Slimmed down Thompson recaptures Titans tight ends preseason legacy

In order to grow as an NFL tight end Taylor Thompson has gotten smaller.

“When I was a rookie I played at like 275 (pounds),” he said. “So I’m down (from) that. I’m at about 265 right now.”

Those original 275 pounds were about 10 fewer than he carried during his final year in college, when he was a defensive end at SMU.

As his weight dropped further, his production increased. With 13 receptions for 154 yards, Thompson was the Titans’ leading receiver this preseason, the seventh time in the last 10 preseasons a tight end topped the list.

Good as that might be for him (he had nine preseason catches in the previous two summers combined), it hardly resonates as a sign of the change in offensive philosophy many anticipated when Ken Whisenhunt became head coach.

Plus, it’s no secret that preseason success guarantees nothing.

Jared Cook was as promising a tight end prospect as the franchise has had in the last decade and he led the team in receptions three straight preseasons but never carried over that performance to the regular season. Undrafted free agent Gregg Guenther, a physical specimen at 6-foot-8, 255 pounds, played five games and caught two passes for Tennessee in 2005, and that was the totality of his NFL career.

The Titans’ leading preseason receivers for the last 10 years:

2014: Taylor Thompson, TE, 13-154
2013: Michael Preston, WR 10-172; Nate Washington, WR, 10-131
2012: Kendall Wright, WR, 9-116
2011: Jared Cook, TE, 8-100
2010: Jared Cook, TE, 8-132
2009-x: Jared Cook, TE, 17-159
2008: Bo Scaife, TE, 9-90
2007: Bo Scaife, TE, 10-123
2006: Bobby Wade, WR, 9-98
2005: Gregg Guenther, TE, 14-120

(x-the 2009 preseason was five games instead of four)

That’s not to say it can’t be done. Bo Scaife actually was the Titans’ leading receiver in 2008 (career-highs of 58 receptions and 561 yards) after having done the same in the preseason.

Whatever the weight of expectations he created with his preseason performance, Thompson believes he can continue to take steps forward as an NFL player.

“I’m feeling confident this year,” Thompson said. “I feel like my game has improved a lot through the OTAs of summer and the minicamps we had. It’s just all a matter of keep improving, always getting better and eventually you’re going to reach a level where you’re playing with the best of the best.

“… My route running is a lot better and it’s just easier to move around being lighter, in general. I’ve gotten stronger even though I’ve lost a little bit of weight.”