Tennessee Titans: Is It Time To Clean House On Running Backs?


As football teams around the National Football League start trimming rosters in preparations for the free agency market which opens up on March 10th, it provides the Tennessee Titans with an opportunity to fix some pieces of their puzzle that just didn’t work in 2014. In particular, a pathetic running game.

The flood of running backs that are either being cut for salary cap reasons, or just didn’t fit the system is growing daily, and the trend will continue right up to deadline.

This is good news for the Titans, who want to spend some of their 2015 NFL Draft picks on an effort to rebuild a defense that is equally as pathetic, as the  running game.

It started on Wednesday with the Detroit Lions releasing 29 year-old Reggie Bush, and continued through Friday with the Atlanta Falcons releasing Steven Jackson, and the Carolina Panthers parting ways with DeAngelo Williams.

They join a growing list of running backs who were already slated for free agency that includes  DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore, Ryan Mathews,Justin Forsett, C.J. Spiller, Shane Vereen, Knowshon Moreno, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden and several other mid-level guys.

“There are a lot of guys out there [in free agency] that are proven entities, but they also have a lot of tread on the tires,”

Some of these names are a result of age, poor performances, or ill-fitting systems, but some of them are there simply due to economics, and are victims of the salary cap. Others are the result of coaching changes, and teams just wanting to go in a different direction.

The Titans are going into the free agency market with almost $45 million in cap space, and if they get their checkbook out, can get one, or two running backs that should be able to give this team some semblance of a running game.

To add to the mix, the 2015 Draft class is also abundant with young people who can tote the rock. ESPN Draft Analyst, Mel Kiper Jr. even said last week, the middle rounds are full of running backs that can be picked up without breaking the bank.

"“There are a lot of guys out there [in free agency] that are proven entities, but they also have a lot of tread on the tires,” Kiper said. “I’d always go the rookie route. I would not take a running back in the first round, but I would from the second round on.”"

A quick look at the Titans depth chart for running backs, tells us that they rate them as follows:

  1. Shonn Greene
  2. Bishop Sankey
  3. Leon Washington

Shonn Green was an expensive experiment for two years that just didn’t work. He had 94 runs last year for 392 yards, and two touchdown. That is really pathetic for your featured running back. He also had one game-changing fumble.

In two years, Greene carried the ball 171 times for 687 yards, and six touchdowns. That’s a weak production for a salary that is just over $4 million.

Leon Washington carried the ball 13 times in 2014, for 57 yards, and two touchdowns. With 10 NFL seasons on his body, it’s probably time for the 32 year-old running back to think about the couch, and remote.

The work-horse last year, was Bishop Sankey. In his first season with the Titans, he toted the rock 152 times for 567 yards. He scored two touchdowns, but lost two fumbles. Sankey also had 18 receptions out of the backfield for 133 yards.

Sankey was taken in the second round last year, and is projected to make just over a million dollars next year. I think I would like to see one more training camp, and one more year before I’m ready to give up on the youngster from Washington.

Next: 2015 Free Agency Primer for the Tennessee Titans