Tennessee Titans setting up for a run-heavy reload in 2023

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

In NFL history, I would stack the Tennessee Titans’ Mount Rushmore of running backs against any team in the NFL.

However, it turns out that having the best running back in the NFL doesn’t seem to lead to many Super Bowl victories. Earl Campbell, Eddie George, Chris Johnson, and Derrick Henry have all had great careers, but they join a growing list of elite running backs without rings.

In a league where cap management is as important as drafting well, having a high-paid running back seems to be more of a detriment than a benefit.

Marcus Mosher has been on this for years and if you haven’t seen one of his more viral tweets on the topic, then check it out now:

Despite that, there has been consistent messaging on a few things from Ran Carthon and Mike Vrabel this offseason. First, is that this is a team that is expected to win now not a team that is rebuilding.

Second, they want more speed, violence, and versatility on offense.

Third, they think that the path to victory in the NFL is by running the ball very often and by trying to be efficient when you are forced to pass the ball.

There was some hope that the Tennessee Titans might try to pass the ball a little bit more or not be so predictable, but that hope has all but died. Tim Kelly was asked if he thought the offense was too predictable last season or if they ran the ball too often on first down and he said, “I didn’t think we were predictable last year.” which is nightmare fuel for the Tennessee Titans fans.

If the Tennessee Titans are so committed to running the ball this year, should they just go all-in on trying to be the best running team that they can be without trying to upgrade the passing game?

Tennessee Titans headed back to the 1990s

While the team is focused on finally catching up to the rest of the league when it comes to analytics, it seems like they are still stuck in the past on offense.

Looking back at Tim Kelly’s time calling plays with the Houston Texans, the personnel grouping that he used at a higher rate than nearly any other team in the NFL, was “12 personnel” which means one running back, two tight ends, and two receivers.

That all meshes together well with what the Tennessee Titans want to do this year, so don’t be surprised if the need for a WR2 gets pushed down the needs list.

You can make a case that the Titans will need to replace or upgrade four different positions on the offensive line this offseason and each one of them will be more important to a run-heavy offense than WR2 will be.

Similarly, while Chig Okonkwo will be one of the team’s tight ends next year, they might prioritize TE2 over WR2 because if your identity is tied to running the ball, which position has a more direct impact on running the ball? Between the draft and free agency, this is one of the best seasons to need a tight end in a decade.

If the Tennessee Titans are smart they will try to find someone in a value position (like Day 3 of the NFL Draft or in the second wave of free agency) instead of pushing all their chips in on a guy they like who isn’t that much better than someone they could have later.

This reload (don’t call it a rebuild) is going to be interesting, and I don’t think that anyone should be overly optimistic that this team is going to look much different than it did with Todd Downing in charge. Maybe they won’t go full “run-run-pass” but only time will tell.

In the meantime, remember that this is going to be a team rebuilt in Mike Vrabel’s image and this is what he wants. The best way to think about this new era of collaboration is that Mike Vrabel is in charge of picking which positions to address with each pick/signing and Ran Carthon is in charge of evaluating and ranking the best options to address that specific need.