Kyle Philips

One of the keys to improving the Titans’ passing attack in 2023 may be hiding in plain sight.

It seems like a very long time ago, but wide receiver Kyle Philips began his rookie season with a bang, catching six passes for 66 yards in the 2022 opener against the New York Giants.

The fifth-round draft pick almost led the Titans to victory on the team’s final drive, catching three passes for 32 yards and drawing a defensive holding penalty as well — all of which went for naught when Randy Bullock missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.

Two problems, however: First, Philips hurt his shoulder in that contest, the first of two significant injuries (the other was a hamstring) that limited him to just four games and 64 offensive snaps last year. Second, even though Philips gained 46 yards on his initial punt return to set up a Titans touchdown, he also muffed a punt return, the first of two in his first two games.

So, Philips has a couple of challenges to overcome from his rookie season, but the quick-footed slot receiver also brings one potential solution — virtually untapped — to a thin wide-receiver corps.

“You want to talk about Kyle Philips?” Titans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. “You can watch the New York Giants film, when he caught a [big pass], balled out at the end of the two-minute drive to put us in position to win a game.

“Kyle’s got a good feel for running routes, winning his routes, being able to utilize his short-yardage quickness. You see similar traits with Mason Kinsey — his ability to play inside the formation, be able to get into different match-ups with different types of players. So all those guys, especially that kind of fit that mold, are going to allow us to take advantage of different match-ups if the opportunity presents itself.”

To help protect himself from injury, Philips said he has added weight through lifting and a new diet.

He is listed at 5-11, 189 pounds on the roster, but those numbers may not indicate an estimated seven pounds Philips said he has put on so far during the offseason.

“Just add a little bit of armor,” Philips said. “Obviously everyone in the NFL is a little bigger, faster, stronger, so it helps with my playing style as well.

“I’m going to try to keep it going, but just keep it a steady process. I want to put some good weight on, but I don’t want to lose my quickness and speed.”

As for the second issue, Philips said he has done his best to clear his mind of the uncharacteristic muffs in his first two games last season. Special-teams coordinator Craig Aukerman mentioned Philips before anyone else when asked about punt returners for 2023, so it would appear Philips will get another shot.

“Yeah, what happened happened,” said Philips, who returned 26 punts for 501 yards (19.3-yard average) and two touchdowns at UCLA. “I’ve moved on from it. I’m confident in my ability at catching punts. Whatever they ask me to do out here, I’m going to do and be confident doing it.”

It’s worth remembering that Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Philips appeared to have developed an excellent chemistry in training camp last year, a bond illustrated by the 2022 opener — when Tannehill threw nine of his 33 pass attempts to the rookie in his first game.

The promise of that season was ruined by injury.

But the prospect of a fully healthy Philips returning in 2023 may mean that — even though the Titans have not added a lot to the wide-receiver room from outside — the team might get a nice boost from someone already there.

“How the season ended for me, I’ve just been hungry this whole offseason,” Philips said. “Just can’t wait to get back out there, play with all my guys and win a lot of football games.”