Running back is a position that has been a disappointment for the Tennessee Titans in recent years.It is also an area where new general manager Jon Robinson has placed an emphasis on making improvements, and he has done a great job to fix that issue.
Currently there are eight back- seven running backs and one fullback- who will be competing for no more than five spots on the opening day roster. Among those competing will be a big name veteran addition, two second round selections, one veteran specialist, two undrafted free-agents and a second year fullback drafted last season.
It's always a guess at this point to determine the number of players a team will keep at any one position, but at this point we feel that there will be five total back kept on the roster when final cuts are made.
FULLBACK- Jalston Fowler: The second year player was not a major contributor in the backfield last season, but we feel a team that has openly stated their intent to be a smash-mouth offense will want a fullback on the roster. Fowler just wasn't a fit for the offense that drafted him last season under former head coach Ken Whisenhunt, but he did become a small contributor once Mike Mularkey assumed the reigns as interim head coach.
Fowler is a versatile player who can catch the football out of the backfield along with blocking and carrying the football. He can also play and contribute on special teams and that versatility along with having a year in the system to learn should make him a take on the opening day roster.
STARTING RUNNING BACK- DeMarco Murray: This one is a no-brainer as Robinson made the trade with Philadelphia to acquire the star running back this team has lacked since Chris Johnson left Nashville. While Murray had a disappointing season for the Eagles last season, it was just two seasons ago that he led the NFL in rushing with the Cowboys.
Like Fowler, Murray was not a good fit for the system he was in as a free-agent signee last season in Philly. Murray came to Tennessee with a chip on his shoulder and has shown that he might not be the 1,800 yard rusher of two seasons ago, but he is still an elite back and will bring leadership and a tough mentality to an otherwise young group of running backs.
FIRST BACKUP- Derrick Henry: The reigning Heisman Trophy winner was somewhat of a surprise selection for the Titans in April's Draft considering they had just traded for Murray. However, Henry is a huge back that is similar in his style to Murray/ Both are downhill runners who are not afraid of contact and can carry the ball twenty times a game with no problems.
Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards in his final college season and won every award imaginable on the way. He entered the NFL and his first set of OTA's and mini-camp with the label that he did not have good hands and could not catch the football, partly because he was not asked to do that at Alabama. Henry disproved that rumor quickly in those practices with the Titans, showing his ability to catch the football well.
The hope is that he and Murray can provide a one-two punch that gets the Titans running game moving in a positive direction.
BACKUP- Bishop Sankey: Sankey seems like a long shot to make this roster, and I might be totally wrong with his addition to this roster, but he is a very different back than either Murray or Henry and can provide a change of pace in the backfield. Given the chance last season to contribute on special teams,
Sankey failed to produce, and while he might not be better in that aspect this season in the return game, but he could provide help with his speed in kick coverage units. Again, this might be a long shot, and there has been talk that Sankey could be traded but considering he is a second round pick and was considered the top running back in his draft class, and considering he performed well in the most recent team practices, I'm going with him to grab one of the spots to give the Titans a change of pace back.
BACKUP- David Cobb: Cobb was the running back the Titans selected in the fifth round, but an injury cost his the first eight games of the season. Cobb took heat for being out of shape upon his return and took time to regain his conditioning. Those conditioning issues were not a problem during OTA's and mini-camp as Cobb looked good physically and unless he takes these six weeks off during the vacation period, he should be in condition to compete for a spot.
At 5'11" 225 pounds, Cobb is similar in his running style to both Murray and Henry showed a burst of speed late last season and in early practices for this season. That speed should be the difference in his making the roster or not, and we feel he will indeed make the roster.
UNFORTUNATELY OUT: Dexter McCluster and Antonio Andrews: McCluster is certainly a change of pace back and he is just as likely to make the roster as Sankey, though we chose the latter. McCluster is also a returner, but this team has several options in the return game and McCluster is the oldest of the group in competition for the last spots and also carries the highest price tag.
Andrews resigned as a free-agent following last season and while he has been productive for the Titans, he is not as fast as Cobb and is in the same mold as Cobb and the top two backs. He was also limited in his carries in the recent practices, though that could have been an attempt to allow others to show their abilities as the team certainly knows what Andrews provides.
PRACTICE SQUAD: David Fluellen