No other position will look more different in 2014 for the Tennessee Titans than at running back.
The departure of Chris Johnson, the addition of Dexter McCluster and the drafting of Bishop Sankey will make for a very new look in the Titans’ running game.
Expect to see the Titans use a running back-by-committee approach and who plays will be based on the flow of the game, depending on the opponent.
This will feature running backs with completely different strengths and weaknesses.
Rookie Bishop Sankey comes in already as the lead running back on the roster. His balanced game offers a lot of value to the Titans which is why they took him as the first running back selected in the 2014 draft.
Expectations need to be managed for Sankey in his rookie season, but he will likely get plenty of opportunities to put up strong numbers from the start.
Sankey is currently missing some time in OTAs to finish classes at the University of Washington. You would prefer to not see Sankey missing valuable learning opportunities in OTAs, but it’s also good to see a youg player with solid intangibles.
Sankey is the complete package. He can obviously run the football, but he’ll be valuable as a receiver as well. That’s something that is vital to the success of quarterback Jake Locker.
A smooth transition to the NFL for Sankey will make forgetting about Johnson all the easier for Titans fans.
The Titans didn’t make a ton of noise in free agency, but Dexter McCluster was one of the highlights. It’s hard to say how he’ll exactly fit into Ken Whisenhunt’s offense, but he’ll be involved in a lot of different areas.
McCluster is going to step in and do several things. He figures to see a lot more time at running back than he did with the Kansas City Chiefs. He got only 20 rushing attempts over the past two seasons.
Expect McCluster to see time in special teams and as a slot receiver, so he won’t be the prototypical running back that’s goiong to line up for 20-plus carries every game.
With continuing knee problems plaguing Shonn Greene, McCluster could be in line to surpass his rushing attempt total from last season in just one game.
The Titans may have lost some speed when Chris Johnson wasn’t retained, but they gained some of it back by getting McCluster.
Shonn Greene wasn’t able to live up to his contract in his first season with the Titans. He’s now having trouble staying healthy this offseason, and it’s putting his roster spot in serious jeopardy.
However, the Titans need a bruising, short-yardage running back to solidify this trio. He’s not going to put up big yardage from week to week, but he does have the ability to tally up plenty of touchdowns inside the 10-yard line.
The Titans need Greene to make it through the full season, as he offers a veteran presence that’s always valuable to good locker room chemistry.
If he makes the 53-man roster, then it will be interesting to see how many looks he actually sees in this offense. He has to show some value in training camp if he’s going to safely secure a spot on the team.
Jackie Battle will be in a battle of his own to make the Titans’ roster in July. He does have a much better chance of securing a spot after the release of fullback Quinn Johnson.
One player who could give Battle a run for his money on making the roster is fullback Chris Mooney. If Mooney makes the team, then it would make less sense to keep Battle.
The Titans are really showing their quality depth at running back by snagging an undrafted free agent like Antonio Andrews, who led the nation in all-purpose yardage in 2012 and 2013 for Western Kentucky.
That’s not bad value at all if you’re the Titans. It was somewhat surprising that Andrews didn’t get picked up in the sixth or seventh round of the NFL Draft.
It’s uncommon for undrafted free agents to make an NFL team, but Andrews still is a guy we will see plenty of in the preseason. His talent could very well get him in a Titans uniform for Week 1 of the regular season.