Tennessee Titans film study: Austin Hooper’s redemption game

The Tennessee Titans were able to sweep the Indianapolis Colts in 2022 with their 19-10 victory in Week 7. It was an ugly performance for the Titans offensive group, as they scored zero touchdowns on the day.

However, in fairness to the offense, they made some big plays late and did enough to secure the win. Some of those big plays late in the game came from veteran tight end, Austin Hooper.

Hooper was signed this offseason, and the move with met with close to unanimous approval from the fan base.

Hooper symbolized a re-vamped tight end group that would hopefully result in a better offense and, mostly, less Geoff Swaim. Unfortunately, that hasn’t panned out.

Hooper was relatively silent through the first six weeks of the season, only recording six catches for 55 yards and blocking so poorly we still got a hefty dose of Swaim every week.

While Hooper’s blocking probably won’t improve, at least he has the receiving chops to work as a more talented Anthony Firkser — and that is EXACTLY what we saw on Sunday.

Hooper still has the ability to use his big frame and hands to make tough catches and can still move enough to make a guy miss. He used all his tools to make big-time plays for the Titans against Indy in the second half.

Hooper’s three catches totaled half of his catches on the season to that point, and his 56 yards were one more than he had the five games previous.

All three of his catches went for first downs AND all of his catches helped setup the final six points of the game for the Titans. Those six points were so valuable because having Indy down by six or nine points as compared to only three changes the way they play offense.

Hooper hasn’t had a great start to the year, but he still has time to make an impact and if this Titans team wants to improve at all on offense this year, Hooper will surely need to repeat this.

As always, let’s dive into the film room and take a look at how he did it.

Catch No. 1

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The situation of each catch is possibly the most important factor of each play. At this point, the Colts have just scored their first touchdown after the Titans punted on their first drive after the half. So, all the momentum is with Indy.

The Titans come out and run two plays for zero yards, setting up a third-and-10. Indy’s touchdown drive was 13 plays and a three-and-out would put a tired defense right back on the field. A first down was critical, if not for points, simply for rest for the defenders.

As is common when watching Titans tape, no one was open.  A basic curls concept (that rarely ever creates open looks, only contested catches that create pop ups) didn’t get anyone open and Tannehill had no where to go.

Well, folks, after you go through your main progression and see nothing, time to hit the check down; that is where we find Hooper. Tannehill dumps it off to him and watch Hooper turn his body as the ball is coming. He rotates around so that when he catches it, he can turn up field.

Hooper isn’t the fleetest guy, but he makes a nice stop move on the defender and is able to keep the drive going.

Catch No. 2

Syndication: The Tennessean

Same drive as play No.1, so the stakes are still high. With the Titans now at midfield, they just need to find a way to put some points up. This offense is devoid of explosive plays right now so any are like finding water in the desert, especially considering the situation.

Hooper does a great job off the line of not sprinting right away. He gets to the linebacker’s depth before really kicking it into gear. This helps him get just a sliver of room on his man.

Now this is where it becomes all about Tannehill — look at that dime. What a throw to put it above the backer and below the safety. Hooper uses wonderful body control to twist inside, and excellent hands to hold on through contact.

Huge catch that sets up a field goal to put the Titans up three and forces the Colts to go for touchdowns since they can’t tie with a kick.

Catch No. 3

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

And then, obviously, we have the biggest offensive play of the game.

As always, and as mentioned above, the play design is confusing and no one is open. Defenses have no respect for the Titans’ passing game, so they cheat up heavy.

Running basic route concepts like this does nothing to help a lackluster pass-catcher group get open. Hooper had to take matters into his own hands.

After no one being open within the timing of the play, Tannehill starts to try and move around a bit on the bum ankle. Hooper recognizes this and starts to work up field. This is where the veteran savvy kicks in.

He doesn’t go too far, which would get him too close to the safeties. He turns right around and sits down to give Tannehill more room to get a throw in.

Tannehill lets it rip and the rest is history. Hooper makes an insane catch through contact and sets the Titans up for a final field goal that seals the game.

In closing...

Syndication: The Tennessean

Reality here is Hooper likely won’t ever be close to his Pro Bowl form again. Not only that, but odds are he won’t be what Titans fans had hoped for when signed.

That doesn’t mean that Hooper can’t make big plays in big moments for the Titans in the role we have seen lately. He still has the smarts, hands and toughness to make catches like these all the time, even if not as dramatic.

With the struggle the Titans will have at wide receiver all year, they will need Hooper to continue his redemption story.

Story originally appeared on Titans Wire