You’ll have to admit that when the Tennessee Titans signed DeMarco Murray at the start of “free agency”, you had to have some questions after what we saw in Philadelphia last year from the 2014 NFL rushing leader.
Was the former Oklahoma star the recipient of the road graders the Dallas Cowboys had on the offensive line, or did he just not fit into Chip Kelly’s system?
With that thought in mind, fast forward to the 2016 NFL Draft and the Titans third pick in the second round. Enter the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama, Derrick Henry.
The two things new general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Mularkey had to address this offseason was the offensive line and the running game.
The Titans running game was led by Antonio Andrews in 2015 with 520 yards on 143 carries. The undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky did a workman job until late in the season when he missed a block on New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins which put Marcus Mariota on the bench for the remainder of the season.
With the running game basically in shambles for the lion’s share of the season, the one thing the running backs room needed was veteran leadership.
As hard as he tried, Andrews could not hold the group together down the stretch. With injuries to Dexter McCluster negating the change of pace in the running game and protection for Mariota on third down, a complete three-down veteran back was at the top of the teams 2016 needs.
DeMarco Murray, along with Matt Forte from the Chicago Bears were the best three-down backs on the market this year, and the Titans were able to sign the best.
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At 28 years old, DeMarco Murray should have a couple of good years left in the tank, but if rookie out of Alabama can take some of the pressure off on first and second down, we could have Murray for a good amount of time.
In fact, Around the NFL Editor Gregg Rosenthal from NFL.com has Derrick Henry ranked fourth in rookie running back carries this year.
"Murray is a better receiver than Henry and has far more experience as a pass protector at the pro level. Coach Mike Mularkey wants a “Thunder and Thunder” backfield to batter opponents. That approach, however, relies on constant first downs in order to keep two running backs happy, and the Titans‘ offense is hoping just to improve to average."
Rosenthal projects Henry for 160 touches this year, and his best chances to see the field is if DeMarco Murray is ineffective or injured.
Sounds like an insurance policy to me!
The one thing Henry can’t bring to this backfield this year, is veteran leadership. Whether DeMarco is on the field or not, leadership is the one thing he can bring to this group that it desperately needs.
Depending on how many running backs the Titans decide to keep on the roster, it is apparent that the position will be competitive leading up to the regular season. I like Antonio Andrews and Dexter McCluster, but it looks like they will need to step up if they want to be part of this team moving forward.