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VOL. 46 | NO. 34 | Friday, August 26, 2022

Rookie Phillips making name for himself as receiver, punt returner

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Kyle Philips returns a punt during Saturday’s night’s game against Tampa Bay.

-- Photo By Wade Payne | Ap

While Treylon Burks has gotten the attention that naturally comes as a first-round pick, another Titans rookie receiver has been a big hit in training camp and preseason.

Kyle Philips, a fifth-round pick from UCLA, comes to Tennessee as a ready-made slot receiver and punt returner, something the team has needed for a while in a league where quick, shifty receivers who can get open seem to find a niche.

Philips excelled Saturday night in the home preseason opener against Tampa Bay with a 35-yard punt return in which he made a defender miss and then found open space. He also turned a rookie mistake into a 27-yard return.

Returners are usually coached to let the ball hit the turf once it goes past their own 8-yard line. But, on his first return attempt on home turf, Philips actually caught the ball about a yard behind the goal line but brought it out to the 26.

“They were happy I brought it past the 20, but I’ve got to be smarter than that,” Philips said after the Titans’ win. “Once I caught the ball, I knew I had to get it out past the 20 or it wasn’t going to be too good for me.”

Most things have gone well during Philips’ first NFL training camp. He appears to have locked up the slot receiver spot and will get every chance to be the Titans’ punt returner after averaging more than 22 yards per return in college.

“I definitely came to the NFL wanting to do that, as well,” he says. “I definitely want to make a play every time the ball’s in my hands. I want to contribute to this team, help us win some games.”

Even coach Mike Vrabel came away pleased with the rookie’s play.

“That’s a bright spot,” Vrabel says of Philips. “We don’t want to catch them in the end zone. But I love what he did, being decisive, getting up field, making guys miss.

“We talked about the efforts. We had guys going to the second level, we played penalty-free. Kyle (Philips) judged the ball well. I just want to make sure that we continue and hopefully make that a strength.”

-- By Terry McCormick

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