Titans off-season evaluaton: Running back

Titans off-season evaluaton: Running back

With the 2016 season in the books for the Tennessee Titans, it is time to begin analyzing the roster for the coming season. TitanInsider.com will go through each position group to look at where the team is sound and where there are likely to be roster moves.

Running back

With the possible exception of the offensive line, no position on the Tennessee Titans roster got a bigger upgrade in 2016 than running back. The Titans stole a proven commodity in DeMarco Murray from the Philadelphia Eagles in an exchange of fourth-round draft picks by general manager Jon Robinson. Then, Robinson spent one of his second-round picks on 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. In the end the only players from 2015 at the running back position to survive were fullback Jalston Fowler and 2015 starter Antonio Andrews, who dropped down to third on the depth chart and made his primary contributions on special teams.

When Murray arrived, there were questions about how much he had left coming off a season with the Eagles where he rushed for just 702 yards. But Murray bounced back and had a strong first season for the Titans, rushing for 1,287 yards, which was tops in the AFC and third overall in the NFL. He earned a Pro Bowl berth and provided leadership at the position as well, grinding through a foot injury that bothered him throughout the second half of the season.

At age 28, Murray should still have a few productive seasons in him. However, if any slippage occurs, the Titans should feel plenty confident in Henry’s abilities. Henry chipped in 490 yards rushing and five touchdowns on just 110 carries, good for 4.5 yards per rush. He appears to be the future at the position, but the question is when does the future start, as Murray still looks to be plenty productive both as rusher and a receiver – he caught 53 passes, which was good for third on the Titans this season.

Behind them, Andrews got only two actual carries this season, gaining 15 yards. He got a chance because Henry suffered a calf injury in pregame warmups against San Diego.

Andrews was the Titans’ top rusher in 2015 and can be effective behind the now strong Titans offensive line if called upon. However, his bread and butter now is on special teams.

Fowler, an afterthought for most of Ken Whisenhunt’s time as head coach, despite the Titans using a fourth-round pick on him, enjoyed a quality season in Mike Mularkey’s run-based system. While the Titans used two tight ends much of the time, Fowler played well enough in limited work to earn a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate.

Also, the Titans have David Fluellen, who has spent most of the past two years on the practice squad, and was re-signed to come to camp for 2017. The Titans have liked him enough to keep him around, even putting him on the active roster for a month this year, but the position is so well stocked that he has a hard time breaking through, despite showing flashes in preseason.

After a couple of years of not having a feature back following the release of Chris Johnson after the 2013 season, the Titans are now in as good a shape at running back as they are anywhere on the roster.

Starter: DeMarco Murray

Backups: Derrick Henry, Antonio Andrews, Jalston Fowler (fullback), David Fluellen.

Likelihood position is addressed in free agency: The stable is full, so very unlikely.

Likelihood position is addressed in the draft: Won’t happen, unless someone on the draft board that is too good to pass up value-wise. There will be a undrafted free agent or two added for camp.

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