In the NFL, one man’s misfortune can lead to another man’s opportunity. You never want to see someone get hurt, but the cold reality is that a lot of players get their first opportunity for significant playing time because the guy who was in front of them on the depth chart suffered an injury. Of course, some just show why they were not No. 1 on the depth chart to begin with once their opportunity actually rolls around.
And then on the other end of the spectrum you have a guy like MyCole Pruitt. He stepped up for the Tennessee Titans last season after their star tight end, Delanie Walker, got hurt. Pruitt didn’t put up mind-boggling production or anything like that. But he did put some really good plays on film. In fact, in the second half of the season I thought he showed that he could be a quality NFL tight end in his own right.
Pruitt has been trying to break out since he came into the league in 2015 so I can understand why someone might be skeptical that this is the year when it finally happens.
I believe Pruitt did enough last year to show that he belongs not only in the NFL, but also integrated into the gameplan every week.
And it’s not like he hasn’t shown some flashes before earlier on in his career.
After a rookie year with the Vikings that saw him active in all 16 regular-season games, including three starts, Pruitt bounced around on several practice squads for the next three seasons. He didn’t get any meaningful playing time in an offense again until late last year after injuries necessitated it.
Even though he didn’t catch his first pass of the season until the middle of November, Pruitt was able to finish strong with nine catches and his first career touchdown.
The talent has always been there; what has been lacking is the opportunity for Pruitt to showcase his skills on gameday. Now he has at least one team, the Titans, that knows he is a pretty good player, and anybody else who has seen his film can say the same.
First off, Pruitt is a good run blocker and he will take on anybody. He can single block defensive ends on running plays and he also does a good job of chipping on passing plays. Pruitt isn’t all that big at 6’2 and 245 pounds, but he gives everything he’s got when he’s blocking.
He shows some outstanding athleticism as a blocker, too. The Titans can line him up on the line of scrimmage or move Pruitt around like an H-back. Pruitt can fit right into either role.
He also has speed, which was evident when watching him run routes in the passing game.
He’s no Walker, but Pruitt runs really smoothly and catches the ball naturally and cleanly when given the opportunity.
I was also impressed with his ability to make catches when the ball wasn’t quite on target. Pruitt has no problems catching the ball in traffic or when he knows he is about to take a hit, either.
Whatever it was that was holding him back prior to last year, I don’t know. All I know is at the end of last season Pruitt looked like a potential weapon for the Titans.
Now that Walker is back, and presumably healthy, there is no question that he is the starter. After Pruitt’s strong end to last season, however, he may well be in line to pick up some of those second-team reps behind Walker and the opportunities that come with them, with a strong showing this preseason.
In the first preseason game against the Eagles he definitely did his part, catching three passes including a 1-yard touchdown on a crossing route. He will have to fight off Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser for those reps, but I have confidence in Pruitt that he can continue to distinguish himself.
I can imagine Pruitt being a pretty good tandem with Walker in two-tight end sets, in fact.
If Pruitt can step up and nail down that second-team spot, he should finally be able to stick around on a team long enough to really become a part of the offense.
Like I said before, the talent has always been there with him, but now he has another chance to really show the world what he can do. With that kind of motivation, and knowing he might not get another opportunity like this again, I am expecting Pruitt to go the hell off.
If he finishes the preseason the way he started it he should definitely have a role on the Titans’ offense this season.
Confidence level: Moderate