Gradually, the wide receiver position for the Tennessee Titans has evolved into a strong part of the team heading into next season.
The addition of Kendall Wright through the draft has left little room on the depth chart, and Marc Mariani could be the guy on the outside looking in.
There's no questioning Mariani's value on special teams, but Mariani has done virtually nothing at wide receiver in his first two NFL seasons.
Mariani saw the field in limited action last season as a wide receiver and failed to make any sort of impact when he was on the field.
With the NFL's recent rule change on kick returns, Mariani's value dropped even more, and it's also expected that Wright will push for kick returning duties in training camp.
Wright was not really a kick returner in college, but his 40-yard dash time was clocked somewhere in the neighborhood of a 4.4 to 4.5. With that kind of speed, you have to give Wright a shot at the job.
At the same time, you also don't want your first-round pick subjecting himself to that many hits every game.
The Titans also have a handful of other guys to fill that role effectively.
Mariani is really going to have to show the Titans coaching staff something special in training camp if he's going to hold down a spot on the roster.
Unfortunately, being a kick returner is really the only shot he has at making the 53-man roster. He could show the coaches great things in practice at, but at the receiver position, it's not going to leap-frog him ahead of the other guys on the depth chart.
Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright are all locks to be the primary guys on the field this season.
What it really comes down to is this offense is quickly evolving. They're no longer the one-trick pony of Chris Johnson that they were two seasons ago.
When the Titans were struggling to score points when Mariani was drafted, his value was much higher. Since the Titans shouldn't have any trouble scoring points this year, Mariani's value suffers on special teams as well.
Mariani isn't the only receiver that is in danger of falling down the depth chart or falling off of it completely.
Damian Williams also has some work to do in training camp to ensure he keeps the solid playing time he saw last season in Kenny Britt's absence. With that said, Williams played very well on several occasions last season while Mariani did very little at all.
The Titans also have Lavelle Hawkins, who just got a $2 million signing bonus. That money shows that Hawkins is in the Titans' future plans.
It's really been a great story with Mariani over the last two seasons, but using a roster spot on a guy that is only going to modestly contribute in kick returns just wouldn't make sense.
Coaches have a tough time trimming down their roster to the 53-man limit, and they're not going to use one spot on a wide receiver that has shown nothing in his first two seasons in that role.
Somebody in desperate need for a kick returner will go out and get Mariani, but the Titans are no longer that desperate on offense.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!