Ryan Tannehill: Austin Hooper’s got such a savvy feel for running routes

In the 2021 offseason, the Titans lost tight end Jonnu Smith to the Patriots in free agency.

Though running back Derrick Henry‘s absence for half the season due to injury didn’t help, Tennessee wasn’t ever able to truly replace Smith’s production during the year. Anthony Firkser was the most productive tight end, catching 34 passes for 291 yards with two touchdowns. But in 2020, Smith caught 41 passes for 448 yards with eight TDs.

So in 2022, the Titans signed free agent Austin Hooper to a one-year deal. He and Tannehill were working during the offseason program to get on the same page — a process that will likely last through training camp.

“Just reading his body language, how he comes in and out of breaks,” Tannehill said recently, via Turron Davenport of ESPN. “There are little things that you probably don’t notice from the outside that I can file away and learn from. He’s got such a savvy feel for running routes, his route craft, and how he’s able to use his size/quickness at the top of the routes to get open.

“You gotta see it a few times, whether it’s on tape or in person. That way we’re on the same page and I can anticipate where he’s going to be.”

Hooper was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and 2019 for the Falcons. But he never quite found his footing with the Browns in 2020 and 2021. Though he played 16 games last season, Hooper had just 38 catches for 345 yards with three touchdowns.

Tannehill should have a lot of work to do this summer to establish chemistry with his new top pass-catchers, with receivers Robert Woods and Treylon Burks joining Hooper for those top three spots.