NASHVILLE – To say Mason Kinsey is not the identical participant he was two years in the past can be an understatement.
Then, he was an undrafted rookie from a Division III faculty (Berry Faculty) that had by no means despatched a participant to the NFL. He was a large receiver with apparent bodily items — elite pace, specifically — however no significant expertise towards the caliber of competitors he all of a sudden confronted each day in apply.
Kinsey introduced a wide-eyed, candy-store-kid vibe to the courtroom that made him the form of underdog followers love to like, however did not precisely match the egos and accomplishments of those that took a way more conventional route. .
“He is come a good distance in that regard,” Tennessee Titans vast receivers coach Rob Moore mentioned. “I believe he understands that to outlive on this league, there’s a specific amount of professionalism that you must must maintain the success that you simply want. I believe he is received that half found out.”
It might even be incorrect, nonetheless, to say that the 23-year-old has established himself as an NFL participant, or that he’s sure to stay with the Titans as soon as the present coaching camp and preseason are over.
“He is within the combat of his life proper now,” Moore added.
Kinsey’s first seen indicators of progress got here final 12 months throughout the preseason, when he was the workforce’s main receiver with 14 catches for 131 yards and a landing. That was greater than double the receptions and yards of anybody else in these three tuning contests.
It was a transparent indication that he might produce towards NFL-caliber expertise in sport situations, in comparison with 2020, his freshman 12 months, when the preseason was canceled as a consequence of COVID-19 points. All he did throughout the common season was apply — he hung out on two groups’ apply squads.
Kinsey’s largest step got here final October, when he was a game-day addition to the lively roster for the Titans’ Week 7 matchup with the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. He performed simply three snaps on offense and two on particular groups in his NFL debut — a 27-3 triumph at Tennessee that, to this present day, stays everything of his official expertise.
“It was thrilling,” Kinsey mentioned. “There was the chance. I did not get many pictures however I simply tried to profit from it. It was a blessing for certain, simply to be there and see all of the individuals within the stands. It was fantastic. So it undoubtedly gave me some motivation to return to camp this 12 months.”
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This 12 months’s draft offered further motivation.
The Titans chosen UCLA vast receiver Kyle Philips within the fifth spherical. Each have related builds — Kinsey is 5-foot-10, 202 kilos, Philips is 5-foot-11, 189 kilos — and each have expertise consistent with what groups need in slot receivers. Every additionally doubles as a punt return.
Given the truth of roster development and Tennessee’s affinity for greater receivers who may make a distinction as blockers within the run sport, the chances of Kinsey and Philips making the 53-man roster at first of coaching camp are virtually non-existent. .
“That is what this enterprise is all about — it is about competitors,” Kinsey mentioned. “They will make each room aggressive and I do every little thing I can to assist Kyle. It isn’t that I do not like Kyle or suppose it is this rivalry. That is the job – to go in and compete.”
One factor Kinsey has in his favor is expertise, albeit restricted in his case.
Though he has appeared in simply three preseason contests and one within the common season, he has practiced with and towards NFL gamers for all however three weeks over the previous two seasons. When the Titans minimize him on the finish of the 2020 preseason, the Patriots instantly signed him to their apply squad. When New England launched him a month later, it took simply three weeks earlier than the Titans positioned him on their apply squad, the place he remained till the top. In every of the final two Januarys, Tennessee rapidly locked him up with futures contracts, which allowed him to become involved in all of the offseason work.
Alongside the way in which, he developed a deeper understanding of the offense that, he says, permits him to play “faster, a bit extra comfortably.”
“His work, his dedication to studying this offense — not simply the slot receiver, however having the ability to join and play wherever — his versatility and reliability has been spectacular over time,” offensive coordinator Todd mentioned Downing. “He got here right here a number of years in the past and was only a bull in a china store. Now, he is beginning to perceive the place he suits within the scheme and the way he may also help and make the most of alternatives.”
Now, he should discover a technique to stick round for one more season.
“You need to are available in right here considering, ‘Somebody’s right here to take my job,'” Kinsey mentioned. “And I believe that goes for everybody on the workforce. Regardless of the place you might be, what place, what number of years you have been within the league, you must are available in considering, ‘Any individual else goes to return in making an attempt to take the job that I would like.’
“Yearly is reside or die.”