With Jonnu Smith on the shelf, possibly for the rest of the season, the Tennessee Titans are again having to shuffle the deck at tight end.
The Titans lost veteran Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker in the season opener, and have been scrambling trying to fill his role ever since.
Smith had started to come with 20 receptions for 258 yards and three touchown receptions before suffering what could be a season-ending knee injury Thursday night against Jacksonville.
Now, the Titans are likely to increase the role of Anthony Firkser, who has been a nice find as a receiving tight end. The converted wide receiver from Harvard has caught all 16 passes thrown his way this season and also scored his first NFL touchdown in 2018.
Firkser, who signed with the Titans in the off-season as a street free agent following stints with the Jets and the Chiefs, will have more blocking responsibilities as well as his pass-catching duties now with Smith sidelined.
But even without Smith's unfortunate injury, it sounds as if Firkser's steadiness has earned him more opportunities.
“I’m sure his role will change. I think we have to get Anthony (Firkser) in there more regardless of who is healthy,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “He gets open, he catches the ball. The quarterbacks have confidence in him. We just have to continue to progress and develop him as a blocker, as an all-around tight end and not just a sub-tight end.”
Firkser said is working to improve as both a run blocker and in pass protection when called upon.
“I think it's different techniques, but we practice both of that. The run blocking stuff would probably be what I'm most familiar with,” Firkser said.
Being a converted receiver, he admits that he has had to learn the nuances of blocking to become a tight end.
“I've been here a couple of months and I've been learning everything and in meetings, so I feel like I've got a decent grasp on everything,” he said.
As for his streak of catching every pass thrown to him, Firkser was quick to deflect credit there.
“It's been exciting for sure. Marcus has done a great job of finding the open receiver, and I just to my best to try and do may job and get open,” Firsker said. “It definitely feels good to get this opportunity with the Titans. It's very unfortunate the injuries we've had here, but I”m grateful to be able to stick around a while and add some value to the team.”