Is David Cobb The Better Option At Running Back?


Long gone are the days of Earl Campbell and Eddie George. Bishop Sankey and David Cobb are now the present and future, at least for as long as this coaching staff is employed by the Tennessee Titans. Drafted in consecutive years, respectively, the ladder pick has brought some competition to Tennessee.

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A standout running back in his final two years at Minnesota, Cobb has the talent to push Sankey for the starting job, especially after a mediocre start to Sankey’s career in 2014. Sankey wasn’t terrible, but he didn’t exactly inspire confidence. He was flung into a terrible situation on offense, and actually had some really nice flashes of potential. His physical profile, however, doesn’t seem to fit the type of lead runner that the Titans probably need. A power running back would fit the offense better, considering the offensive line and the talent at other positions.

Marcus Mariota is going to be the starter, so let’s look at the running back counterparts of other recent, successful mobile quarterbacks: Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore; Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris; Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. There are others, but you get the point. Bruiser running backs complement mobile quarterbacks better because this type of quarterback brings a finesse style of running, which needs to be paired with power and strength.

Enter David Cobb.

Cobb stands 5’11” and weighs 225 lbs. He’s built like a mini tank, showcasing his powerful running style on his way to setting the single-season rushing record for Minnesota in his final season. Some draftniks likened his game to Shonn Greene at Iowa (that’s a compliment believe it or not). When I watch Cobb, I see a lot of Frank Gore’s qualities. The power to gain yards and fall forward is there, but what intrigues me is his deceptive shiftiness in the open field.

This 40-yard run against Wisconsin is a good example:

Compare that run to this 50-yarder from Frank Gore, and you can see some similarities:

I’m not saying that David Cobb is going to be the next Frank Gore. Gore is an incredible talent, one that’s been somewhat under appreciated for his entire career. But Cobb possesses some of the same stylistic attributes that make Gore great. With a little bit of coaching and an improved offensive line, he can be a huge find for the Tennessee Titans.

Bishop Sankey shouldn’t just be taken out back and disposed of. He has a lot of untapped potential that can be taken advantage of if used in the correct manner. He’s very agile, ranking in the top ten in PFF’s Elusive Rating, and is a smooth pass catcher out of the backfield. He reminds me a lot of Pierre Thomas, who is criminally underrated as both a runner and pass catcher. Sankey doesn’t have the same power, but his elusiveness and vision is what makes him a pretty good running back.

A look at the New Orleans Saints last year might provide a blueprint for carries in the Tennessee Titans backfield. Cobb can be our Mark Ingram and Sankey our Pierre Thomas, with a few more carries going Sankey’s way than did Thomas’. Of course, this is all projection-based from a writer. This is the Tennessee Titans we are talking about, so Antonio Andrews and Dexter McCluster will probably handle most of the touches. Nothing about this team can surprise me anymore.

What will surprise me is if David Cobb and Bishop Sankey don’t mesh well together. They are two very different types of running backs, which is a good thing for an offensive coach. They bring differing qualities and can be used in specific situations. At the very least, our running game this year will be more adequate than it was in 2014.

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