NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- To say the Tennessee Titans' passing game struggled last season would be an understatement. Tennessee's 3,222 passing yards ranked 29th out of 32 teams.
The Titans' wide receiver group accounted for 1,595 of those yards, placing them 3oth in the NFL. To put that into perspective, Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson (1,809 yards) and Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill (1,710) had more receiving yards than Tennessee's entire group.
That number should improve this season with the addition of free agent wideout DeAndre Hopkins.
It was announced that Hopkins was expected to sign with the team July 16, and the deal was made official Monday.
Heading into his 11th year, Hopkins immediately becomes the most-tenured and accomplished receiver on the Titans. Since being drafted by the Houston Texans in 2013, Hopkins has had more receptions (853) than any other receiver, and his 11,298 receiving yards are the second-most over that span.
The Titans' receivers collectively only finished with 100 or more yards receiving in two games last season. In nine games last season, Hopkins accomplished that feat twice as well as he amassed 64 receptions for 717 yards and three touchdowns.
The Titans also ranked 28th in drop rate last season and last in drop percentage on third down.
Adding a sure-handed Hopkins gives Tennessee a viable option on the outside opposite promising second-year receiver Treylon Burks, who caught 33 passes for 444 yards and a touchdown last year in 11 games. The addition of Hopkins should be able to help the development of Burks, who was expected to be Tennessee's top receiving option after showing flashes as a rookie.
At 31 years old, though, Hopkins is a player that knows what it takes to be a lead wideout in the NFL. That bodes well for Burks and should also take some of the pressure off of him.
"He's a great player," Burks said of Hopkins in June. "He would be a great mentor. I've watched D-Hop since I was younger, one of my favorite players. He carries himself the right way, and his game on the field speaks for itself."
With Hopkins in the mix, fellow wide receiver free agent addition Chris Moore and 2022 starter Nick Westbrook-Ikhine are now pushed into more suitable roles as rotational players. Second-year receiver Kyle Philips will work mostly from the slot when the Titans use three-receiver sets.
The primary packages on passing downs for the Titans will consist of Burks and Hopkins on the outside with Philips in the slot and an explosive player in Chigoziem Okonkwo at tight end. New offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will be tasked with finding ways to get the ball to his playmakers.
"It’s a good challenge to have to try and find different ways to get them the ball and get them matched up in favorable matchups," Kelly said. "Once we are able to figure that out, put them in that spot as many times as possible."
Kelly was the Texans' play caller in 2019, which was Hopkins' last season with the team before he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. He has shown a likeness for employing Hopkins as a slot receiver in the past.
Despite playing 110 fewer snaps, Hopkins saw an increase from 163 (15.8%) snaps in the slot to 278 snaps (30.2%) under Kelly in 2019, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That trend should continue in Tennessee where they expect the receivers to be versatile and move around the formation and line up in different places.
Perhaps no one benefits from adding Hopkins as much as quarterback Ryan Tannehill. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since Tannehill joined the Titans in 2019, he leads the league in both QBR and yards per attempt on play-action passes. Hopkins over that same span has recorded 99 catches off play-action (eighth-most), and that’s despite missing 16 games in that span.
Tennessee has been successful with play-action because teams tend to stack the box to try to stop running back Derrick Henry, who's 1,538 rushing yards ranked second last season. Now defenses will have to worry about the threat of Hopkins and Henry, which could be mutually beneficial for both.
Another area that Tannehill stands to gain with Hopkins is his pass-catching ability. Hopkins had only one drop on 95 targets last season.
Tennessee's group of receivers was relatively unproven after the initial wave of free agency and the draft. And ESPN's Mike Clay ranked the Titans as having the worst receiver group in the league.
That's no longer the case. Titans general manager Ran Carthon played the long game and got a three-time All-Pro wideout in Hopkins just in time for the start of training camp.