NASHVILLE – On a cold December afternoon 10 years ago, the Tennessee Titans named Darius Reynaud performed an unforgettable performance of special teams against Jacksonville, returning one shot 81 yards for a touchdown and another 69 yards for the score.
In the decade since that double touch, the Titans ’kickback game has ranged – primarily – from bad to average.
Not only did the Titans fail to produce a kickback during that part, but they failed to finish more than 13. on average kickbacks in each season except one from 2012. The only exception was actually last season, when they finished ninth, thanks to 30 the return of Chester Rogers by an average of 9.8 yards.
Clearly, one of the reasons Tennessee chose UCLA wide receiver Kyle Philips in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft was the hope that – in addition to his contribution to the receiver – he could pose a major threat to the punt-return game.
Philips did it in college, when it returned 25 pounds over four seasons for 496 yards and two touchdowns, averaging an impressive 19.8 yards per return.
“(He’s) confident, he sets it up well,” CEO Jon Robinson said. “(He) gets one cut, he gets an advantage. He doesn’t try to round up in return and bounce it off. He is tough. He’s sharp, which is a way of thinking that you kind of have to have in that position to be able to watch the ball come down, knowing the guys are crashing on you. Make sure you set it up clean, quickly look down and find coverage, make one guy miss, and then straighten up. ”
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Philips ’most productive season as a Bruins returnee was in 2021, when he returned nine shots for 203 yards (an average of 22.6 yards), a total of which included a 82-yard return against Colorado.
It was the second kickback in Philips ’college career. He also took one 69 yards for the 2019 result, a game that helped UCLA come together with 32 points behind in the second half of the win against Washington State.
Not necessarily speed is what made Philips an impressive kickback, although he feels like he’s playing faster than the 4.58 40-yard he ran in an NFL scouting combine.
Philips cites other skills as the most important in separating a good punt returnee from an average punt returnee.
“I would say the vision and emphasis is the return of the sting (unit),” Philips said. “Have a vision to see the trails and trust your boys to get the job done.”
If Philips shows the potential to pull off two important roles for itself – slot recipient and punt returner – it increases his chances of being a productive rookie, something that is not always the case for choosing the fifth round of the draft.
“I’m excited to go there and do everything I can – and share a place anywhere on the field, whether it’s special teams in the title teams or in attack, to be in place,” Philips said. “Whatever it is, I want to help the team win some games.”