Dez Fitzpatrick is hoping that Year 2 goes smoother than Year 1, when the Tennessee Titans wide receiver was surprisingly cut just a couple of months after being taken in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft.
After a poor showing in training camp and preseason, Titans brass made a difficult — but necessary — roster decision.
Fitzpatrick cleared waivers and was assigned to the Titans’ practice squad. He might have remained there all season if not for the rash of injuries at the wide receiver position.
The Farmington Hills, MI native made it into four games, reeling in five catches on eight targets for 49 yards, and he tallied his first NFL touchdown in the Titans’ Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans.
After struggling in 2021, Fitzpatrick says his lackluster rookie campaign serves as motivation, and he’s trying his best to earn a role in 2022.
“I had no idea what to expect my rookie year coming in,” Fitzpatrick said, via Jim Wyatt of Titans Online. “Now I have a year underneath my belt, and I kind of know what to expect, how things are run certain ways.
“(Last year provided me with) a lot of motivation going forward, from how things started, to how I was able to deal with it,” Fitzpatrick added. “I just continued to work my tail off. And I am excited for this year and expecting to have a big role – I am trying to.”
Fitzpatrick is one of the wide receivers at the team’s voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) this week and he’s focused on developing trust.
“I am just working my tail off to try and earn a role on this team, just building the trust with my coaches, my teammates and obviously the confidence level within myself; it starts there,” Fitzpatrick said.
Developing trust with quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a vital step toward getting more targets. With A.J. Brown and Julio Jones no longer in the picture, Fitzpatrick is looking for a piece of the pie.
Even before the Titans’ shocking trade of Brown at the 2022 NFL draft, Fitzpatrick traveled to Florida specifically to develop chemistry with Tannehill.
Along with fellow wide receiver Mason Kinsey, Fitzpatrick and Tannehill worked out together, running routes and catching balls.
Tannehill, who has a vested interest in Fitzpatrick’s development for his own success, spoke highly of the work that his wide receiver is putting in this offseason.
“Dez is working,” Tannehill said of Fitzpatrick on Tuesday. “He came down to Florida and threw with me for a few days, we got some good work down there. I’m excited to see the progress he has made. He made a tough catch today, coming across the middle, safety on his back, through the contact. It was just a great play, strength to finish the play and make the catch across the middle.
“As a quarterback, you trust the guy, tight window, defender on their back, you make the throw and he makes the play for you,” Tannehill continued. “That gives you a lot of confidence to be able to come back and throw into the tight windows and make the plays. Now it is all about consistency. Just coming out on a daily basis and dong it.”
Consistency is right; Fitzpatrick had a limited sample size to prove himself last year. He saw the most targets in Week 11, reeling in three receptions on six targets for 35 yards.
After recording one catch in Week 12 in New England, Fitzpatrick was inactive for the remainder of the season after Jones and Brown returned to the lineup.
“(Last year provided me with) a lot of motivation going forward, from how things started, to how I was able to deal with it,” Fitzpatrick said, reflecting on his rookie campaign. “I just continued to work my tail off. And I am excited for this year and expecting to have a big role – I am trying to.”
With a good combination of size and speed, there is certainly potential for the 24-year-old wideout to carve out a role in 2022 if he makes the roster.
Ultimately, it will come down to execution and Fitzpatrick using the work that he has put in this offseason and applying it to live-game action.