The Tennessee Titans are 17 days away from their first official training camp practice (July 30th), and as we inch closer to the start of the new season we’ll profile their new-look roster…by position.
Today we profile the running backs.
DeMarco Murray (trade-Philadelphia), Derrick Henry (rookie)
Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, Bishop Sankey, David Cobb
Tennessee’s run game has been running on fumes the last two seasons, finishing 26th in the league in total rushing in 2014, and 25th in 2015.
In fact, the Titans have not had a running back rush for 100 yards in a single game since Chris Johnson did in 2013. Coincidentally, the team finished 14th in total rushing that year…Johnson’s last season with the team.
Since then the Titans have basically given every back on the roster a chance to fill CJ2K’s shoes as the feature back, but to date, no one has shown the ability or willingness to do so.
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After spending a second round pick on Bishop Sankey in 2014, and a fifth round pick on David Cobb in 2015, an unknown and undrafted free agent by the name of Antonio Andrews ultimately led the team in rushing last season with a pedestrian 520 yards.
New general manager Jon Robinson knew that in order to better protect their franchise quarterback, the Titans would need more fire power in the backfield.
Enter Thunder and Thunder.
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry were brought in this offseason, and will immediately move to the top of the depth chart.
Murray, the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, comes to Nashville by way of Philadelphia. His workhorse mentality and downhill running style is tailor-made for a Titans offense that is looking to take the air out of the ball this season.
Rookie Derrick Henry, the other Thunder, played a similar downhill physical style at Alabama. The bruising back led the nation last year in yards after contact.
Tennessee’s new tandem will spearhead the team’s new “exotic smash mouth” approach this season. The Titans’ vision is to use the two interchangeably, and the goal is to wear down opposing defenses in the process.
With the two new additions firmly entrenched at the top of the depth chart, an interesting camp battle will take place between the returning backs.
It’s hard to imagine Tennessee keeping six backs this fall, so Antonio Andrews, Dexter McCluster, David Cobb, and Bishop Sankey will presumably fight it out for the final two or three roster spots at that position.
Barring injury, Murray figures to enter the season as the starter and receiver of the lion’s share of the carries. With a proven veteran now on the roster, the Titans will have the luxury of bringing Henry along slowly.
If he progresses ahead of schedule, then look for the rookie to slowly eat into Murray’s carries as the season wears on. Ideally, the Titans would like to use Henry sooner rather than later, which will keep both backs fresh late in the season.
Veteran reserve back Dexter McCluster has the early edge to solidify the third rb spot, given his change of pace style to T&T and his versatility in the passing game.
Cobb, Andrews, and Sankey could be fighting for a roster spot, with someone (or two) finding themselves in another uniform by the season opener.