Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith is following in Derrick Henry’s footsteps in style.
They may play different positions, but Henry took a major step last year, his fourth NFL season. Smith, the Titans’ starting tight end who has played a major role in Ryan Tannehill’s development, is doing the same in his fourth campaign.
The Tennessee Titans should be thrilled with Smith’s start to the 2020 season and the future he’s building for himself.
Jonnu Smith is a rising star in the NFL
A former third-round pick from Florida International University, Jonnu Smith has seen all of his numbers rise each season.
Smith caught 18 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games (13 starts) as a rookie in 2017. Despite playing three fewer games in 2018, Smith’s numbers slightly increased to 20 catches, 258 yards, and three touchdowns.
Then came Smith’s breakout campaign in 2019, which coincided with Ryan Tannehill‘s midseason promotion to the starting quarterback. Smith ended his third season with 35 receptions for 439 yards and three touchdowns.
Smith also caught six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in three playoff games.
With Tannehill firmly entrenched as the Titans’ starting quarterback, many considered Smith a rising star for the 2020 season.
Smith has had a terrific start to 2020
Through two games to start his 2020 season, Jonnu Smith has lived up to the expectations and more.
Smith turned four receptions into 36 yards and a touchdown in Tennessee’s 16-14 victory over Denver in Week 1. That performance came on a national, Monday Night Football stage.
Smith followed that up when he turned four catches into 84 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-30 victory over Gardner Minshew and the rival Jaguars.
Smith’s 120 receiving yards trailed only Corey Davis (137) for most on the Titans through two games.
Smith is playing a major role in the Titans’ postseason hopes
Tennessee needs all of the help it can get right now, especially with star receiver A.J. Brown out indefinitely with a bone bruise in his knee.
Jonnu Smith is taking full advantage and he fully understands what the bigger role means for him.
In his postgame media session, Smith explained how grateful he was for Mike Vrabel and the Titans’ coaching staff.
“I’ve never started a season out as tight end 1, and with that comes a lot of great things. You are able to have more opportunities to make plays and put yourself, put your team, in a better position to win. I just work really hard, and I am just so blessed and humbled to be able to showcase everything that I have been blessed with and work for.”
Smith’s emergence as a reliable tight end is coming at the right time. Tennessee’s next four games are all against teams that went .500 or better last year.
Tennessee ended Week 2 as one of 11 teams with a perfect 2-0 record. More productive outings from Smith is the key to Tennessee maintaining an unblemished record.