this awesome crack back block from Week 1!
Burks is a rookie and I get the Titans not wanting to give him too much too soon. However, for the sake of this season, the Titans need to double or triple what I showed above.
Burks may be a bright spot, but if you don’t turn on the light enough, the darkness will consume the team. I am begging you, Todd Downing, please get Burks the ball even more.
And Titans fans: get excited, we might have got another one!