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VOL. 46 | NO. 35 | Friday, September 2, 2022

McMath’s value adds up to better job security

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Tennessee Titans wide receiver Racey McMath's contributions to the Titans will have to be postponed after he was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury. McMath apparently sustained the injury in the preseason finale against Arizona.

-- Photo By Wade Payne | Ap

Former Titans general manager Floyd Reese had a lot of sayings when evaluating players for the roster. One of his favorites: “The more you can do...”

The point being, a player’s value to the team rises with the number of skills he possesses. That applies to wide receiver Racey McMath, whose role appears to be increasing as he approaches his second season in Tennessee.

McMath was primarily a special teams player in the nine games he played last season, a season interrupted for eight games when he suffered a hamstring injury in week four and landed on injured reserve.

Now, in his second year, McMath will likely maintain his special teams duties as a primary gunner on the punt coverage team. He’s also returned some kickoffs in preseason, giving the Titans another option there.

But perhaps most important for him and the Titans, McMath has found a role in the offense as a potential deep threat and a guy who can win downfield battles for passes – something the Tennessee offense has been missing for quite a while.

McMath has always had the measurables and the skill set. He is 6-foot-3, 217 pounds and ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day at LSU two years ago.

Add a 34-inch vertical jump, and it’s hard to explain how McMath wasn’t much of a factor in college and lasted until the sixth round of the 2021 draft, where the Titans selected him.

In three years at LSU, McMath managed just 33 catches and was injured a good part of his 2020 senior season when he was supposed to finally break into the Tigers lineup after sitting behind superstars Justin Jefferson and JaMarr Chase.

Scouting reports pegged McMath as a project, a very raw and unpolished player coming into the draft. His measurables and special teams skills would earn him a chance, and the Titans gambled with the late pick that McMath could in time develop into something more, which is what the coaching staff hopes happens this season.

“He’s improved in a lot of facets. He is more comfortable just in the verbiage, the terminology and where he’s lining up,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel says. “There’s a lot to it. He’s gotten a lot more comfortable and is understanding where he fits overall with receivers and on special teams.”

McMath’s hard work began to pay off Aug. 2 in a training camp when he caught two deep passes from Ryan Tannehill in one team period, teasing what could be if McMath can unlock his potential.

“Racey has made several plays for me down the field,” Tannehill says. “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical and he’s getting open. A guy like that getting open down the field gives you confidence to keep throwing him the ball. Hopefully, we can keep making plays down there.”

McMath also is prone to inconsistency. Last week, McMath had several dropped passes, something he says he tries to address quickly and move on.

“For the moment, I beat myself up, but then I try to move on and catch the next one. And then do extra JUGS (passing machine) work after practice,” he says.

Also, McMath is still learning and trying to focus on things like catching the ball cleanly with his hands and catching it at its highest point to take advantage of his size and leaping skills.

“We just have to keep improving and just try to go up and get the ball,” Vrabel says. “The other night I just told him, he just has got to try to go up and attack it. Those are hard to catch underhand when guys are on body, so just go up and try to attack the ball like we’ve seen him do.”

McMath says he has gotten better but knows there is still work to be done in that aspect and with other parts of his game as a receiver.

“I’ve improved a lot. I get out of my breaks better. It’s just working on the field and repetition (on things like) tracking the ball, using my speed and power in my routes to get open and create separation,” he says. “I do a good job, but I could do better on getting more extension and catching it at its highest point.”

Even veteran receiver Robert Woods says McMath just needs to learn to trust himself and let his skills work.

“Trust himself, believe in himself and know that he can make the plays,” Woods says. “Don’t be anxious. Go out there and be himself and do what he can do. He’s a fast guy, so when he plays fast, he’s going to run past guys and make people miss.”

McMath’s unique skillset has the potential to give the Titans passing game another dimension, one that uses his size and speed combination to create explosive plays down the field.

“I do think (I bring something different), but I’ve just got to stay consistent and do it day by day. Then that role will get bigger for me,” he says.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com, a part of Main Street Media.

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