While Treylon Burks and Roger McCreary have dominated the headlines thus far in training camp, Tennessee Titans tight end Austin Hooper has kind of flown under the radar.
That’s not to say he hasn’t stood out in team drills or one-on-ones, but the 27-year-old is generally a quieter guy by nature.
After spending the first six years in the league split between the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns, Hooper signed a one-year deal in the offseason to come to Nashville.
His usage in Atlanta and Cleveland couldn’t have been more different.
With the Falcons, Hooper was a top target for quarterback Matt Ryan and notched a career-best 787 receiving yards in 2019, third-most on the roster. In Cleveland, he was utilized more in blocking situations, averaging just under 400 yards between the two years with the Browns.
Coming into the Titans’ organization, he figures to have a prominent role as both a blocker and pass-catcher. According to Hooper, he’s comfortable with whatever the team needs him to do.
“Fifty percent of my snaps in Atlanta, I was a slot receiver. And then, I was top five in the league in terms of hand in the ground when I was in Cleveland, so I’ve proven I can do whatever is asked of me,” he said, via AtoZ Sports Nashville. “If it’s pass-protection, gap schemes, zone, if you want me to be a slot guy, so my job is just to be a tight end and kind of earn my role earn to the best of my ability and be a good teammate.”
Tennessee didn’t get as much production as they would have liked from their tight end position last year. Anthony Firkser put together a solid offseason and training camp, but he tallied just 291 receiving yards and two touchdowns during the regular season.
Along with rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo, the Titans seem well-positioned to turn tight end from a weakness into a strength this year. Speaking of Chig, Okonkwo has been among the biggest standouts of the entire offseason.
Likely to serve as a backup to Hooper, Okonkwo can still carve out a role in a Titans offense that desperately needs impact pass-catchers. Hooper has taken Okonkwo under his wing, a job he’s taken in stride.
“I like him. He’s funny, he’s young, and he’s got energy. He has a willingness to work hard, and I really respect that about him,” Hooper said of the young tight end. “Another thing, he doesn’t have an ego. A lot of young guys come in from time to time and think they have it solved. It’s been fun to work with him, really athletic, really hungry young player. Not lost on me, part of my role is to help him to the best of my ability, and that’s something that I embrace.”