The early word out of Tennessee Titans training camp back in the spring was they needed to run the football in order to help protect their rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. And running the football was the first message from interim head coach Mike Mularkey during his first day on the job.
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The major ingredient missing from the Ken Whisenhunt regime at Saint Thomas Sports Park was an identity for this young team, and with the approval of the veteran players like Chance Warmack, this team is going to be physical and run the football with an attitude.
That’s the message!
“Coach Mularkey has been preaching the run since day one, he takes it to heart to run the ball with a physical attitude, and we mirror his expectations,’’ guard Chance Warmack said. “We want to be physical off the ball and try and get our identity going again.”
Others players said they respected Whisenhunt, but they welcomed Mularkey’s approach.
Even players who were disappointed that coach Whisenhunt was fired on Tuesday morning, like Perrish Cox said that he liked Mularkey’s message and being more physical, was something they should have been doing all season.
According to Titansonline senior editor Jim Wyatt, The team responded during the first day of the Mularkey practice.
Byron Bell had this to say:
“We started off with a run period, and that set a tone,’’ Bell said. “Guys were getting after it, we had a couple of guys scrapping. We’re bringing out the physicality.
“Coach Mularkey has a good game plan going in, and one of them is to finish. He told is straight up we are going to run the football. The challenge is set, we just have to go out there and do it.”
Mike Mularkey has nine games to turn this team around, and nine games to show Titans ownership that he is the man who can lead this proud old franchise back to respectability in the NFL.
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If the Titans are going to run the ball, it appears that Antonio Andrews is going to be the man to get it done.
The second-year undrafted free agent back out of Western Kentucky has emerged since returning to the lineup as the go-to guy in the run game.
Even though Dexter McCluster has been able to come in, in special situations, to rip off large chunks of yards, Andrews has shown signs of being the big physical three-down back this team needs.
He has been able to get those early-down yards that has put the offense in friendly third and short situations, and has shown he can catch the ball if needed.
“I think Antonio (Andrews) is the workhorse as we speak right now,’’ Mularkey said on Wednesday. “As you’ve seen, Dexter (McCluster) has had his carries as a changeup for us. Bishop (Sankey), again, I know he hasn’t had carries in the last couple of weeks, but we’re trying. Based on the run scheme that we’ve had in these last couple of weeks, it hasn’t called upon his ability. But if we were going to force it, it would be to Antonio right now.”
Andrews leads the Titans with 202 rushing yards on 54 attempts and has two touchdowns, and he missed two games with a hamstring injury.
He toted the rock 16 times last Sunday in Houston for 64 yards.
David Cobb will be moved back into the 53-man roster this week and should be ready to go this week in New Orleans to give the team another option in the ground attack.
Penalties, and not running the football in third and short situations has netted only two third down conversions in the last two games.
This statistic needs to improve if the Titans are to turn this ship around this year!
Mularkey has already been tinkering with the offensive line, and we should see some changes, and a new attitude when this team takes the field on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.