“I think Kyle wants to be there,” Aukerman, the Titans special coach, said Thursday. “Even after I dropped that[second]he was like, ‘Put me back outside. I want to be the guy.'”
What Uckerman, coach Mike Frabel and others must decide is whether they still have enough confidence in the UCLA Fifth Round pick to try it again. After all, Philips had seven balls on his way in the first two games of his NFL career, and he’s mishandled the last two.
With that in mind, the staff evaluated options when the boat returns this week. That process started in earnest with Thursday’s workout. The players performed a run instead of a full practice on Wednesday to help recover after Monday’s 41-7 loss to the Bills.
“It’s going to be confidence with (Phillips) back in there,” Aukerman said. “We’ll keep working with him. He’s doing a great job in practice. He’s just getting into the game now (and) he has that confidence to go in and catch the ball whether there are guys around him or not, whether he has to signal a fair capture or come back.”
“We will continue to work with Cale. We hope he will continue to have confidence back there.”
Phillips didn’t get his wish on Monday. After a muff against the Bills, the coaches turned to Amani Hooker, who missed his one and only chance. After that, Robert Woods was the wide receiver who was sent back there. Woods carried out a fair hunt without incident.
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Those were Buffalo’s only kicks of the night.
“We don’t want to go back out there and catch the ball fairly every time,” Uckermann said. “That’s not what we’re looking for. If (the opposing players) are 20-30 yards out and we’re calling for a fair catch, obviously we’re not helping our attack at all to gain a field position. We want our guys to get back out there and make smart decisions.”
But most of all they want someone to catch the ball.
Philips had no such problem in pre-season when he averaged 18.6 yards in five returns along with two fair catches. In his first week against the New York Giants, he cut 46 yards with his first comeback, the longest in the NFL so far this season. He executed four others (two 16-yard returns, two fair hunts) before the problems started.
At this point, no one can say for sure what will happen when – or if – the Las Vegas Raiders gamble on Sunday. Or who will try to catch him.
“We’re still on our way to seeing who’s going back there,” Aukerman said. … “We have to get back to basics – I have to do a better job training – … than getting the ball squared, putting our elbows inside and watching it through.
“…the (Philips) guy clearly has a bunch of game-making ability which (he showed) in pre-season and during the opening throw return [against the Giants]. Therefore, we will continue to work through whatever Cale can take.”